How Plumbing Issues Lead to Sewer Roaches in your Home

Believe it or not, sewage systems including the ones that are in your home or any building really are the single greatest source of American roaches, aka palmetto bugs.

If there is any damage or gap in these pipes, it can allow tens of thousands of roaches to enter the walls, attics, and crawl spaces of the building. As a result, these sewer roaches will eventually make their way into living areas.

When a customer has an ongoing issue with American roaches, the first step we take is to check for leaks that may be causing decaying materials that roaches can feed on. These leaks can be from water lines, window leaks behind a wall, or commonly roof leaks.

Roaches are attracted to decaying materials, such as rotting tree limbs and other debris. Therefore, a leak in a home that is causing damage to drywall or wood can be a perfect place for them to establish a breeding site. However, we are easily able to determine if a leak is present and if it’s an issue.

When most people think of a plumbing system they usually think of water lines, or sewage lines that constantly hold water. So their first question to us is “why haven’t I seen a leak or experienced any issues with water”.

The truth is a lot of the plumbing system contains no water at all. This includes the venting portion of the system. The venting system which usually leads to the pipes you see sticking out of your roof, allows sewage and gray water to flow freely down to the main system.

Or in some cases to a Septic system. Both systems contain thousands of roaches that live there.

Common Plumbing Break Areas That Cause Roach Infestations

Example Plumbing Diagram

As you can see from the picture, any pipe along the system which is hidden in the walls, crawlspaces and attics that has an opening can be a gateway into your home. 

We often find that cast iron pipes have rotted out behind walls. To make things worse is the metal “snake” used by plumbers when unclogging a system, can and will break through corroded areas causing a problem.

In fact this was the case in one of our customers’ rental properties where he specifically remembered the plumber’s snake getting caught. In this case, the location where the snake became stuck was the source of the problem.

Open Pipe in Attic, Rodent Droppings Inside

Unfortunately we also see pipes that are just open in the attic. The contractor will forget to bring the venting pipe all the way through the roof. This can oftentimes happen during initial construction or when a roof is being redone.

As a result, you get a wide open pipe terminating in the attic, wall, or crawlspace. It’s shocking how many times we find this to be the case and often leads to a very upset customer who has been dealing with roach issues for years because of shoddy work.

The other most notable place where roaches are able to enter would be through the bottom of a toilet. Toilets generally seal to the sewage pipe in the floor through a wax ring. The toilet is pressed on to this wax ring which creates a seal.

This stops flushed materials from spilling out onto the floor beneath the toilet. Instead, it goes down the pipe without an issue. The problem is these wax rings do go bad meaning they dry up and warp leaving gaps not only for water to escape but also allow roaches to enter.

To prevent this from happening, our technicians often check the caulking around the toilet. Even if your wax ring is not perfect, a good caulking around the toilet will essentially confine roaches to right under your toilet, not allowing them to escape into the living spaces.

If a toilet rocks around, it is a strong indication that the wax ring is damaged. This is a very likely sign that your wax ring is damaged, and there is insufficient caulking. Fixing this common issue has many times completely alleviated roach issues for our customers.

Preventing Roach and Rodent Infestations in Your Home’s Plumbing System

All plumbing end devices like sinks, toilets, tubs, and showers have a water block to keep them from becoming a wide open hole in the plumbing system.

These devices accomplish this by constantly holding some water in the “P” trap or “U” pipe. These pipes are shaped in such a way that it blocks roaches, rodents, and sewer gasses from entering the home.

The “U” shaped pipe under the sink is a common example of this type of water block. Toilets, showers, and tubs also use similar design elements to block the entry of pests and gasses. 

The problem is when these traps dry up from evaporating over long periods of time. This occurs where the toilet, sink, tub/shower is not in use. We see this often with people who have second homes or out of town for long periods. They come home to a full on roach infestation or even rodents (which is another subject we cover extensively here).

Keeping water in these traps is essential and is resolved by simply having to flush the toilet, or run some water for a minute in a sink or shower.

Along the way we have learned that some very informed customers will actually add some mineral oil to the water before they leave town which drastically slows down evaporation. This happens as the oil floats to the top and essentially seals it off from the air. Genius.

Pro tip: Leaving the water on or off when leaving town does not affect the evaporation of a toilet.

A toilet will not refill unless the entire tank evaporates which can take a year or more. Therefore, it is perfectly fine to leave the water off when you are away. Just add some oil or have someone run the water periodically.

Using a Smoke Test to Diagnose Plumbing Issues and Locate Breaks

As discussed in the beginning of this article the first thing we do is rule out the obvious culprits of a roach infestation such as leaks or wobbly toilets. If a customer has a persistent problem even after repeated pest control, we offer a service called a smoke test.

A technician will inject smoke or fog into the venting pipes of the plumbing system. This is done typically through pipes on the roof or using a cleanout pipe. When the system is filled with smoke, we then cap off the pipes temporarily to trap smoke in, and then search the home for any signs of smoke.

Generally the smoke will come out heavily from a specific area like in a kitchen or bathroom wall allowing us to locate a general area where the break is.

We supply the customer with a detailed written report including pictures and video that they can then present to a plumber in order to fix the issue.

Overcoming Persistent Pest Problems Linked to Plumbing Issues

As you can imagine, these plumbing issues causing roaches are not immediately discovered. In many cases our customer has been dealing with roach or rodent issues for years before finding us. Even then, it will generally take our company multiple regular pest control visits to determine there is likely a plumbing issue.

In only about 5% of cases are plumbing issues the main cause. As a result, by the time we figure out we need to do a smoke test, which costs money, the customer has already been dealing with roaches for a while.

Outdoor Cleanout with Broken Lid

Having a company that has the training and competence to solve these issues for a customer is something we take pride in. 

It is perhaps the most rewarding thing to do here at On Demand Pest Control – to solve a pest issue that has been plaguing a customer from years to even decades.

Christopher Hawthorne

Owner of On Demand Pest Control

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