How To Fix Noisy Plumbing
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How To Fix Noisy Plumbing

repair pipes

Plumbing is supposed to be relatively quiet. If your plumbing system bangs or hammers when you shut off a faucet or chatters or whistles when you turn one, it is not in normal condition and should be corrected. Although such noises do not signal a dangerous situation, they are annoying and should be eliminated, since the situation causing the noise can only get worse.

Chattering or whistling that occurs when a faucet is first opened or just before the last turn of closing may be caused by a worn washer in the faucet, worn packing or a damaged valve seat. Check the washer first. If it is loose, tighten the screw holding it. If it is worn, replace it. If the washer is not at fault and the valve seat seems all right, replace the packing. You can check the valve seat by running your finger over it. It should feel smooth to the touch with no burns or metal chips in it.

A banging or hammering sound in the pipes when a faucet is closed quickly is called water hammer. It is caused by the sudden stopping of the flow of water. Since water is incompressible, the energy of its forward motion bangs back and forth in the pipe until the vibrations die down. Sometimes this noise is accentuated by loosely mounted pipe, which is set in motion by the water vibrations and then bangs against the beams. As a first step make sure that each pipe is rigidly mounted. Tighten supporting braces along its length and at corners. Iron water pipe should be supported by braces spaced no more than 6 feet apart. Copper pipes need somewhat less support. It is interesting to note that water hammer rarely occurs in plastic pipe, since the plastic can expand and absorb the shock.

If all else fails, you should consider adding an air cushion to your system to absorb the energy of the stopped flow of water. A tee is placed in the line to the faucet and a sealed pipe is added to the third arm of the tee. The third arm contains air, but since the pipe is sealed, the air cannot escape. When the faucet is closed, the energy in the motion of water pushes some water into the air chamber, where the air compresses and absorbs the shock. The air chamber should be placed close to the noisy faucet to be most effective, but it will work anywhere in the water line.

In most new plumbing systems, air cushions are installed in the system when the house is first built. If your plumbing was quiet and has now developed a noise, an existing air cushion might be full of water because of a faulty seal at the end. If this happens, drain the water from the pipe and apply sealing compound to the cap on the end of the air pipe. The air cushion can be below the faucet, as at left, or above it, as at the right. If the air chamber is above the faucet, it is easily drained by opening the faucet after the water is shut off. To drain the air cushion at the left, it is necessary to open a faucet at a lower level. After the pipe is drained and resealed, the water can be turned on again. If all this sounds like too much work, you can prevent water hammer by shutting off faucets slowly.

Pounding, creaking, and rumbling noises can occur in hot-water pipes from water that is too hot. Water should never by at a temperature above 140 F. Noises in hot-water pipes may indicate that the temperature exceeds this level, and the hot-water heater should be checked. Creaking can also be caused by hot-water pipes expanding as hot water replaces cold inside the pipes. As they expand, they may rub against the beams. If you can locate the point of rubbing, you can eliminate the noise by inserting a piece of heat-resistant material, such as asbestos, between the pipe and the beam.

A humming noise when water is flowing in pipes is usually caused by the pipes being tightly fastened to the wooden structures of the house. The hum should normally be barely discernible, but when the pipes are in close contact with the beams, the wood acts like a sounding board to magnify the noise. To loosen the pipes would only cause other noises due to vibration, but the hum can be minimized by inserting bits of foam rubber, sponge, or scraps of a soft material like felt at points where the pipe comes in contact with the wood.

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