Why Do My Water Pipes Make Noise?

Water pipes handle a lot of stress. From high pressures to temperature changes, it’s a wonder that they tend to operate silently. When they do work in silence, they’re out of sight, out of mind. But what happens when they start making a racket?

Noisy water pipes have different causes, some of which are serious, and others that are merely annoying. Read on to learn how you can identify the problem by the type of noise and find a solution that will have them working quietly once more.

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 bang 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.

Want to learn how to stop a water hammer? Try resetting the water system’s air chambers. Here’s how:

How to Reset the Air Chambers in Your Plumbing

About 10 minutes

1. Turn off the water main

image of main shut-off valve

Close your home's main shut-off valve.

2. Drain all pipes

image of running shower head

Open all your faucets (turn them on) to completely drain the pipes. Don’t forget about your lowest faucets, such as a basement sink or an outdoor hose bib.

3. Turn on water main

image of water main valve

Then turn the water main back on, and the hammer noises should be resolved.

4. Check water supply lines

image of water supply lines

If the water hammer sound 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. Apply clips and plumber’s tape wherever necessary to secure the supply pipes.

5. Call a plumber

Mr. Rooter logo with tools

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

Water hammers aren’t the only noises that pipes make. They can also make eerie whistling 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 this issue, 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. To fix the issue, simply bend the float arm down a little so the ballcock turns off sooner. A toilet that whistles all the time probably has an issue with the vertical overflow tube.

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 perform plumbing system maintenance to 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; excessively 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 often wish 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.

If you’re not sure if it’s a minor annoyance or a big issue, do some troubleshooting first. Reset your air chambers as described earlier in this blog post. If the sound persists, carry out the following steps:

  1. Fill your bathroom sink with very hot water and then flush the toilet, which will push cold water into your pipes.
  2. 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.
  3. If neither of these methods takes care of the dripping or ticking noises, get professional help.

Get Professional Plumbing Help

If you need help with a noisy water pipe problem and would like a consultation, inspection, or repair, contact your local Mr. Rooter® Plumbing location. Our certified professionals are ready to assist you with your plumbing issues, and we’re happy to perform routine maintenance so you can avoid future problems and excessive wear on your plumbing system. Best of all, we serve locations all over the country. Request a job estimate online today. Or you can call us any time and a member of our customer care team will schedule your appointment.