Our house is about 34 years old. We have two plumbing vents that go through the roof. The tops of the vents appear to be collapsing in on themselves. I assume the escaping sewer gases have weakened the pipes? Do we need to replace the vents, or just bend them back into the proper shape? Is this something we can handle ourselves, or do we need a plumber or a St Louis Handyman? Thanks for your help!
Good News!!! Probably…
The vents that go through the roof on older homes are sometimes capped with a lead coating to seal the pipe. Generally, this wrap will go over the top of the pipe and down inside the pipe just an inch or two. It is common for this lead cap to be uneven as it goes over the pipe, and may appear that something is wrong. To make sure there isn’t, look into the pipe and see if there is a good opening inside. The pipe will usually be 2” to 4” in diameter, and the inside diameter will be slightly less because of the lead wrap. You should be able to see down the pipe a few inches. As long as the opening looks good, you are okay.
Use a flashlight to make sure that there isn’t any debris lodged in the vent. Also, occasionally, squirrels will chew on this lead making the surface look uneven. Look closely for tooth marks, scratches, etc., and if you see any holes, they can be sealed up with a clear silicone caulk.
You might also want to take note of how well the drainage of your sinks, showers, etc. is working. If they’re running well, then you’re okay. But if all of your drains are running slow, there could be an issue. The vent pipe going through the roof allows air into the drain pipes, helping them to flow properly.
To get an idea of how they work, imagine if you dip a straw into a glass of water and put your finger over the hole in the top of the straw and lift it out. The water will stay in the straw. But as soon as you take your finger off, the water will flow. The way the vent pipe and drain systems work is similar. If your drains are running slow but the vent looks clear, then you’ll need to also check the drain stack in the basement to make sure it is not clogged.
Hopefully, you are just seeing the normal installation of the lead wrap and won’t have to do anything at all.