There's nothing quite as irritating as noisy water pipes. A loud noise coming from your pipes in the middle of the night is enough to jolt you out of sleep, and a continuous humming sound throughout the day can get under your skin like nothing else. Sure, these sounds can be annoying, but can they also be harmful to your plumbing system? You bet! Though there are a ton of causes of pipes making noise, different noises tend to mean different things. By recognizing possible causes of different sounds, you'll be well equipped to determine what type of pipe or drain repair is needed and when it's a good idea to call in an expert plumber from Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Ronkonkoma.
The Residential Plumbing System
To fully understand what's causing all those strange noises in your pipes, you need to have a basic understanding of what's happening behind your walls and below your property. Though the layout, components, and even terms for these components will vary according to your location, a basic residential plumbing system contains the following:
- A service line: Located beneath your property, this line extends from your home to your city’s main sewer line. It passes through a water meter and valve, which measures your usage and tells your utility company how much to charge you for water consumption.
- A sanitary sewer line: This line is also located beneath your property, often deeper than your water line. All the drains in your home connect to this line, which is connected to the main city sewer line.
- Hot water heater: Whether you have a conventional, tankless, or hybrid hot water heater, cold water enters this system and is heated for use in various areas across your home.
- P-traps: A type of pipe segment that is U-shaped, often placed at the beginning of a drain. Its curved shape allows objects that have accidentally gone down your sink to be retrieved, as well as prevents wastewater odors from filtering into your home’s interior.
- Appliances and fixtures: Taps, showers, tubs, washing machines, dishwashers, and toilets have pipes that allow hot and cold water to enter these appliances, as well as pipes that allow used water to leave your property and enter the main sewer line.
Though this is a simplified overview of your home’s plumbing infrastructure, it’s enough for most homeowners to understand why they have noisy pipes when running taps, or pipes making noise when the toilet flushes. Understanding how water enters and exits your home may help you identify the cause—and therefore solution—of pipes making noise behind your walls.
Why Are My Pipes Making Noise?
Now that you know how your home’s plumbing works, what’s causing your pipes to make such a fuss? Common pipe noises include loud banding, gurgling sounds and whistling noises. You may also hear your pipes humming or squeaking.
Though the sound may seem serious, some noises are an indication of minor plumbing issues that need some simple tweaking to correct. However, even minor issues should be corrected as soon as possible to prevent more serious problems from developing. The four most common causes of pipes making noise when water is turned on, toilets are flushed, and water is drained include pressure issues, the air in pipes, clogs or obstructions, and loose components.
1. High Water Pressure
Humming or vibrating sounds are common symptoms of high water pressure. The pressure of your home’s incoming cold water supply is kept consistent through the use of a water pressure regulator. Also called a pressure-reducing valve (PRV), this device reduces the pressure of the incoming supply, which may be as high as 100 to 200 PSI (pounds per square inch), depending on where you live. Ideally, incoming pressure should be about 50 PSI to prevent pipes from making noise and experiencing unnecessary strain.
If your pressure seems inconsistent or higher than is comfortable, locate your main water valve and check to see if there is another device on the other side of this. If you notice that the water pressure coming from your hot water pipe seems to be too strong, adjust your water heater.
2. Water Hammer
The sound of banging can often be explained by a phenomenon known as a water hammer. If you have high pressure, this effect may be even more pronounced. When you turn a tap on full, water rushes through your pipes at high speed. Unless you turn your taps off slowly and gradually, which most people don't, the flow will be cut off abruptly as soon as you stop the water supply. Water then slams against the shut-off valve, causing a loud bang.
To prevent this from happening, you'll first want to install a PRV to reduce high pressure, as stated above. If you're still experiencing water hammer after this, you may want to install water hammer arrestors. This device is equipped with a spring-loaded shock absorber, which mitigates the force of the water and stops your pipes from making noise. No longer will they drive you insane when your partner gets up to use the washroom in the middle of the night!
3. Air Bubbles
Another common cause of banging, as well as humming or bubbling, is the presence of air bubbles and pockets (or a lack thereof) in your pipes. Any banging noises are likely still the result of a hammer, but if your pressure is fine, you may have water in your air chambers. These chambers are vertical pipes that are located behind your walls near the shut-off valves of your fixtures. Normally, these air-filled pipes apply pressure on the water in the supply line below and prevent hammers from occurring. Over time, they can become filled with water and no longer hold enough air to absorb the force.
To fix noisy pipes caused by filled air chambers, you’ll want to find your main water supply valve and turn it off. Then, turn on all of your taps. Any remaining liquid in your pipes—and air chambers—will be emptied, leaving nothing but air in your plumbing system. Now that your air chambers have been reset, you can turn your water supply back on to refill your plumbing system.
