Hammering noises coming from your pipes can be more than a tad disturbing. Knocking, clunking, thunking, thumping – that noisy faucet or thudding tap may have you thinking there’s a naughty ghost living in your plumbing system!
What’s With That Noisy Tap?
Chances are, the cause of the strange thumping sounds are not the result of a poltergeist. Water hammer causes those loud banging noises you hear when you turn the pipes on or off and beyond being alarming, it can cause serious damage to pipes and taps. Though it’s unusual for a pipe to burst as a result, it’s not impossible. If you don’t do anything about the noise though, the constant vibration in the pipes can cause joints to weaken which, in turn, may lead to unwanted leaking.
What Causes Water Hammer?
Water moves through your water lines because it’s under pressure. Water, which doesn’t compress when under pressure, can slam against blocked points (like a closed tap or valve) in your plumbing system. Some systems are designed with an elimination device, these shock waves by using air chambers that allow trapped air (which does compress under pressure) to act as a shock absorber when water comes to a sudden stop.
What Can I Do About the Weird Noises in My Pipes?
One simple fix to try is to shut off the water intake into your home. Then, open all the highest and lowest cold water faucets in the house. Flush the toilets. Run the faucets and allow all the water to drain from the system. Air flows into the pipes as the water leaves, replenishing any air chambers that may need to be topped up.
Once all the water has drained from your pipes, close the lowest faucet, but leave the highest open. Then turn on the water supply and let your pipes refill. You’ll hear lots of sputtering and hissing as air is forced up the vertical pipes and out the uppermost open faucet. Excess air spills out but should remain trapped where it’s needed, in the air chambers. In some cases, this process will fix your noisy water pipes.
High Water Pressure Can Damage Your Plumbing
This won’t help for long if the pressure of the water supply coming into the house is too high. How high that pressure is can be adjusted by a water pressure regulator, generally located at the point where the water enters the house. Water pressure should be somewhere between 30 and 50 pounds per square inch (psi). Higher than this and the water pressure can damage pipes, fittings and appliances that use water (dishwashers, washing machines, automatic ice-makers).
If your home is on a well, you may need to lower the cut-off pressure at your pump. Sometimes the problem is caused by the plumbing design. A sharp bend in a pipe just before a faucet, for example, can make it more likely that you’ll experience water hammer. Sometimes adjusting the pressure locally at the problematic sink (by closing the shut-off valves) can solve the problem.
Though the fixes mentioned so far should be well within the reach of anyone with a screwdriver or wrench, if you live in an apartment complex or don’t have access to the shut-off valve, you will need to get in touch with someone who does have access. Just putting up with the noise is not a good solution as serious damage can occur. Leaks, particularly if you are on a higher floor in an apartment complex, need to be fixed to prevent water damage and avoid expensive problems, not just for you but for residents located below you.
Loose Pipes Can Be Noisy
Another problem you may encounter is loose pipes, those that aren’t secured properly and can, as a result, vibrate when water flows through them. Where pipes are easy to access, it’s not a problem to check the fastenings and make sure everything is secure. Unfortunately, where pipes are buried in walls or under floors, checking and fixing this problem can be quite a headache.
Don’t Ignore High Water Pressure
If the problem is that the pressure coming into your home is just too high and you don’t have a water pressure regulator installed at the point where the fast moving water supply comes into your house (which can be the case in older homes), consider having a pressure-reduction valve installed. Unless you have plumbing experience yourself, installing a pressure reducer isn’t a do-it-yourself project that’s easily tackled. After having a valve installed, you should find that your plumbing gets a whole lot quieter. But you should also find that your water bill goes down as you will be using less water.
Regardless of whether or not your pipes are calling out for your attention, it’s a good idea to check your water pressure occasionally. Use a water-pressure gauge or ask us to come and perform a safety check. This service may be provided free of charge and it’s good to know just how much pressure is coming into the house. A simple adjustment can help you avoid expensive plumbing repairs down the road.
Let the Experts Help
If you aren’t sure exactly what’s causing the strange clunking sounds in your pipes, get in touch with the experts at RD Plumbing Solutions. We are always happy to chat and let you know your options when it comes to dealing with the noisy gremlins living in your plumbing. We’re also happy to consult with you about other common plumbing issues like blocked drains, dripping taps or faulty hot water systems.