When you turn some taps on, do you hear rattling and vibrating water pipes? Are you afraid of waking someone up with water pipe noises when you take a shower? There are several reasons why water pipes rattle or vibrate, but it is possible to quiet them.
How To Quiet Noisy Vibrating and Rattling Water Pipes: Ensure pipes are fastened with anti-vibration clamps, and that the clamps are secure and correctly spaced. Wrap pipes in foam to prevent noise where they pass through or across other materials. Make sure lines are supported and have some flex room for expansion and contraction. Additionally, lowering the water pressure or installing a hammer arrester can stop rattle too.
In this article, we’ll look at what causes water pipes to rattle and vibrate. We’ll also discuss how to stop those noises from disrupting your quiet home. After perusing this article, you’ll have a better understanding of how to silence noisy water pipes.
For information on quieting other house infrastructure, please see our articles How to Quiet a Noisy Furnace Blower, How to Quiet a Noisy Air Return.
What Causes Water Pipes to Vibrate and Rattle
Water pipes are an essential part of the plumbing system in most buildings. They are commonly made of metal, PEX (crosslinked polyethylene), or other non-metallic pipes, and deliver or remove water where it is required. Often the plumbing system is comprised of a mixture of pipe materials.
Water pipes travel through or along walls, ceilings, and floors. Exposed pipes are easier to inspect and repair. Unfortunately, most plumbing is concealed within the building structure, making maintenance difficult and more expensive. Plumbing that travels through or is flush to structural members frequently is the culprit for rattles and vibrations.
Identifying what is making the noise and where it is occurring is only part of the issue. Determining what causes the pipes to produce disturbing sounds may be more difficult. Here are some possible reasons why pipes may produce a medley of sounds.
High Water Pressure
High water pressure can cause leaks, toilets to constantly drain, faucets to spit, and pipes to bang, knock, whistle, squeak, rattle, and vibrate when taps are opened or closed, or the toilet flushed. Water pressure that is too high can cause pipes to be noisy. It can also damage water lines, joints and elbows, connections, fixtures, and even washing machines and hot water tanks, leading to costly repairs; plus, it’s a waste of water.
You may feel that high water pressure is vital to a good shower or improved water flow. However, the correct water pressure will still produce a cleansing force; it just won’t peel the skin off like a water pick.
Water pipes can make noises if they are not fastened securely or appropriately supported. Vibrating water pipes commonly have become loose or aren’t tightly fastened. Rattling water pipes frequently lack support or fastening brackets. When faucets, toilets, or appliances are opened, flushed, or activated, water rushes through the pipes to meet the demand.
The force and movement of the water will make pipes flex and move, causing a vibration, rattle, bang, or squeaking sound. The same can occur when the water is shut off, and the pipes settle back into a rest position. Loose pipes will make more noise than those properly fastened.
Air trapped in pipes from recent repairs or due to a faulty valve can cause taps to sputter and pipes to vibrate, knock, or rattle. Trapped air can also create an air hammer if it collects at a faucet. The trapped air is under pressure from the water, so when the tap is opened suddenly, it fires out like an air gun.
The sudden release often causes water to jump against closed appliance valves and faucets elsewhere in the building, creating a bang from the water pressure. Additionally, the water movement may make pipes shift, adding a rattle, knock, or vibration to the myriad of noise.
A water hammer is caused when a tap is shut off quickly, causing a bang, followed by quieter bangs for a short time. Water in pipes is incompressible, so when the valve or faucet is quickly closed, the water bangs against the valve. The momentum and velocity of the liquid create a hydraulic shock or hammer.
The water crashes into the suddenly shut tap, forcing it to retreat and forms a vacuum at the shut valve. The vacuum pulls the water back against the valve with a quieter bang. This cavitation continues with ever quieter bangs until the water stops moving.
