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Plumbing Category: Noises

Problem:

Odd, often annoying, noises coming from pipes/plumbing fixtures.

Guide:

It is likely that you will encounter noises that you discern to come from your pipes or plumbing fixtures at one point or another.  There are a variety of such plumbing noises that correspond to a variety of causes, many of them that may be considered minor.

Here’s a run-down of some different noises and their respective causes:

  • A thumping, thumping sound often occurs when the water that flows through your pipes comes from an undersized water meter.  As with the other noises, the source of the noise may be deceiving: You might suspect it comes from your water heater when, in fact, the sound emanates from the undersized water meter.  Generally, once this is confirmed to be the cause of your noise, a simple upgrade to a properly-sized water meter will eliminate this sound problem.

  • A clinking, clinking sound—sometimes confused with the above thumping sound—often occurs when the pipe, through which water runs, actually expands or contracts.  This is the result of simple physics:  In particular, when cold water runs through a hot pipe (a pipe that becomes hot because of its location, perhaps near a roof, being subject to warm temperatures outside), the pipe will contract, consequently making the clinking sound;  likewise, when hot water runs through a cold pipe (that is affected by cold-weather conditions), the pipe will expand, consequently making the clinking sound.  Other than installing insulation around such affected pipes, there is really no other method to resolve this problem.  Thankfully, this clinking sound usually lasts for only a couple of minutes from the time the water is turned on to flow.

  • Of the sounds, the most unnerving noise is the vibrating/rattling sound, and this occurs because of either 1) the existence of air in your pipes or 2) the existence of what is

     

    called water hammer (a violent banging noise, an occurrence more formally known as hydrostatic shock).  The latter cause—the water hammer—is an underlying cause of a noise that you want to address because it can really compromise the integrity of your plumbing system (cause leaks because of the forceful movement of the pipes, etc.).  A good way to tell what is the particular cause of the noise in your situation is to appreciate this difference:  If this sound occurs when water is turned on (i.e., you open the faucet/valve), in all

likelihood, the cause of such a sound is air in your pipes; otherwise, if this sound occurs when the water is shut off (i.e., you close the faucet/valve), in all likelihood, the cause of such a sound is the occurrence of water hammer.  In some cases, both causes can exist.  Under such circumstances, having a local plumbing contractor examine your plumbing system is advisable.  Some devices that may be used to attempt to resolve this problem include the following:  an air trap, air vent, air chamber (for appliances like dishwashers, etc.) or a water hammer arrester.

So, the next time you hear that annoying (or, what is worse, the unnerving) noise, you will know why.  Get it fixed.

Ed the Handyman

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Your Handyman Zone Team

 

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