What are the Basics of Basement Plumbing?

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  • Written By: Patrick Lynch
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 04 March 2017
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It is easy to ignore the basics of basement plumbing because it is an area out of plain sight. Yet poor basement plumbing could allow foul smelling sewer gases to rise into the home. Possible leaks should be tested, and it is important to know the location of both the internal and external shutoff valves. The water tank should also be drained once a year to prevent debris from building up.

An important aspect of basement plumbing includes the prevention of sewer gases coming up through the basement floor drain. Pour a bucket of water down the drain to make sure the trap seal is full. This will stop sewer gases from rising and causing a bad smell in the home.

The water meter should also be checked when no one in the home is using water. Write down the meter reading and check it again a few hours later. The meter should not have moved significantly in such a short amount of time. If it has, there could be an undetected water leak in the basement.

Another very importance aspect of basement plumbing is locating the shutoff valve for the water meter. This is normally found beside the main water supply pipe in the area where it is about to enter the house. Generally the water meter is beside the shutoff valve.


If there is an extra shutoff valve, it will usually be buried in a small cavity. This is often known as a "buffalo box" and should be located in the ground right at the edge of a property. It can be distinguished by a round metal cover with the secondary shutoff valve inside and can often by turned on and off by hand. To close down this system, find the shutoff inside the buffalo box and use it to turn off the water. Although the inside shutoff is normally used, it is not totally reliable, especially in an old home.

In basement plumbing, it is necessary to drain water from the tank each year to flush the water heater. This will ensure that sediment will not build up because this can cause the tank to corrode. Corrosion can affect the efficiency of the house’s heating system. The pressure relief valve should also be tested by lifting it up and then snapping back the lever. If this does not cause a certain amount of water to flow into the drainpipe, it may be necessary to call a basement plumbing expert to fix it.


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