Providing Plumbing Solutions Since 1986

Why Do My Plumbing Pipes Rattle or Make Banging Sounds?

Frequently Asked Questions

The Big Bang of Plumbing

One of the loudest plumbing noises is likely the result of a water hammer. It’s also one of the most frequent phone calls Plumbtech Plumbing receives.

What is a Water Hammer?

When the water inside a plumbing line changes direction or stops suddenly, it creates a pressure surge or shock wave in the pipes. The biggest culprit is a single faucet shower and/or bathtub. When the single faucet is closed quickly, it will send a shock through the pipes.

It can also occur when a washing machine stops filling and moves to the wash cycle. The quick or abrupt shut off of the water results in a bang or a loud hammering noise.

A woman plugging her ears.

Water hammers can also occur when a shower or a single-handle faucet in a tub is suddenly shut off. The water in both the hot and cold water lines stops abruptly, creating a shock wave. Shock waves could also occur in other appliances that are shut off quickly. A dishwasher, for example, has a wash-and-rinse cycle. The valves close when the dishwasher has filled with water.

Water hammers may also impact some refrigerators that contain an ice maker. Beyond the annoying sound, a water hammer will deliver continued shocks to the plumbing lines, which can result in damage to the pipes and the valves. If this is happening in your home, call Plumbtech Plumbing. Installing a shock arrestor can correct the problem. Shock arrestors are available in a range of sizes/diameters for plumbing lines in residential, commercial, or industrial buildings. 

Thumps, Clunks & Bangs

Plumbing lines, both hot and cold water, are supported and held in place by pipe hangers. Over time, the hangers can become loose and cause a range of noises – a rattle, thunks, clunks, or a loud bang. When the hangers are loose, the water lines will move around in the hanger, resulting in changes to the fluid inside the pipe which can cause a water hammer. This is more prevalent in copper or steel pipes than plastic or pex piping.

Smaller Bangs

A series of smaller banging noises can be caused by trapped air in a water pipe as well as changes in water pressure. A bang from trapped air can be heard when the faucet is turned on. Seasonal cottages, for example, have air in the lines as the lake water is pumped up to all the fixtures.

Drain Noise

Drains can be noisy too. Appliances, such as a dishwasher, will make a noise when it drains into the plumbing system. For those with a sensitivity to noise, this can be reduced significantly by replacing the drain with a separate one and adding a separate trap and vent. Water will also make noise when it is draining from second-floor fixtures to the first-floor on its way to the main drain pipe. Adding insulation to the drain pipe – particularly a toilet – will help. For more extensive solutions, contact Plumbtech Plumbing.

Pipe Insulation

Insulating the plumbing lines helps water temperatures stay hot or cold. It will also help to reduce condensation and drips during the summer months. Condensation and drips tend to be more of an issue with copper plumbing lines than plastic piping.

There are different types and sizes of pipe insulation. Foam insulation, for example, is available in different sizes because the diameter of the water pipe can vary. The insulation can be cut to length and is commonly used in homes to prevent dripping water pipes. For commercial applications, fiberglass pipe insulation has a hard coating. It can be cut at 90 degrees or other angles to follow the pipeline.

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Electric Hot Water Tanks

Insulating the tank will help to prevent condensation. A drip tray can be placed under an electric hot water tank to catch condensation drips.
Insulating the tank and the plumbing lines leading in and out of the tank will help to retain the cold and hot water temperature. A cushion or expansion tank will allow room for water expansion when heated without creating higher pressure increases in the system.

Gurgling and Gulps

A gurgling or gulp noise is a sign of an obstruction in the drain. A blockage can occur for numerous reasons ranging from food particles to fat as well as flushing items that should not be flushed, such as wipes or napkins. Sometimes roots growing into the main drain line in search of water will create a blocked pipe.

There could also be an issue with the main drain pipe if it has rusted, cracked, or is not aligned correctly. A blockage in the main sewer line will cause multiple slow-draining sinks and in more extreme circumstances, a sewage backup. The first priority is locating where the obstruction is in the plumbing system. Plumbtech Plumbing will run a camera through the main drain line to determine the depth and location inside of the pipe.

Pump Noise

Noise from a sewage pump or a sump pump may be an indication it is not working as efficiently as it should. Noise from a circulating pump could mean an obstruction or air in the line. Check valves can also make a noise when the flapper closes. For those with noise sensitivity, a silent check valve can be installed. A sump pump or sewage pump can sometimes produce a bang so hard that the flapper inside the check valve breaks. Once it breaks, the pump will need to be replaced.

Jet pumps or piston pumps, used in the basement sump pump or wells or to pump water from the lake to a cottage, are all prone to noise from the motor. If it squeals, the pump needs lubrication.

Pipe Noise

Plumbing pipes can make all kinds of noises. Heating and cooling in the plumbing lines can sometimes be heard as they expand or contract. A pipe that vibrates or makes a thrumming sound may be the result of too much water pressure.

Beyond water hammers, smaller banging noises can be caused by trapped air in a pipe or changes in water pressure. Hissing will occur when there is a leak in a water line under pressure. Follow the sound to find the leak and turn off the water until it can be fixed.

Noise From a Blocked Vent

A gurgling noise in the drain could also be the result of a blocked plumbing vent pipe in the roof. These vents are small enough that birds can build a nest or fly in and become trapped. Leaves can also accumulate in the vent pipe.

More Noise

Appliances such as a dishwasher, or washing machine, may squeak or squeal when running because of a broken or worn washer. Toilets can make all kinds of different noises, from ghost flushing to whistling, which can indicate a problem with the ballcock valve.

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