PROBLEMS IN BATHROOM : EXPLANATIONS AND SOLUTIONS

According to a 2018 study, the French use their bathroom for about 15,000 hours in their life (almost two years). With this figure, we understand why the bathroom occupies an increasingly important place in the design of a home. Today it has become a place where we like to spend time; however, everyday life can be disrupted when a problem arises. Whether trivial or not, every problem has an explanation, and above all: a solution.

Throughout this article, we will try to list the most common problems in a bathroom, expose the possible causes, and find a solution.

An unpleasant smell in the bathroom

Who has never been bothered by the smell of sewage when entering a room?

The conditions for the appearance of this inconvenience are often the same: accommodation in a multi-storey building, high heat, ambient drought, second bathroom or second home: one of these conditions is enough to cause these odors.

Sewer odors in the bathroom are quite common and are very often not serious, easy to correct and easy to prevent.

If the installation is correct, each bathroom equipment (shower - bathtub - sink - toilet - washing machine, etc.) is fitted with a siphon. This basic element has one and only use: to block the rise of odors. If an odor persists in your bathroom, the most likely causes remain a blocked siphon, a siphon that no longer fulfills its function or precisely, the absence of a siphon.

The first thing to check is the presence of a siphon on each element. While the toilets are basic, this is not the case with other facilities. Under the sink should be a siphon in its most classic form. Behind the washing machine must be a component in the form of U-pipes. This is the most standard form of the washing machine siphon. The cases of the shower and the bathtub differ slightly since the anti-odor function is provided directly by the drain. To check that the shower siphon fulfills its function, it is advisable to pour water directly into the drain after removing the grid or the mushroom. If no water retention is formed, it is likely that the siphon is no longer functional (be careful, however, some specific designs do not allow this water retention to be seen). The bathtub siphon is included in the installed waste; if the emptying looks like the one below, the anti-odor function is assured.

Vidage de baignoire standard

If each bathroom element is equipped with a siphon, it will then be necessary to check that they are properly maintained. A blockage in the drain can create an unpleasant odor over time. The case is quite rare since drainage difficulties will often appear before the smell if this is the case.

If each item of equipment is compliant, has been cleaned but the odor remains present or returns regularly, it is a safe bet that one or more of the siphons do not resist an external element. The majority of siphons work with a "water seal"; this hydraulic plug prevents sewage odors from dispersing throughout the bathroom. Unfortunately, this water seal is not forever. Two different physical phenomena can cause the loss of this water seal and the rise of bad odors: evaporation and desiphoning.

Evaporation is a common and well-known phenomenon: it is the passage of water from the liquid state to the gaseous state on the surface. To simplify things, this evaporation is linked to three factors: the surface area in contact with the air, the temperature, and the humidity rate.

The first factor can be verified quite easily: 5cL of water will evaporate much faster if it is poured into a plate rather than a glass. The same is true for the water trap of the siphons: the larger the contact surface with the air, the faster the evaporation: this explains why the phenomenon is generally visible in the shower before being in the shower. other equipment: the air-water contact surface of the shower water seal is very often greater than that of the washbasin, for example. The ambient temperature and humidity also influence evaporation: in a hot and arid zone, the water seal will disappear much more quickly than in a temperate climate. In the most extreme cases, we can see water guards disappear in less than 24 hours. A positive point all the same, a water seal that disappears by evaporation is a sign of a healthy house. In fact, the closer the ambient humidity is to 100%, the less water evaporates.

To correct the problem, simply run water through the shower drain or the equipment in question. After a few minutes and good ventilation, the smell should be gone. A preventive solution to the return of bad odors is more difficult to implement. Some brands of sanitary equipment offer "mechanical" bungs which do not have a water seal and block the rise of odors thanks to a membrane or a seal. If in theory the solution is attractive, the reality is quite different: a single hair or piece of soap blocked and the anti-odor function is no longer guaranteed. For second homes or premises not used for a long time, there are fluids to pour into the shower before a long period of non-use that limit evaporation (vegetable oil has the same utility and costs 10 to 15 times cheaper). If the evaporation takes place in a bathroom that is used regularly, then it is on the side of the shower drain that a solution should be sought. Installing a shower drain with a 50mm water seal and a design that limits the air / water contact surface will save a few weeks on the reappearance of bad odors.

The second phenomenon that can cause the loss of the water seal and the rise of odors is called "desiphoning". This is a suction of water directly into the pipes. The phenomenon appears regularly in multi-storey buildings with a common drain, or in houses with several toilets. This phenomenon is linked to an ubiquitous and yet little-known effect by the general public: the Venturi effect. From the name of the physicist who formalized it, the Venturi effect has applications as diverse as they are useful. If it is thanks to this effect that planes fly, it is also thanks to it that the majority of water-saving shower heads exist. In the case of a dishonor, this is an effect that we would have preferred to avoid.

"Nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is transformed". If this apocryphal quote from Lavoisier generally applies to chemical transformations, it is nonetheless true for all natural effects present on earth. The Venturi effect is in fact a manifestation of the principle of conservation of energy already stated by Daniel Bernoulli 50 years earlier. When a fluid experiences an increase in flow velocity, the static pressure of that fluid decreases. A very simple experiment to carry out to see the presence of this effect consists in bringing a piece of paper towel a few millimeters from a fully open tap: the paper towel will be attracted by the water jet. The same phenomenon occurs in the exhaust pipes.

When a flush is drawn, the flow of water in the pipes creates a depression and sucks what can be: the water seal. In rare cases, the water seal may go off in a single flush. Here again, running the water in the shower for a few seconds provides a curative solution to bad odors. The problem is generally linked to an undersizing of the pipes or poor ventilation of the drainage network; it is therefore very difficult to tackle it directly. Fortunately, an effective solution exists and is easy to implement. The anti-vacuum valve (also called membrane aerator or pressure balancer) prevents the suction of the water seal during a Venturi effect. This element allows the ambient air to be sucked in rather than the water from the water trap when a depression occurs. It is placed downstream of a siphon and makes it possible to protect the entire evacuation circuit. While a single valve is usually sufficient to protect the entire pipeline, several are sometimes needed in the most extreme cases. Be careful, however, this element allows air to pass in one direction only, but a production defect or improper use can degrade the product and make it itself a generator of bad odors.

If after verification, all the siphons are in place, clean and functional but the odor remains present, a specialist should be called in to determine the source. The problem could turn out to be more serious; it could, for example, be an air intake in the discharge pipe (poor bonding of a junction) which would not necessarily cause a water leak since in the direction of flow but would allow l 'stale air.

Mold in the bathroom

Humidity stains, mold, persistent condensation, musty odor: so many signs that prove the humidity in your bathroom. By nature, the bathroom is the wettest room in a home; this humidity can be the source of very large damage in the long term. We often think that humidity in the bathroom has to be linked to a water leak, it is wrong. Failure to ventilate the room, hang laundry in it, or leave the door closed after use can lead to mold. Either way, dampness and even mold is a problem that can lead to major infections.

Traces of mold generally appear in three ways: by condensation directly on the walls, by capillary action from the ground, or by capillary action from the adduction circuits.

Traces of humidity by condensation are very common in old, poorly insulated or poorly ventilated housing. To understand this phenomenon, we must first approach the concept of dew point. It is in fact the temperature under which the water vapor contained in the air returns to the liquid state. It depends on the temperature and the relative humidity in the air. If a wall is much colder than the surrounding air, the water in the air will condense on that surface. For example, for a bathroom where it is 23 ° and where the humidity is 80% (common values ​​in a bathroom during a shower), the water will be deposited on all surfaces whose temperature is less than 19 °. If the humidity does not drop quickly afterwards, the water will not evaporate and mold will appear.

Detecting this problem is easy: mold will often be located on the exterior wall and at the edges of windows. Correctly insulating the walls and installing double glazing is the ideal solution since it will reduce the temperature difference between the air and the surface. At the same time, it is always useful to try to reduce the humidity level in the room. Daily ventilation is essential, even in winter. A CMV is also a very big plus for reducing the humidity level; otherwise, a nomadic dehumidifier can be installed. Any unnecessary source of humidity should also be avoided: laundry drying should not be done in a damp bathroom, for example.

It sometimes happens that mold appears when the bathroom is properly insulated and all the necessary precautions are taken. This situation will require the intervention of an expert since it will often be mold caused by a water leak. These water leaks generally come from the water supply circuit or the evacuation circuit and penetrate the walls by capillary action. The chemical explanation being quite complex, we will not discuss it in this article. To simplify things, it is the same phenomenon as that which allows the coffee to go up along a piece of sugar placed on the surface, or the sponge to absorb water.

A water drainage leak can appear at any time: from the first minutes, as after years. Assuming that they are not visible, shower and tub drains are the most prone to undetected water leaks. To avoid them, some good practices should be noted.

Contrary to what is often said on the internet, cleaning with boiling water to dissolve clogs is not recommended at all in a shower drain or a tub drain. The vast majority of modern equipment is made of plastics. Unlike metal, some plastics do not tolerate temperatures above 100 ° C very well and begin to deform from 80 °. Pouring boiling water in the shower is the best way to warp the shower drain and create a leak. In the same vein, some sites recommend the use of detergents such as caustic soda for cleaning the shower: here again, the action carries great risks. Whether metal or plastic, the shower drain is always equipped with an elastomer seal. This kind of detergent can destroy the seal and create a leak with normal use. Cleaning the shower should be done in the simplest way possible: by removing the cap by hand or with a ferret, and cleaning with a non-aggressive product.