Hot water can make pipes expand, and cooling or cold water can cause them to contract. The movement of warming or cooling may make pipes rub against structural building components or brackets, creating a vibration, rattle, or squeak. This is especially true for copper piping, which is ductile and malleable. However, flexible plastic tubing like PEX can also make similar noises.
How to Stop Water Pipes From Vibrating and Rattling
Water pipes that vibrate and rattle are telling you something about the water supply system. The location and cause of the noise help provide the cure. Some solutions will be easier than others, and less expensive, while others may require more work and expertise. Opening up a wall or ceiling hopefully won’t be necessary, but is a possibility depending on where the vibrating and rattling water pipes are.
Let’s take a look at five common causes for rattling and vibrating water pipes:
1. High Water Pressure
High water pressure will make pipes knock, vibrate, rattle, squeak, whistle, and bang. It can also damage washing machines, dishwashers, hot water tanks, faucets, and pipes. It may feel great in the shower, but dozens of pinhole leaks at seams and joints might not be a shower to your liking.
The first step is to determine if the water pressure is too high. Borrow or buy a water pressure gauge. It needs to thread onto a household faucet, so that you may need an adaptor. The cost should be less than $20. Remove the aerator from a tap and thread the gauge into place, and turn the tap on.
The water pressure should be between 40 PSI and 60 PSI. Building codes specify less than 80 PSI, so if it is higher, the pressure needs to be reduced.
To adjust the water pressure, go to the water pressure regulator. It is a valve, often with a pressure gauge, used to adjust the pressure and should be right after the water meter, near where the service water line comes into the house. If there isn’t a regulator, have one installed or do it yourself if you have the skillset and time.
A plumber doing the install will also adjust the water pressure as part of the task, and probably show you how so you can do it if needed in the future. I’d recommend installing one with a pressure gauge attached.
To make the water pressure adjustment, locate the water main shut-off valve and slowly turn or rotate it into the closed position.
Locate the bolt or screw on the pressure regulator, and locking nut. Back the locking nut off a quarter-turn at a time until the screw or bolt will turn. Rotate the bolt clockwise to increase pressure and counter-clockwise to reduce pressure. A quarter turn is a good start.
Slowly turn the main water valve on, and check the water pressure. If it is still too high, shut the main off again, and rotate the screw another quarter or half-turn in the correct direction.
Repeat until the pressure is less than closer to 60 PSI. To secure the adjustment screw, tighten the locking nut on the pressure regulator with a wrench.
2. Loose Pipes
Rattling and vibrating water pipes may not be properly supported or fastened to structural building components. Horizontal pipes should be clamped every 6ft to 8ft, and vertically every 8ft to 10ft. Pipes in many homes are fastened with brackets secured by nails. Over time, the nails loosen and allow pipes to rattle, vibrate, squeak, or bang when water flows through them.
Exposed pipes in basements or unfinished structures are easier to check and secure. Ensure that existing brackets are anchored properly using screws. Never use galvanized brackets on copper pipe as it will cause corrosion and leaks.
To minimize vibrating or rattling water pipes causing noise, use plastic or nylon clamps, or wrap the pipe at the clap with a piece of foam, rubber hose, inner tube, or plumbers tape. The clamp should be tight, yet allow for the water lines to expand and contract.
Pipes may have appropriate support but still feel loose. Add additional brackets or support every 3 or 4-feet. For loose pipes in plumbing channels, consider wrapping four-foot sections in pipe insulation to minimize noise. The foam will prevent pipes from knocking against each other and also against the sides of the channel. It will also insulate hot water pipes from cold too.
If the loose pipe noise is coming from inside a wall, use foam pipe insulation or rubber to wrap around the pipe where it comes through the wall. It should prevent the line from vibrating against the edges of the hole. Also, filling and sealing the hole around the pipes will prevent noise from resonating from within the wall out the opening.
If the pipe noise in the wall is still irritating, consider contacting a professional or opening the wall up. Alternatively, check the water pressure and lower it 5 to 10 PSI to decrease water force in the pipes, and hopefully, the noise.
