Do you water pipes start banging the minute you turn the faucet on? Do you hear a rattling sound coming from the water system while you’re taking a shower? Are your vibrating water pipes driving you, your roommates and your neighbors crazy? Or maybe you have just soundproofed a room only to realise you forgot to deal with the creaky pipes first!
Noisy water pipes can be a real annoyance, especially when you’re just trying to go about your daily life and you’re constantly being interrupted by loud sounds. Fortunately, there are ways to fix these issues, or at least attempt to, before you have to call the plumber out.
In this guide we’ll take you through the causes of vibrating water pipes and methods you can try to quieten them, including the equipment you might need. So, if you’re ready to bathe in peace without hearing sounds from your pipe system, keep reading on.
Types Of Water Pipe Noises
Before we get started by looking at ways to fix water pipe noise, let’s take a look at the different types of noises you might be hearing from your pipes.
- Banging — this could be caused by high water pressure or water hammer
- Rattling — this could be caused by one of your pipes becoming loose or temperature changes
- Humming — this could be caused by high water pressure
- Whining — this could be caused by loose or worn out parts
- Whistling — this could be caused by a worn washer, high water pressure or mineral build up
- Gurgling — this could be caused by clogged pipes
- Dripping — this could be caused by leaks or gaps in your piping
Causes Of Noisy Water Pipes
Now we know about the different types of noises you might be hearing from your water pipes, let’s take a further look at the causes of these issues.
Loose pipes can cause loud noises because they will move and rattle as water passes through them. Pipes need to be secure and fastened to the structure of the building to present them from moving around. Pipes are usually secured with brackets and nails. Over time, the nails loosen, which can lead to movement.
Because pipes are usually made out of metal, temperature changes can affect them. Even if your pipes are plastic, temperature from the water or outside temperature can cause vibrating and rattling as the pipes move and adjust to the water changes. A hundred feet of PVC pipe will shrink or lengthen about 3/8” for every 10°F change in temperature, while a copper pipe will change 1/10” under the same conditions.
High Water Pressure
Water pressure should be at 80 PSI in a residential area. Anything more than this, it can cause plumbing problems and even lead to your pipes breaking, which is what ends up causing noise. You can test your water pressure at home and, if it’s over 80 PSI, you’ll need a professional to install a pressure regulator.
Water hammer happens when the water valve, such as a faucet, is promptly closed off. All the water that had been moving down the pipe to the exit point contains a lot of energy and momentum, so when it hits the closed-off valve point, it makes an incredibly loud banging sound.
Air that is trapped in the pipes can cause faucets to sputter as well as rattling pipes. Air can enter the pipes if they are not secure, or if there is work being done to the pipes. Air can also get trapped when a faucet is opened or closed quickly.
Over time, pipes can get clogged with all sorts of things. Usually this is general debris like hair and dirt going down the shower drain, but could also be human waste or even bits of plastic from a faulty or broken pipe.
A washer is a form of waterproof barrier at the screw threads to prevent leaking or dripping. Over time, washers can become worn out and need replacing.
Worn Out Ballcock Assembly
A ballcock assembly controls the fill process of your toilet. If you hear banging or rattling noises after you flush the toilet, it could be that this is worn out. You can repair or replace this.
Faulty Main Shut Off Valve
The main shut off valve could be faulty if you are hearing a loud squealing noise. This sound usually resonates through your entire house as it is the shut off valve for the entire system. You can repair this after you have turned the water off at the mains.
How To Reduce Water Pipe Noise
Now we know the causes of noise in your water pipes, we can take a look at some of the ways in which you can fix this noise, including any equipment you might need.
Tighten Loose Pipes
To prevent loose pipes from rattling and making noise, you should tighten them and ensure they are properly fastened to the walls of your home. Pipes are secured with brackets and nails. Pipes that are horizontal should be clamped every 6ft to 8ft, and those that are vertical should be clamped every 8ft to 10ft.
You may find that if you pipes are rattling that it is just because the nails have become old and worn or rusted. You may just need to replace the nails (and possibly the brackets) to secure the pipes again, or it may be a case of securing new and more brackets to the pipes, too. Never use galvanized brackets on copper pipe as this will cause corrosion.
Pipes that are exposed, such as in basements or unfinished buildings, are easier to get to and secure. You should be able to do the job yourself, but if you can’t get to the plumbing system, you may need to get a professional out.
If you are still experiencing vibrating water pipes even after tightening the loose pipes, you can wrap pipes with foam or a rubber hose. You’ll also find that using plastic or nylon clamps and brackets will help to minimize sound and vibrations. Reducing the water pressure can reduce the pressure put on pipes and their brackets, too.
Replace Broken Pipes
You may find that one or more of your pipes are broken if you are hearing unusual noises coming from your water system. This might also be accompanied by a dripping noise, where water is leaking through gaps and holes in the pipes.
If you suspect one of your pipes is broken, we recommend immediately shutting off the main valve. This will prevent any further breakages to the system but, more importantly, will also prevent water damage from occurring inside your home.
If you can get to the pipe or part that is broken, you may be able to replace it yourself. However, we do recommend getting a professional out to do this, as they may be able to spot weakness in other pipes or further broken parts you might not have noticed.