The second thing to take into account for a good maintenance of its emptying circuit is the possible loosening of the emptying. In fact, over time, the successive deformations of the tray linked to the use of the shower or the bath can slightly loosen the equipment and cause a leak. Depending on the design, the shower drain and the tub drain are screwed on with standard or specific components. In both cases, the assembly should be tightened regularly with a screwdriver or with the tightening key supplied when purchasing the equipment.

A leak in the water supply circuit is much more complicated to spot and unfortunately there are few or no good actions to avoid it. If it appears a few months or years after installation, it is often due to an overpressure in the network or to component deterioration. Here, only a professional can help you.

Pressure problem in the bathroom

Pressure problems in a bathroom can be of two kinds: uncomfortable or dangerous. When we talk about a problem of discomfort, it could be for example a lack of pressure in the shower or pressure that drops when several water points are open. Conversely, some cases can be dangerous without posing any problem in use.

Before expanding on the topic, it seems important to understand exactly what pressure is. This physical quantity is defined by a force exerted on a given surface; the best known being atmospheric pressure. It is often expressed in Pascal for air pressure, or in Bar for hydraulic pressure. A simple experiment allows you to understand concretely what pressure is: place a full 1.5L water bottle on your palm, cap down. You feel a weight on your hand: it is the pressure of the bottle on the surface of the cork. This pressure is 10 times lower than that of atmospheric pressure. The evolution of the human species allows us to withstand atmospheric pressure effortlessly and without even realizing it. However, every second of our existence, we support about 1kg on every square centimeter of our body, it is in fact the weight of the 50km of air above us. At sea level, the average atmospheric pressure is 1013 hPa; at the top of Mont Blanc, with 4800m less air above us, it is divided by half.

Pressure is not always related to weight. By compressing a fluid into a small volume, the pressure also increases. This is the case, for example, when a syringe is compressed by plugging the outlet. After a few centimeters of compression, it becomes impossible to continue: the pressure of the fluid on the syringe exceeds the maximum force that our thumb can provide.

Pressure in the water network can be created by both methods. Treatment stations can distribute pressurized water directly to homes or send it to water towers. These buildings are always located in height compared to the zone which they must serve. It is thanks to this height that the water is put under pressure: by placing the tank 30m above a dwelling, users will be able to enjoy water at 3 bars of pressure (pressure recommended in a domestic installation). 

The discomfort problems associated with a one-time or continuous lack of pressure are as common as they are easy to solve. Before looking for a solution, it is advisable to identify the source of the problem by first asking whether the lack of pressure is common to all the equipment in the home. If this is not the case, then it is probably lime deposits accumulated at the outlet of the specific equipment. Removing the aerator from the faucet or changing the hand shower if it is not equipped with anti-limescale pins should be sufficient. Some unscrupulous marketing departments sell "high pressure spray" supposed to increase network pressure. It is simply impossible: it is unrealistic to increase the pressure without input of external energy. These showers simply increase the speed of the water out, the feeling is undoubtedly more pleasant than with a hand shower full of limestone, but the pressure is not changed in any way.

Low pressure on all the equipment in the home can have several causes. If your neighbors don't have this problem, your pressure reducer is probably faulty or incorrectly adjusted. This is an element often placed at the level of the water meter or at the inlet of the main pipe in the home which makes it possible to reduce the pressure and to maintain it whatever the requested flow rate. If this element is set to 3 bars, then there will always be 3 bars at the equipment outlet, even if several outlets are open at the same time. The vast majority of pressure reducers are adjustable using a screw whose head is visible (sometimes protected by a colored plastic cap). Tightening the screw gives more pressure.

A lack of pressure in an apartment on upper floors can also come from a lack of co-ownership. The more the height increases, the more the pressure decreases. On the tenth floor of a building, the pressure has dropped by 2.7 bars. In the absence of a booster, it is very likely that you will only have a trickle of water leaving the equipment if 3 bars are available on the ground floor

The reverse problem is also common. If too high a pressure can cause splashing, it can above all destroy the installation and cause significant water leaks. In addition to the feeling, a specific sign can prove an overpressure in the networks: water hammer. When quickly closing a tap, you can hear a clicking sound in the pipes: it is a water hammer. While the problem may seem trivial, it is a harbinger of potential much more serious problems. When too high a pressure in the pipes is suddenly cut off (instantaneous closing of a valve), the instantaneous pressure can reach 20 to 25 bars (against 3 in normal times). Repeatedly, these water hammers can damage the networks to the point of causing leaks.

To avoid these water hammers, the first of the safeties is to adjust the pressure reducer. If the pressure necessary to avoid them proves uncomfortable, then it will be necessary to invest in an anti-water hammer. This device sold in GSB makes it possible to dampen the pressure differentials by temporarily increasing the volume of the pipes. It must be placed as close as possible to the valve causing the jerk since any pipe or equipment between the valve and the water hammer will not be protected.

This concludes this article on the most common problems that can be encountered in a bathroom. In the event of a persistent problem, only a specialist can determine the cause of the problem.

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