Why Are My Water Pipes So Noisy?
Your water pipes deal with a lot of pressure and temperature changes. If the pipes are quiet and working well, they’re out of sight, out of mind. But what happens when they start to sound angry? Noisy water pipes can be caused by several problems, some of them easy to fix and others more involved. If your water pipes are noisy, read on to diagnose the cause and restore the quiet, whether with a simple DIY fix or by calling a plumber.
First, what noise are you hearing?
The Water Hammer: Hammering or Banging Pipe Noises
Water hammers are one of the most common noisy pipe problems. They occur when the water is turned off and high pressure in the pipes makes the water inside look for a place to go, ultimately banging against the shut-off valve or pipe walls. The noise is a distinct hammering and usually only occurs after a faucet or appliance is turned off. To correct, try to reset the water system’s air chambers. Shut off your home’s water supply by turning off your home’s main shut-off valve, and then open all your faucets to completely drain the pipes. Don’t forget about your lowest faucets, such as a basement sink or an outdoor hose bib. Then turn the water back on, and the hammer noises should be resolved.
If the water hammer doesn’t go away after you reset the pressure chambers, check the supply pipes. Some older homes’ pipes aren’t secured well, so they move too much and create waves that lead to water hammers. You can apply clips and plumber’s tape wherever necessary. Finally, you can always call a plumber to further examine the pipes; you may need to have an in-line water surge arrester installed to correct the water hammer issue.
Whistling Pipe Noises
There are two types of whistling in plumbing systems: whistling in the pipe system and whistling by certain faucets or valves. If just one or two faucets are whistling when they run, the issue is probably a worn washer, loose brass screw or grimy aerator inside the faucet itself. To fix, you’ll need to turn the water supply off and replace those parts. A whistling toilet that quiets down after the tank is filled usually needs a new ballcock valve. A toilet that whistles all the time probably has an issue with the vertical overflow tube; simply bend the float arm down a little so the ballcock turns off sooner.
If the whistling sound seems to come from everywhere, you may have too much mineral buildup, a worn main water supply valve, or an ineffective pressure regulator. Have an expert determine the severity of any of these problems and recommend an effective fix. It will depend on the age of your pipes and the way your supply system is laid out.
Thrumming and Vibrating Pipe Noises
Thrumming or vibrating pipes indicate excessive water pressure. You can test your water pressure at home by purchasing a threaded pressure gauge that screws directly onto a faucet or valve. Make sure your home’s water pressure does not exceed 80 psi. If it’s higher than that, have a plumber install a pressure regulator, as high water pressure can be destructive to a home.
Other Pipe Noises and Their Causes
Other common pipe noises include a faint squeak or rubbing noise caused by copper pipes that aren’t insulated properly. The metal pipes heat up and expand when hot water runs through them, and they rub against the house’s structural features. Since supply pipes are usually drywalled in, homeowners don’t usually want to tear anything out to pad those pipes. If you have copper pipes and think this may be your issue, you can try turning the water heater temperature down slightly; sometimes a small difference in temperature eliminates the problem so you don’t have to ask a plumber to do any invasive pipe work.
A dripping or ticking noise is cause for concern. It could be a drain issue or leak, both of which are best left to a professional for diagnosis and repair. Or it could be a more minor problem you can fix yourself, such as thermal expansion or a pressure issue. Do some troubleshooting: Reset your air chambers as described earlier in this blog post. If the sound persists, fill your bathroom sink with very hot water and then flush the toilet, which will push cold water into your pipes. Then drain the hot water from the sink, and if you hear the noise, you’re probably just hearing thermal expansion, which is an annoyance but not a true concern. If neither of these methods takes care of the dripping or ticking noises, get professional help.