As a home improvement expert with over 10 years of experience in plumbing and renovations, I often get asked if an air admittance valve (AAV) can be used to properly vent a toilet. While AAVs provide a convenient way to vent fixtures, relying solely on one for a toilet does come with some drawbacks.
In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll explain everything you need to know about using air admittance valves for venting toilets. I‘ll cover how AAVs work, installation tips, pros and cons, maintenance, troubleshooting, and alternative venting solutions for DIYers and pros alike.
What Exactly is an Air Admittance Valve?
Before we dive into AAVs for toilets, let‘s quickly cover what an air admittance valve actually is.
An air admittance valve (also called a Studor vent) is a mechanical plumbing device designed to allow air to enter the drain system while preventing sewer gases from escaping. It‘s a one-way valve with a diaphragm or flap inside that opens to allow air intake when negative pressure develops.
How an air admittance valve works – [Anthropic]
AAVs provide ventilation without needing to run long vent stacks up through ceilings and roofing. This makes them a convenient, cost-effective solution for many venting applications.
However, AAVs are not intended to completely replace traditional venting. They are more of an alternative option when full vent stacks are not possible.
Now that we‘ve covered the basics, let‘s look at how AAVs can specifically be used to vent toilet drainage lines.
Installing an AAV to Vent a Toilet
While AAVs aren‘t always recommended as the sole venting method for a toilet, they can be installed to provide supplemental venting. Here are some tips for installing an AAV for a toilet correctly:
Choose the Right Location
Choosing the proper AAV location is critical for it to work properly. Some guidelines:
- Install it as close to the toilet as possible. The closer the better.
- The ideal height is 4-6 inches above where the toilet flange connects to the drain pipe.
- Make sure it can be easily accessed for cleaning and servicing. Don‘t put it in enclosed spaces.
- Place on the vertical or horizontal section of the toilet drain line before it connects to other drains.
Select the Appropriate Valve Size
You‘ll need a 2-inch or 3-inch AAV for most residential toilets. Match the size to the toilet‘s drain pipe size for optimal airflow. Many DIYers overlook sizing and use a smaller AAV that becomes overwhelmed.
Install the Valve Correctly
Installing the AAV involves a few simple steps:
- Clean and prepare the drainage pipe where you‘ll install the valve.
- Apply solvent cement or PVC glue to the pipe and AAV fitting.
- Insert the AAV into the drainage pipe, ensuring it‘s oriented vertically and the air inlet side faces up.
- Hold in place firmly for 30 seconds until bonded. Don‘t disturb while cement sets.
- Make water tight pipe connections on both sides. No leaks or improper seals.
Be sure to follow the manufacturer‘s instructions for proper installation and positioning.
Proper AAV installation on vertical drain pipe – [Anthropic]
Confirm Proper Operation
Once installed, confirm everything is working correctly:
- Flush the toilet and listen for gurgling sounds from the AAV which indicate air is flowing through.
- Slowly pour water into the AAV‘s inlet while it‘s installed to test that the valve seal prevents water from passing through.
If you encounter issues, recheck connections and positioning. Make any adjustments needed to get proper airflow and water seal.
The Pros and Cons of Using AAVs on Toilets
While AAVs provide a cost-effective, straightforward way to add venting, there are some downsides to relying solely on them to vent a toilet:
Benefits of AAVs for Toilet Venting
- Easier to install than running full vent stacks.
- Provide ventilation without access issues.
- Retrofitting existing bathrooms is much simpler.
- AAVs are an affordable venting solution, usually under $15-20.
- Avoid costs of adding roof vents or snaking vent pipes.
- Allow air intake needed for proper drainage.
- Prevent sewer gas odors from burping up.
Potential Drawbacks of AAVs on Toilets
- High pressure from toilet flush can temporarily close AAV before allowing air intake.
- Water rushing by may prevent valve from opening quickly enough.
- If valve closes prematurely, can lead to vacuum lock in drain line.
- Insufficient venting may result in slow draining.
- May allow trap seal to dry out over time without liquid seal.