If the problem is humming, vibrating, or bubbling, you may have unwanted air in your supply lines. You'll want to follow the reverse of the steps above to fix this problem. Keeping your supply on, turn on all the taps in your home. It's best to start at the faucet closest to your supply valve so that you can push out air from the beginning of the circuit to the end.
Though it may seem wasteful, leave all of your taps on for at least ten minutes. If ten minutes have passed and your pipes are still making noise, keep them running until the sound goes away. Then, starting with the faucet furthest away from your supply valve, shut off your taps one by one. Wait about one minute before moving on to the next tap.
4. Clogged Pipes
Thus far, we’ve discussed noisy pipes caused by incoming water—but what about sounds that occur when draining? The most common noise you’ll hear when there’s an issue with your pipes is a sucking or gurgling noise. These are classically the result of a clogged pipe.
Clogs can occur for several reasons. Some of the most common culprits include:
- Grease: You know that you shouldn’t dump bacon grease down your drain (we hope), but you may be surprised how little quantities of fats and oils, such as cooking oil and even fats in bar soaps, may build up in your pipes over time and lead to a clog. Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter how much hot water you run down the drain after it.
- Food debris: We’ve all been there—that mushy, soggy food on the bottom of your sink is gross to look at, let alone touch. But by rinsing it down the drain rather than scooping it up and throwing it in the compost bin, you risk creating a blockage in your pipes.
- Hair: After food debris, many homeowners have trouble stomaching pulling hair out of the drain. The best thing to do to prevent a clog in sinks, showers or bathtubs drain is to place a drain cover at the bottom and clean it after each use.
- ‘Flushable’ wipes: Some homeowners wonder, “can flushable wipes damage my plumbing?” Only toilet paper should ever be put down your toilet. Though some brands of flushable wipes claim that they can be put down the drain, this simply isn’t true. Even toilet paper may get clogged if you use a ‘luxury’ brand. The same goes for feminine hygiene products and paper towels.
- Tree roots: Your service line and sanitary sewer line can be attractive to tree roots searching for moisture, nutrients and oxygen. Tree roots can expand two to three times greater than the width of the plant’s canopy, so even if you don’t have any trees on your property, the roots of your neighbor’s tree could certainly be beneath your yard. All it takes is a tiny crack, loose joint or hole in your pipes for tree roots to invade and grow inside your pipes.
There are a couple of things you can do to try to remove clogs if you’re not sure whether or not you need to hire a pro. The first option involves buying or renting an auger from a hardware store in your area and using it to snake the drain. If the clog is close to the entrance, this shouldn’t be too difficult. Clogs that are closer to or within the sanitary sewer will be more difficult to remove.
A second option involves using a drain cleaner. Chemical drain cleaners may damage your pipes, so opt only for those that are natural or enzymatic. Keep in mind that these won’t do much for roots. Rock salt or foaming root killers may be used to break down roots, but without the help of a professional plumber, they’ll grow right back.
5. Loose Components
Noisy pipes in the form of rattling, whistling or squealing are often a result of loose fasteners and hardware, such as a loose washer. Excessive wear may result in worn washers and loose pipes. As water flows through these, they move and come in contact with components around them. The sound of these two materials moving against each other results in not just your pipes making noise, but your plumbing fixtures as well.
Copper pipes can also make whistling and squealing sounds, as this malleable metal tends to expand with heat and contract with cold. When hot water flows through them, they may move against drywall or wooden joists between your walls. To prevent this, professional plumbers tend to pad them with insulation. If you’re experiencing this issue and don’t want to have to tear out your walls to insulate your pipes, you can try lowering the temperature on your hot water heater slightly. The difference of a few degrees may be all you need to prevent your noisy pipes from expanding too much.
Prevent and Repair Noisy Pipes With The Help Of A Professional Plumber
At Mr. Rooter Plumbing, our bonded, insured and licensed plumbers can diagnose and repair your pipes and plumbing fixtures to stop your pipes from making noise. Our team has the knowledge and expertise to determine the cause of the issue based on the sound and troubleshoot until we're confident we've found the problem. One way in which we do this is with a video camera inspection. This allows us to use live video to look at the inside of your pipes and find any damaged areas. Sanitary sewer lines and water lines can be repaired using trenchless repair methods, which allow us to access these pipes without destroying your yard.
The solution for clogs is even simpler. Using our HydroScrub® Jetting service, we'll blast highly pressurized water through your drains to not just break up clogs but completely obliterate them. If you live in an older home and don't know how careful the previous owners were about what they put down the drain, this routine maintenance service may be just what you need.
To stop your pipes making noise once and for all, give Mr. Rooter Plumbing of Ronkonkoma a call today to book a service appointment for plumbing repair and drain repair, or to discuss your plumbing problem in more detail.