3. Trapped Air
Air trapped in water pipes can cause faucets to sputter and pipes to rattle bang, vibrate, knock, or squeal. Air may have entered the water line from work on the supply lines outside the building, or inside it. If it is an air hammer that only occurs when a faucet is opened or closed quickly, close it more slowly or replace the faucet with one that won’t open or close so quickly.
To bleed the air out of the water supply system in your home, follow these steps:
Ensure the main water valve, located before the water meter or where it enters the building, is fully open.
Open the taps from those closest to the main supply point, to those on the highest floors or furthest from to supply valve. You are opening both hot and cold taps at all locations to run the water, including outdoor taps. You only need to open them about half volume.
You may want to use buckets or hoses to keep outdoor taps from flooding near the house. Flush the toilets and run the washer and dishwasher through a rinse, plus fill a glass from refrigerator dispensers.
Allow the water to run for 10 to 15 minutes or until it flows without sputtering or noise.
Close all faucets in the reverse order that they were opened, so those furthest to those closest to the main water shut-off valve. Wait about 2 minutes between closing each faucet. Also, flush the toilet after closing the taps near them.
If the sputtering continues, there may be an air leak somewhere in the building water system, and you should contact a plumber.
4. Water Hammer
A water hammer is caused when a faucet is closed quickly, creating a bang or hydraulic shock that can make pipes, faucets, and even appliances jump. Modern washing machines and dishwashers have solenoid valves that also quickly close and may cause a hammer bang too.
The shock or bang generates 100s of PSI and can damage pipes, joints, faucets, and appliances, including water heaters, as the hydraulic shock can exert hundreds of PSI of pressure. Copper pipe produces a louder bang than other pipe materials too.
Check the pressure regulator valve and decrease the pressure 5 to 10 PSI. It may solve the noise and save time and money.
If reducing the water pressure doesn’t solve the bang, install a water hammer arrestor or mini-arrestor on the flexible water line between the fixture and the wall or back of the cabinet. An arrestor is a manufactured air chamber with a sealed chamber and a diaphragm.
The excess water pressure pushes against the diaphragm and expands into the sealed chamber, absorbing it and preventing the hydraulic shock. You may require a hammer arrestor on both the cold and hot water lines to the fixture.
5. Temperature Changes
Hot and cold water can affect metal and plastic pipe and cause them to shift within brackets or rattle and vibrate as they come in contact with other materials. Even the air temperatures around the pipes can have similar effects.
To prevent noise caused by temperature fluctuations, make sure pipes are correctly secured and supported. Add extra brackets or supports if the pipes seem to move too much.
To minimize noise, wrap pipes where they go through brackets or across supports. Insulate pipes with pipe-wrap or neoprene foam pipe insulation to protect from temperature fluctuations and noise. Temperature can affect the length, diameter, and stiffness of pipes, no matter what material they are made of. It can also affect how much pressure pipes can tolerate too.
A hundred feet of PVC pipe will shrink or lengthen about 3/8” for every 10°F change in temperature. Copper pipe will change 1/10” under the same conditions. So, if the water in the line is 55°F and it changes to 120°F, that 65°F change can make copper pipe become more than 3/5″ longer, and PVC lengthen 2-3/8”. Your house may not have pipe lengths that long, but temperature changes will still cause pipe noise.
Adding extra supports and brackets, wrapping pipes where they contact other materials, and insulating them is an easy fix to quiet vibrating and rattling water pipes. Adding a water hammer arrestor is also another possible DIY remedy to control plumbing noise.
Hopefully, you have a better understanding of what can cause water pipes to be noisy, and how to silence them. If you found this article helpful, please share it with others. Your comments and suggestions are always appreciated.
A lawyer never retires. So I would just say that I am not as active as I used to be. Now I simply dedicate myself to fishing, my hobby, and my grandchildren. For Business Finance News I write about legal aspects of mortgage policies, mostly regarding the rights of policyholders. I also have articles about personal injuries.