Nobody wants taking a shower or turning on a tap to be the cue for their water pipes to start up their very own symphony, but often this can be the case. The creaks, whistles and bangs caused by faulty pipework can become a real annoyance in your home. However, the type of noise generated by your plumbing can a be a good indicator of what the issue is. Before you go and buy some earplugs, let's have a look at some of the common problems, and ways you can fix them.
If your hot water pipes are creaking or making a ticking sound when in use, this is most likely to be a result of the water heating the pipe and making it expand just a fraction. This tiny movement can create noise when the pipes rub against surrounding metal or wood. When the pipe contracts again as it cools it will create more movement and noise. The easiest way to fix this is to enlarge any hole the pipe passes through and insulate any part of the pipe that touches the structure of your house.
Another noise that may be heard is a loud rattling or vibration when the water is flowing, you may even be able to see exposed pipes shaking. Don't worry, you don't have a poltergeist, it's most likely to be loose brackets or pipe hangers allowing the pipe to move as the water flows through it. As well as being a noisy distraction, this movement and vibration can stress joints and eventually leaks will occur. Before it gets to the stage where plumbers are needed, there are a few easy steps to cut out the rattling. Firstly, make sure any loose brackets are secure and if there are any lengths of pipe that are missing fixings, fitting extras will help keep the pipe immobile. If there is still a problem with vibration after you have tried this, try adding a piece of rubber pipe insulation between the pipe and the fixing. This should eliminate any last bit of movement and leave your plumbing to serve you in silence.
A whistling sound can be difficult to trace and, although it's not too noisy, it can be a real nuisance. Plumbers will tell you that there are many different reasons for this noise, it could be a worn valve or washer, or the pressure of your water may need to be changed. If the whistling is heard just when a certain tap is used, then the chances are it is worn out or dirty. Taking the tap apart and cleaning or replacing worn components should stop the problem. If the noise is heard throughout your water system it could be as simple as adjusting your home's main water valve. Try turning it down to see if less pressure cures the problem, if that doesn't work try opening it up more to see if this helps.
Probably the most startling sound your pipes will ever make is the loud bang when the flow is switched off. The technical term for this is water hammer, it occurs when the flow of water is stopped suddenly and all that force has nowhere to go, resulting in the disturbing bang that can easily damage pipes and joints. To stop the sudden crash you will probably have an air chamber in the pipework near all taps and valves. This cushion of air will absorb the energy from the water when the tap is switched off and stop the banging. Over time these chambers may need to be refilled with air to eradicate water hammer. To get air back into the system, first you have to remove all the water from the pipes. Switch off the mains water supply and switch on the highest and lowest taps in the house. When the water has completely drained away, switch off the lower tap and switch the mains water back on. There should be plenty of spluttering from the higher tap as the system refills with water but air remains in the air chambers. Hopefully this will cure the banging.
These are just a few of the weird and not so wonderful noises that your plumbing can make. Hopefully you can try a few of the ideas here to quieten things down, but if all else fails you can always get your local plumber to come and take a look.