Install Water Hammer Arrestor
Water hammer can cause real damage to your pipes, particularly as the pressure of the water hitting the closed valve of the faucet can measure up to 100 PSI. This can result in broken and burst pipes. First of all, you should check the pressure gage and use the pressure regulator to adjust the PSI by 5 or 10.
If this doesn’t work and you still hear banging pipes, you can install a water hammer arrestor. This is installed on the flexible water line between the fixture and the wall and is a manufactured air chamber with a sealed chamber and a diaphragm.
As the excess water pushes against the diaphragm, it expands and absorbs the water into the sealed chamber which prevents the shock of the water hitting the closed faucet and, therefore, the noise.
Another solution for the hammering noise is to shut off the main water valve, turn on all the taps and drain the entire house. When you fill up the pipes with water again later having turned on the valve, air will be pushed into the risers designed to prevent water hammering (which, over time, can stop working so efficiently, causing water hammer).
Sort Out Water Pressure
The maximum recommend household water pressure is 80 PSI. You can use a water pressure gage to test the level of yours. If yours goes over 80, it can cause a huge range of problems, including burst pipes.
To fix this, you should install a pressure regulator at your water main. A plumber can do this easily for you and it will prevent more serious issues in the future. Ideally, your water pressure should be somewhere between 40 and 60 PSI. Having a pressure regulator will also allow you to adjust the pressure as and when is needed. The plumber will be able to show you how to do this.
Replace The Washer
We mentioned above that the washer is a form of waterproof barrier at the screw threads to prevent leaking or dripping, and, over time, it can become worn and stop functioning properly.
Without the waterproof seal being there, you can hear whistling, dripping or squealing noises, so it is best to get it replaced ASAP. You can even do this yourself without needing to get a plumber out. All you need to do is shut off the valve and check the washers. If they look worn, replace them.
Clean Out Blocked Pipes
We put a lot of stuff down our drains, so it isn’t surprising that every so often they become blocked. This can often result in a glugging sound. We don’t recommend you try to clear clogged pipes on your own — plumbers have the ability to do this quickly and easily (and it shouldn’t cost you too much, either!).
To prevent temperature changes from affecting pipes, you should secure pipes to the structure or walls of your home. This is the same as tightening loose pipes — you can do this by using brackets and nails to make sure they are fixed on the walls and will not move.
You can also wrap your pipes where they go through brackets or across supports with foam insulation to help prevent temperature changes and fluctuations from affecting the pipes so much. This will be especially helpful if you have copper pipes, which are more susceptible to temperature changes.
Remove Trapped Air
You will know if you have trapped air in your water pipes as the sound will usually start immediately as a faucet is turned on. You might also hear a bubbling noise.
To remove trapped air, you will need to clear out your water system. To start, ensure that the main water valve is fully open. You will then want to open up all the taps from the closest faucet to the main supply point, to the ones furthest away (usually on the top of floor of the house). This should be done for all taps, including hot and cold ones.
Allow the water to run for about 10 to 15 minutes. You should also flush all the toilets, run the washer and dishwasher and fill a glass from the refrigerator water dispenser. Once the spluttering of trapped air has stopped, you can begin to close the faucets up again.
You should do this in reverse order, so starting with the ones you opened last. Wait around 2 minutes in between closing each tap. Once they are all closed, you should find that any trapped air has been removed.
If air is still trapped in the system after this, then it may be that there is an air leak in the water system somewhere. You should call out a professional to look at and fix it.
Noisy or Vibrating Water Pipes FAQs
How much noise is excessive pipe noise?
Pipes are always going to make some noise. They have a very important job and carry water all around our house. You may hear noises when you turn the taps on or off, or hear slight sounds as hot water goes through cold pipes. However, if the noise from your pipes is disrupting your every day life or you hear unusual banging, rattling or any other sounds, this could be cause for concern and you should try to locate the issue.
Can I get rid of pipe noise completely?
You may be wondering whether you can get rid of pipe noise completely. Unfortunately, the answer to this is no. Pipes constantly have water, and vast amounts of it, moving through them, so of course there is going to be some noise. However, as we mentioned above, you should only hear the noise of water running when you turn the taps on and off, with perhaps the slight noise of water moving through the pipes or temperature changes. Any loud banging, dripping, spluttering, gurgling or anything out of the ordinary — call a professional!
When should I call a plumber?
Some of the solutions we have recommended above you should be able to try at home without any professional help. These include checking the water pressure, or removing trapped air, and even replacing the washer. However, plumbing can be tricky, and if you ever feel as if you are out of your depth, call a professional. Some solutions you simply won’t be able to achieve without the knowledge and tools of a plumber, so don’t even try to attempt these!
If your water pipes are noisy and disrupting your every day life, you should get it sorted. While these pipes are under a lot of pressure to carry water to all parts of the house, the noise shouldn’t be so loud that it really affects you and, if it is, it could be the sign of a serious plumbing issue. Start by trying to diagnose the problem based on the type of sound and, if you can, you can fix the problem yourself. However, if you are ever unsure, don’t be afraid to call a plumber. You don’t want to cause more issues in your water system! Good luck!