One of the two toilets in my rental house is bubbling when the shower or sink in that master bath area are on. In the past, about 6 months ago, I have had plumbers and rotoruter out and they could find no blockage in the line. Before I spend more money on an out of state house, could someone please tell me if they have suggestions?

  • 5
    I think it's because the sewer line is not vented creating a over pressure and creating the (stinky) bubbles Commented Apr 1, 2012 at 23:28
  • 2
    I agree. Have the waste pipe vent checked out. A bird may have made a nest in your vent pipe on the roof.
    – SteveR
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 11:59
  • City sewer or septic system?
    – Tester101
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 13:42
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    Whether this is sewer or septic should not matter -- the plumbing still needs to have proper venting to the outside. Unless the plumbing doesn't have venting to begin with, SteveR is likely on the right path. This can also be caused by extra services being tied into your existing stack, without making the appropriate upgrades to the stack. In other words, you may have a clear vent, but too many sinks, showers and toilets are connected to it. This can sometimes be fixed by making improvements to the drains, the vent pipes or both.
    – Mike
    Commented Apr 2, 2012 at 16:01
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    @Mike A septic system can cause bubbling/gurgling sounds in the plumbing if the tank is full or nearly full, so it may indeed matter if it's a septic system.
    – Tester101
    Commented Apr 3, 2012 at 20:19

4 Answers 4


It sounds like the toilet, shower and sink share a vent. This is pretty normal; no plumber in his right mind would run separate vented stacks for each drain in the house. The drains are instead tied into one vent stack, and then stacks are combined as they flow into the main sanitary drain. However, the shower or sink may be upstream of the toilet, and are pushing air in front of water which might be finding relief by bubbling up the toilet's drain. The plumbing can still pass code, but the intent of the applicable plumbing code is to prevent a drain being too far from its vent, which causes air to get trapped "downstream" of water in the line, resulting in problems like this (and slow drains).

The design of the toilet may have something to do with it. Toilets, like other drains, have U-bends; for a toilet this has the dual purpose of keeping water in the bowl, and also keeping sewer gases from pushing out into the room (similar to J-traps on sink'shower drains). However, "low-flow" toilets which use 1.6GPF or less are often designed with a shallower U-bend, so that it doesn't take as much water flow to induce the siphon that makes the contents of the bowl go away. Depending on other aspects of the design, like the relative order of the sink, toilet and shower in the drain line, water pushing past the tee to the toilet may be enough to force some air through the toilet's U-bend.

You may also have some issues with tee junctions in the plumbing. Specifically, I'm thinking of a tee joint being installed backwards. Drain tees are not true T-shapes; the perpendicular end instead curves into the straight section. The curve should direct water from the tee joint "downstream" towards the main stack, but if installed backwards it will force drain water (and air) towards "upstream" drains before gravity then pulls it back down the main line. This causes a backwash that slows drains, and yes it can force air in the drain lines past traps like the toilet U-bend. If the bathroom was ever renovated and the plumbing changed, and the work was not inspected (or the inspector missed the problem), this is plausible.


My toilet which is on a septic tank and has started doing this during heavy rains. I believe @Mike is right, the septic system is backing up...don't flush the toilet if it is bubbling because it will overflow. :(


I sometimes have the same problem and the sewer backs up, but in my case the shower was placed where the bathroom sink was. The shower is after the toilet and closer to exterior wall. Whenever that happens I use the snake from outside cleanup and it take care of the problem. I am thinking to add a separate vent for the shower.


If you have a septic tank make sure your pump isn't shot. I had the same problem and my pump still worked but the socket that the pump was plugged into blew so in result, I had a non working pump.

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