Anyone who has dealt with noisy pipes can tell you how annoying they are. Imagine how annoying it is to get up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet or get a drink of water, only to end waking everyone up because the pipes start shaking or making loud noises. If you are unlucky enough to be cursed with noisy pipes, do not worry, because fixing noisier pipes is easier than you think. In this article I will go over the major causes of noisy pipes, as well as some easy solutions.
Causes Of Noisy Pipes
These are one of the more common causes of noisy pipes. Water hammers are the sounds made when water moving through pipes is abruptly stopped. That may not be clear for everyone, so let me describe it in more detail. Water is circulated through pipes in your house at high speeds, and it travels towards “escape points” (taps, showers, toilets, etc.). Now, when you shut off those escape points (turning off the tap or shower) then the water that was rushing towards the escape points has nowhere to go and is abruptly stopped. When the water is stopped it creates a loud noise that can be heard everywhere in the house; this noise is known as a “water hammer.” If your pipes experience water hammers then you should get them fixed as soon as possible. The reason being that water hammers do not just cause loud noises, but can actually damage your pipes. The sudden stopping of water can actually damage joints and connections in the pipe. So, water hammers are not to be ignored.
The other thing you need to be aware of is “air chambers.” Air chambers are vertical pipes located near faucets or valves. Imagine that a pipe is a straight line with an exit, the air chamber would be just in front of the exit. The purpose of air chambers is to provide cushioning; because air compresses so easily, it can easily absorb the shock of the rushing water. They provide crucial protection for pipes; because of this, nearly all plumbing systems will have air chambers built into them.
So, water hammers are caused by a lack of air to absorb the impact of the water. Thankfully, the process for refilling your pipes with air is very easy:
- Shut off your house’s water supply
- Determine your house’s highest faucet and open it
- Determine your house’s lowest faucet (almost always in the basement or outside the house) and open it. This will drain all the remaining water.
- Once the water is completely drained, close the lowest faucet and turn your house’s water supply back on.
This process lets air rush back into your pipes and back into the air chambers. Once all these steps are completed, your water hammer problem should be dealt with.
But, this process does not have a 100% success rate. If after doing this process, you still experience water hammers, then the issue may be that your air chambers are clogged with mineral deposits. If this is the case, then unfortunately, you will have to call a plumber to clear out the mineral deposits blocking the air chambers (you can attempt to clean the pipes yourself, but it is not recommended).
Another thing to note is that newer homes (built during or after the 90s) will not have air chambers. Newer homes make use of “water hammer arrestors;” these are more advanced and generally do not get waterlogged like air chambers. If you have a water hammer arrestor installed and are still experiencing water hammers, then the water hammer arrestor is malfunctioning somehow and will need to be replaced.
Loose or missing pipe mounting straps
Another potential cause of noisy pipes are loose pipe mounting straps or pipe hangers. These keep the pipe still and in place when water flows through the pipe. If your pipes are missing these straps, or the straps are loose, then your pipe may be bumping against its framing. This is not necessarily dangerous for the pipes like water hammers are, but it does create a very annoying sound. Unfortunately, this can be a very time-consuming prospect, since you will have to inspect all your pipes to check which one has the loose or missing mounting straps.
If you notice that the pipes only make noise when you use hot water, then the problem is that your copper pipes are expanding when the hot water runs through them. Unfortunately, there is not much of a solution to this problem outside of complete remodeling. Thankfully, the issue will not cause your pipes to leak either. There are two potential things you can do to help quiet the noise (but it will still be there somewhat, no matter what you do). Firstly, track down the noisy pipes, and put rubber pads between the pipe and the framing to cushion the pipe. Secondly, get rid of metal clamps and use plastic clamps to keep the pipes in place; plastic can expand (unlike metal), so plastic clamps may allow the pipes to move a bit and thus reduce the noise.
High water pressure
Finally, another cause of noisy pipes can be high water pressure. The solution here is to get a water pressure regulator or a pressure reducing valve. If you do not have one of these, then you will need to get one installed; this will be expensive, but worth it in the long run. Excessively high water pressure can cause some issues besides noise. First off, high water pressure is wasteful, so reducing your water pressure can save you a bit off your water bill. Secondly, some appliances like washing machines and dishwashers can be damaged by high water pressure. If you are not sure if your water pressure is too high, then contact your water supplier, most companies will be willing to test the water pressure on your property, or at the very least give you instructions for how to do it yourself.