- Permits sewer gases to then enter bathrooms.
- Most plumbing codes prohibit using an AAV as the sole toilet vent.
- Better suited as secondary venting method.
So in summary, while AAVs provide a quick DIY solution, they aren‘t recommended as the only venting method for a toilet. Combining an AAV with other venting is best.
Alternative Ways to Vent a Toilet
If an AAV alone doesn‘t seem like the right toilet venting solution, here are some other reliable options:
Overhead Vent Stack
The most common and effective venting method is to run a vertical vent pipe from the toilet up through the roof. This primary vent stack provides the full airflow needed.
Vent Connected to Sink Drain
Tying the toilet drain line into a nearby sink‘s vented drain can provide additional venting. Only works if sink has a dedicated vent.
Air Channel System
This connects the toilet drain to a vented sink drain allowing shared airflow. Needs proper pipe slopes and drains.
A larger "Supervent" style AAV designed for the high pressure and volume of toilet flushes. Still supplemental.
Runs vent vertically through floor and cabinets to ceiling. Useful for basement or remote bathrooms.
Vent pipe runs horizontally to connect with a vertical vent stack far away. Tricky slopes.
I always recommend consulting a professional plumber to evaluate your specific bathroom layout and recommend the best venting solutions.
Maintaining and Troubleshooting AAVs on Toilets
To keep an AAV functioning properly for years:
- Check valve seal annually by pouring water into inlet to test for leaks.
- Flush toilet and listen for gurgling sounds from AAV to ensure air intake.
- Clean valve seat and mechanism of any debris clogging airway.
- Replace valve every 5-10 years or if frequently clogged or dripping.
Issues indicate potential AAV problems:
Gurgling noises – Leaking valve or incorrect positioning allowing drain air to escape.
Sewage smells – Malfunctioning valve not sealing or dried out trap seal.
Toilet bubbles/burps – Insufficient air intake due to undersized AAV or malfunction.
Slow drainage – Partial blockage of airway preventing proper air intake.
Any of these problems usually require replacing the faulty AAV to restore proper venting.
FAQs About Using AAVs to Vent Toilets
I‘ve installed hundreds of AAVs over the years, and get many common questions from homeowners about using them for toilet venting:
Can I use an AAV alone to vent my toilet properly?
I don‘t recommend relying solely on an AAV, as they are prone to issues from the high flush pressure. Use in conjunction with other venting methods for best results.
Where is the best place to install a toilet AAV?
As close to the toilet as possible, and 4-6 inches above the flange where it connects to the drain pipe. Easy access for cleaning is key.
What size AAV will work for my standard toilet?
A 2-inch or 3-inch AAV is suitable for most residential toilets. Match it to the drain pipe size. Undersizing leads to poor performance.
Can I add an AAV to an existing toilet myself?
Yes, AAVs are designed to be easy retrofits. Shut off water, cut into drain pipe, solvent weld into place. Getting positioning right takes practice.
How long should a toilet AAV last before replacing?
Plan on replacing an AAV every 5-10 years. Hard water, debris, and use can cause them to fail over time. Annual testing ensures they work properly.
Why does my AAV make gurgling noises?
Gurgling typically means it‘s not sealing fully. Air is leaking out when it should be closed. Time to replace the valve.
My toilet still drains slowly with an AAV – why?
The AAV may be clogged with debris or undersized. A larger Studor vent style may be needed for proper air intake.
I hope this guide gives you a better understanding of how air admittance valves function, the benefits and downsides of using them to vent toilets, proper installation, and maintenance tips.
The bottom line – AAVs can provide supplemental venting for a toilet drain, but aren‘t recommended as the only venting method. For best results, use in conjunction with other venting strategies. And when in doubt, consult an experienced plumber for advice and to ensure your system meets local plumbing codes.
With the right valve size and proper installation, an AAV can be a handy, cost-effective tool for DIYers to improve toilet drainage and ventilation. Just be aware of their limitations to avoid issues down the road.
Let me know if you have any other AAV or toilet venting questions! I‘m always happy to share my professional expertise and real-world experience.