Noisy water pipes are a common annoyance, particularly in older homes. You may have grown accustomed to the abrupt sound of water hammering behind the walls every time you turn the faucet off, but it doesn’t have to be a permanent fixture in your home. Here are a few ways to locate and stop the source of noisy water pipes in your home.
A frequent noise caused by water pipes is called water hammer. This occurs when you turn a faucet off and all the water rushing through the pipes is forced to come to an abrupt halt. Water hammer can have different causes, from clogged chamber pipes to high water pressure. If you’re experiencing water hammer, there are a few things you can try to remedy the situation.
Drain all the plumbing in your home
Over time, air in the cushion or chamber pipe can become depressurized or waterlogged, and new air needs to be restored to the pipe by draining all the water in your house.
Turn off your water main and begin by opening all your faucets. You should start with appliances and faucets at the highest level of your house (top floor) and work your way down to the first floor or basement. Remember to flush your toilets, too. Then wait half an hour with all the faucets open to thoroughly drain. Next, turn your water main back on. This should help restore air to the chambers and reduce the banging sound when you turn off your taps.
Clean or replace the air chamber
This vertical pipe may have simply built up too much scale or residue over time and draining it to restore air flow may not solve the problem. In this case, you’ll need to remove the cap to the chamber and clean out the pipe manually to make sure there’s a place for rushing water to flow.
Reduce the water pressure — for globe valves only
If you’re still experiencing water hammer after performing the previous steps, you may need to reduce the overall water pressure in your house. This is because the rushing water pressure could eventually damage your pipes or even cause a pipe burst.
If your main water supply uses a globe valve, this is an easy fix. Simply turn the valve clockwise slightly to reduce the flow of water to your house. Check your faucets to see if the hammering sounds continue and keep turning clockwise as needed.
Install a water pressure reducer valve
If your water main doesn’t use a pressure-regulating globe valve on your water main (most homes don’t), you may need to install a pressure reducer valve at your water main. Since this involves soldering, we recommend using a professional plumber for this.
Install air chambers or other devices
If lowering your water at the main results in faucets and fixtures running at barely a trickle, your problem may not be high water pressure. It’s possible that your home may not be outfitted with air chambers, and you may need to install them. If this involves removing part of the wall to get access to the plumbing, seek advice from a plumbing supply store or a professional plumber. There are often work-around devices you can use before tearing into a wall. A Flo Smart Water Monitor and Shutoff, for example, will alert you to any water pressure issues before they lead to leaks, burst pipes or water damage.
A high-pitched squealing noise is an indication that the flow of water in your plumbing system has been restricted somehow. It could be isolated to a single faucet, or it could be a widespread issue with your plumbing network.
Sometimes this can be caused by a clogged aerator in a particular faucet. If you only notice the noise coming from a particular fixture, remove the aerator from the fixture and soak it in vinegar for 30 minutes. If you’re hearing a whistling or squealing noise throughout your entire home, you might have some scale or other buildup in your pipes that is hampering the flow of water. In this case, your best bet is to hire a professional to have your pipes cleaned.
A squealing sound is also common with copper hot water pipes. Copper is a very malleable metal, which means it expands and contracts when exposed to different temperatures. If you have copper piping in your home, you might experience the occasional squeaking when hot water is passing through them.
The good news is squeaky copper pipes aren’t an indication that anything is wrong with your plumbing system. If the sound is too annoying to deal with, you can have rubber casings installed to stop the pipes from rubbing against their support anchors.
Gurgling noises indicate that there is a blockage in your home’s drainage system. The blockage can occur in two places: in the drain pipe itself or in the vent pipe. It’s also possible that the drain pipe under your lawn has been invaded by tree roots.
Clogged Vent Pipe
The vent pipe is a long, vertical pipe that runs all the way up the height of your home through the roof. It allows gas from the sewer to escape your home without coming into your home through the drain pipes. In many homes the top of this vent pipe is exposed to the elements and can become clogged with leaves and other debris.
Clogged Drain Pipes
If the drain pipe is clogged, you can always try unclogging it with some dish soap and hot water. Simply mix a couple ounces of dish soap into a quart of hot water and pour it down the drain. Let it do its thing for 10-15 minutes and follow it up with some cold water from the tap. Alternatively, you can use a cup of vinegar and follow it up with hot water.
If those methods don’t do the trick, you might have to try to manually remove the clog with a drain snake or auger. Drain snakes are effective at removing clogs in drain pipes that are close to the fixture. Augers have a long, retractable coil that can reach dozens of feet into a pipe. They’re great for removing clogs that are deep in your plumbing system, and both can be picked up at a local hardware store.
Invasive Tree Roots
Over time drain pipes that run under your lawn can develop tiny holes or cracks that let moisture out into the soil on your property. That moisture acts as a beacon for nearby tree roots, which can start growing toward your drain pipes and eventually work their way inside. If this goes on for long enough, it can cause an obstruction which can lead to a gurgling noise in your toilet or drains.
If you catch the problem early enough, you can solve the problem yourself by flushing root killers like rock salt down the toilet. If the root infiltration is extensive enough, you might have to call in a professional plumber to extract the roots.
If you’re hearing rattling noises coming from your pipes and you’re sure it’s not water hammer, it could mean that you have loose pipe mounts somewhere. This can often occur in drain pipes that are located under the floor. If you have a basement or crawlspace where you can access these pipes, you should be able to secure the offending pipe by either tightening the mount or installing a new one.
Humming or Vibrating Noises
Humming or vibrating sounds can occur in bathroom and kitchen sinks. As you start to open the faucet, you might notice a humming sound coming from the pipes under the sink. When the faucet is completely open, this humming noise can progress to a louder, vibrating sound.
This is usually caused by either the hot or cold water valves under the sink not being completely in the open position. If the valves aren’t completely open, they create a slight obstruction for the water passing through, leading to offending noises.
The solution here is often quite easy — simply turn the valve until its parallel with the pipe (open position). Sometimes, however, opening the valve won’t fix the problem. In this case, you might have a faulty valve that needs to be replaced. You should be able to pick up a replacement valve online or at a local hardware store.
If you replace the valve and still have humming or vibrating noises coming from the pipes under your sink, you probably have some high pressure issues. Get a reading on your home’s water pressure and adjust your pressure to a more reasonable level.
Noisy pipes might set off some alarms, but they aren’t always a cause for concern. Water hammer is the most serious pipe noise, indicating pressure issues in your home’s plumbing system. Keeping tabs on your water pressure, keeping your drain pipes clear and maintaining your fixtures should help solve most of your noisy pipe problems.