Silencing Noisy PlumbingApril 9, 2002
A plumbing system may produce any number of noises – but it shouldn’t. Each noise tells you something about what is calling out for correction. You just have to interpret the sound to apply the cure.
A “chattering noise” when a faucet is turned on or off, can be most annoying, and may make you think that the whole system is about to come apart at the seams. It is not usually all that serious; the problem is likely within the faucet itself.
First, check to make sure that the faucet washer is tightly screwed to the stem. If the washer is worn, it should be replaced even though the faucet is not leaking. Also inspect the threads on the back stem for signs of wear. If the stem (after being screwed back into the faucet) can be moved up and down, there is a definite indication of thread wear. Either the stem or the entire faucet should be replaced.
Pipes “rattling”, as water passed through them, may not be fastened securely. If they are accessible (as in a basement or crawlspace), install additional clamps to fasten them firmly to the joists.
On the other hand, “a ticking sound” may indicate that a pipe is fastened too tightly – cold pipes will expand slightly as hot water enters them, causing this noise if there is not sufficient expansion room.
A “whistling noise” is caused when water under pressure must pass through a point of restriction. A common problem is with the toilet intake valve. If your toilet “whistles” as it is being refilled after flushing, try cutting down the flow by shutting the supply stop slightly (the supply stop is the valve below the toilet that governs the flow of water into the tank). Some toilet mechanisms have an adjusting screw on the intake valve itself to solve this problem.
“Water Hammer” is a loud, banging noise that occurs when a faucet is shut off quickly. Behind every fixture, there should be an air chamber which provides a cushion of air to absorb the force of the rushing wat3r – and the accompanying noise. There are many different types of air chambers, in addition to the simple pipe and cap type, but all work on the same principle. If the chamber becomes filled with water, its cushioning effect is compromised.
To “recharge” the air chambers, shut down the entire water supply system at the main valve, and completely drain the systems. Open all the faucets to allow air into the system, then close the faucets and turn on the main valve. If water hammer still persists, you may have to knock out a few walls to install new air chambers at the trouble spots.
While this may seem a drastic solution, it is probably preferable to risking a burst pipe because of the condition.
A possible alternative is to install a large air chamber at the main intake valve. Where there is no guarantee, this sometimes works to alleviate the problem.
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