What Causes Water Hammer? – Adams and Son Plumbing Services

Amazing! What Causes Water Hammer? – Adams and Son Plumbing Services

Information about What Causes Water Hammer? – Adams and Son Plumbing Services

Phil Puccio

Do you hear loud knocking noises from your plumbing pipes behind the wall when you turn off the tap – or when the water cycle in your washing machine or dishwasher ends? Or at random times? If you’ve lived with this situation for some time, you might be wondering if there is anything you need to do about it, or you might want to give a plumber a call.

This annoying phenomenon has a name: water hammer. In short, it needs attention. The good news is that troubleshooting the cause (s) of water hammer is relatively easy, in most cases. The bad news: prolonged water hammer can lead to leaks and even a burst pipe – requiring more extensive repairs and possible damage to your home.

As we covered in our blog post – “What should homeowners know about plumbing?“- If you know your way around water hammer, you can keep your home plumbing in tip-top condition and avoid serious problems.

More than an annoying noise

While many pipeline problems go unnoticed until it’s too late – such as behind the wall or underground leaks – water hammer at least has the decency to announce a problem. Our colleagues at Benjamin Franklin plumbing describe it like this:

“If you hear water hammering noises at home, it means that the water in your plumbing pipes is pressurized. If it rushes through an open faucet and you suddenly turn it off, the water pops into the closed valve and creates a hydraulic shock. The impact can cause all sorts of problems, including broken pipes, loose fittings, and damage to waterborne equipment.

“The shock waves from water hammer can also cause your pipes to physically move as a result of the shock. If not properly secured to the joists in your house with suitable pipe clamps, the moving pipes can hit your walls, making even more noise and increasing the likelihood of damage. “

Water hammer is more common in older homes. As an article in Plumbing today notes: “Houses built before the 1960s usually have air chambers. Air chambers are basically tees of pipes that contain air and act as shock absorbers. Over time, however, water can displace the air in the chamber.

“Waterfall arrestors should be installed in homes that have been built since the 1960s. Water hammer dampers are the modern replacement for air chambers. They are spring-loaded and rarely fail. “

Also, says Tom Bigley, United Association (UA) director for plumbing, older homes that 90 degree angle tubes are more prone to water hammer.

Places and causes of water hammer

Water hammer can be caused by wet air chambers, clogged chambers or overpressure in the piping system. It can also be the result of a valve or pipe clogging, which can create a staccato popping sound.

However, the location of the noise or the time of occurrence may indicate the cause. Here are the most common, according to PlumbingToday:

Running hot water – Shortly after opening a hot water tap, a clicking or knocking noise begins that can last up to several minutes after it has been switched off. This can be caused by poorly installing your home’s CPVC (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride) plumbing. Because they expand when heated, CPVC tubing passed through holes or areas that don’t leave enough room for expansion is what causes the tell-tale noise.

Solution – Find the affected pipes and give them enough space to “breath”. We recommend hire a professional plumber as opposed to the DIY approach as this repair will most likely involve cutting into walls and / or laying the plumbing.

Shutting off a water supply, regardless of whether it is cold or hot water – This creates the real water hammer sound. It occurs when a water valve suddenly closes. All of the water that flowed bounces against the valve, shaking your pipes and making the knocking sound. This can happen when you flush the toilet, your washing machine is filled with water, or when your garden irrigation system shuts down. Over time, this violent movement will loosen the pipes from their connections, causing leaks.

Solution – There is a five step DIY solution for homes built before the 1960s, as follows:

  1. Turn off the water to your home at the main.
  2. Open the highest tap in your home.
  3. Open the lowest faucet (usually outside) and drain all of the water. At this point, the air is “topped up” in the air chambers.
  4. Turn off the lowest tap and turn the water supply on again.
  5. Let the top faucet run until it stops stuttering, then turn it off.

As mentioned earlier, homes built since the 1960s are likely to have water hammer arresters installed. Piston arresters have moving parts and must be replaced. Stainless steel water hammer arrestors rarely, if ever, need to be replaced.

Running cold water – A knocking sound that occurs after turning on the cold water tap may be caused by high water pressure. When water flows through a pipe too quickly, it bounces off the sides and inside, shaking the pipe. The vibrating pipes can rattle against walls and other pipes. To find out if this is the problem, check your home’s inlet water pressure with a water pressure tester. Attach the meter to the hose nozzle that is closest to your water pipe. Make sure no other water is being used in your home, then turn the hose bib on completely. Your water pressure should be 40-80 PSI. If the reading is higher, you have to call a plumber to add, replace, or customize your home’s pressure reducing valve (PRV).

There is no water – Hearing noises from the pipes, even when there is no water flowing, indicates buildup in your water heater. In this situation, steam bubbles are the sound that escapes from the debris that has formed on the bottom of the hot water tank – similar to the way boiling water in a covered pot on the stove begins to push the bottom of the pot upwards.

The heating element of the device is located at the bottom of the tank, where the sediment has settled and mixed with water. The sound can be loud enough that the reverberation is carried over and it appears that the tapping is coming from the pipes in the wall when it is not.

Solution – If you have the right hands-on expertise (as opposed to watching YouTube videos), you can flush your water heater yourself. PlumbingToday offers Step by step instructions, but we strongly recommend you guys hire a professional plumber if this is not in your wheelhouse.

DIY or calling a pro?

While the above list provides the recommended course of action for each situation, we want to emphasize that it takes into account your confidence in your ability to properly identify and correct the cause of the water hammer in your home. When troubleshooting in the “Turn off cold or hot water” scenario, for example, you have no way of knowing whether your older house definitely has pipes with air chambers – or whether the pipes in your newer house have piston pipe or water hammer valves made of stainless steel. Just a professional plumber can make an accurate diagnosis and repair.

Our team of master plumbers at Adam and Son plumbing recommends proceeding carefully. If you are not mechanically incapable of doing the job, or if you feel physically incapable of doing the job, staying within your comfort zone even if you are willing to risk it to save money. A botched plumbing project will ultimately cost more – not just to fix the original problem, but also to repair the additional damage that occurred during the process.

In doubt, contact us! We are a family business with over 60 years of experience providing Residential and business services all over central Florida. As a state-certified plumber, we have more than three generations of experience as a plumber. Call today to find out more and to schedule a service appointment to keep your home’s plumbing in top condition. We look forward to becoming your trusted family plumber!

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Category – Plumbing

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