Demystifying Common Plumbing Sounds

We’ve all heard them – seemingly ominous noises coming from our various plumbing systems. They may appear randomly, or be the result of gradual build up, but they all strike the same fear in consumers: that something is seriously wrong (or about to be seriously wrong).

Most of the time, however, these plumbing noises are mostly harmless. At the least, they’re not signs of imminent catastrophe. Below are some common plumbing sounds whose bark is much scarier than their bite:

 

PIPES MAKING NOISE WHEN NO WATER IS RUNNING

Your pipes should normally be silent, even when they are in use. This is why hearing noises coming from the piping when there is no water running through them can be especially disconcerting. However, one of the root causes of this issue actually has nothing to do with the pipes.

If you have a tank water heater, sometimes it can collect sediment on the bottom of the tank. This sediment buildup causes steam bubbles to build up and must work their way through the sediment to escape to the top of the tank. This escaping can cause noises that may be loud enough to carry through the pipes in the walls.

BANGING SOUNDS FROM PIPES

Turning on the water in your home can become a very violent situation for the water and your pipes. When the water valve is closed, and no water is running, it sits still in the pipes. Then when the valve is opened water comes rushing through, gaining velocity, until the valve is shut off. This causes the running water, which has momentum and energy just like any moving object, to crash into the valve. This sudden stop and crashing can shake pipes, causing a banging, rattling or rumbling noise.

The phenomenon described above is known as “water hammer” and can be a problem long-term, causing loose pipes or broken connections. However, most modern plumbing systems have air chambers and other features included to prevent water hammer or lessen its impact. If you hear this sound repeatedly when water is turned off, it should be inspected by a plumbing professional and a solution should be put in place to avoid sustained damage to the pipes.

NOISY TAP WHEN TURNED ON

If a tap makes a hissing sound when it is turned on, the usual culprit is a water system too pressurized. When the water turns on, it rushes out of the faucet with too much force, causing the hissing sound. This can be fixed by examining the pressure settings for your system and fine-tuning to fix the issue.

Another potential cause is a restriction of flow in the pipes leading to the faucet, either due to buildup within the pipes or a system that is the wrong size to allow the water to flow freely. Clearing out the sediment or examining the pipe pressure should alleviate the noise. The washers installed on your plumbing system may be worn out, loose, or incorrectly sized. A quick check to tighten or replace the washers would be a top solution to this issue.

GURGLING DRAIN

If you hear a gurgling sound while your drain is used, or after it is done draining, the most likely source is a blockage in the pipes. Hair, sediment, grease, or another material have blocked part of the drain which causes the water to have to “struggle” to make its way through the pipes.

If there are multiple pipes that gurgle at the same time, the problem probably stems from a venting issue, where are pressure within the pipes cause an air vacuum to form, disrupting the normal water flow and letting off a gurgle throughout the system.