Is your plumbing giving you a headache with all the rattling, vibrating, and banging? Don’t worry — relief is in sight, you don’t have to put up with rattling pipes anymore. The right diagnosis and treatment can stop those annoying noises right now and prevent them from coming back.
Let’s look at the three most common causes of noisy pipe, and find effective ways to eliminate the problem.
We’ll start with loose pipes, the rattling problem that is usually simplest to spot and to fix. When your house was initially built, the plumbing would have been solidly attached to the framing.
Over the years, your home has shifted, settled and adjusted to temperature and humidity changes. Likely, the mounts have gradually worked their way loose, allowing the piping to knock against the walls and frame as it fills with water.
Take a look at an exposed area of water piping – most likely in your basement in an unfinished area where you’ll get the best view. Then have a family member flush the toilet or turn on one and then the other faucet. If this action causes the pipes to shake, you will need to have them re-secured with pipe clips.
Be careful if you decide to tighten down the pipes yourself, as it could cause leaks at fittings further down the line or simply move the noise to an area where you have no access. It’s best to slowly secure one pipe at a time and then re-test as you go.
If the vast majority of your pipes are behind finished walls it will probably make sense to bring in an expert to see if there are any other options before you start opening up walls.
When your pipes produce “water hammer”, you’ll hear a loud banging noise that sounds like a hammer blow as soon as you shut off the water. Often, the source will be plumbing valves that are closing too quickly – literally slamming shut.
Sometimes shutting off a tap in the upstairs bathroom can cause a bang way down in the basement. Listen carefully as you turn on and off the water, (both hot and cold) at every fixture and appliance.
Installation of a water hammer arrestor is one potential route to slow down this annoying and potentially damaging effect. Most arrestors work by trapping a bubble of air within a small new pipe section that acts as a simple shock absorber. However, because the installation often requires pipes to be cut and soldered, you’ll need to let a professional plumber handle it.
Another possible cause is a blocked plumbing vent that has created a vacuum. In this case, you can attempt a DIY “cure,” which starts by shutting off your water supply. Then beginning with the highest faucets and fixtures in your home and working your way down to the lowest level, open all the valves in all fixtures to clear the blockage thoroughly.
A rattling noise that occurs when you first turn water faucets on or off can often be attributed to high water pressure. Overly high pressure needs prompt attention. Otherwise, it will not only make your pipes rattle, and eventually cause severe damage to both the pipe system and especially your plumbing-related appliances (washing machine, dishwasher, and water heater).
Consider purchasing a water pressure test gauge to check. Home water pressure should generally be 40-60 pounds per square inch (PSI). If yours is higher, it can be reduced by installing a pressure reducing valve (PRV). Already have a PRV in place? The valve may need professional adjustment – or even replacement.
Rattles, bangs and vibrations in your pipes are more often an annoyance than an indication of failing pipes or plumbing.