The Inside Outside Guys: Quieting Water Pipes

From The Detroit News | By Ken Calverley and Chuck Breidenstein

DETROIT, January 5, 2023 ~ Not every home improvement project has to be a home run. Some tasks that improve quality of life in the home are small in scale, scope and cost.

Take, for instance, the grating sound of pipes banging whenever water is run or a valve is shut off.

Air hammer and water hammer are two issues that nearly every home develops over time and, while it’s a relatively small problem, the noise can equate to fingernails on a chalkboard.

Most of our homes are plumbed with metal pipes that run through the wood frame of the structure. The holes they run through in the wood are slightly larger than the diameter of the pipe. When these pipes move in that frame they may bang against the wood or, in some cases, simply vibrate.

One cause of this may be air in the lines and the question we get frequently is, “How can air even get into my water lines?”

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(CONTINUED) Whether from a private well or a city line, water can have dissolved air in it. Faulty seals in equipment, ranging from water treatment devices to faucets, can allow air into the lines. Additionally, hydrogen bubbles can develop in water heaters from the anode rods in the unit.

Air sitting in water lines can create oxidation, which can corrode lines and cause the release of material into the system, which may diminish flow or even block a valve or aerator.

Once you’ve got air in the lines, it may simply “spit” out at a faucet when you turn it on and be gone, but bubbles trapped in faucets, pipe diameter reductions and elbows can diminish flow and create vibrations in the pipes as the water tries to move past the obstruction.

Sometimes, you can eliminate air in the lines by opening all the faucets and letting the water run for several minutes. In other cases, you may have to drain the lines by first shutting off the main supply valve, then opening all the valves throughout the house including those at the lowest level in the system.

When conducting this purge, remember to flush all toilets, run the refrigerator water supply, turn on the hose bibs and actively drain any water using device in the home.

This will introduce air throughout the pipes, which will generally be purged when you slowly turn the water supply back on and close valves from the bottom of the structure to the top.

Another option is to run cold water through all the hot-water lines since it’s those pipes that are most prone to having trapped air. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is to temporarily connect your cold-water line from the washer to the hot-water line and back feed cold water through the hot-water lines.

The hot water supply valve from the water heater will have to be closed as you perform this, and you will then open hot water faucets throughout the house to push air out of those lines.

Sometimes, servicing the water heater and installing a new anode rod will resolve such issues. You might also have a plumber bleed air out of the unit through the pressure valve located on the side of the water heater near the top.

You can purchase adhesive gasket material to place around pipes where they pass through floor framing material to limit movement of the pipes.

Water hammer might be caused by quick shutoff valves like those in newer shower faucets, washing machines and refrigerators. It can also be created by too much pressure in the lines, usually from a municipal system.

In this case, we are going to have a professional plumber check the pressure and, perhaps, install hammer arrestors, which are small sections of air-filled pipe that have a built-in piston that compresses air to compensate for the shock created by a closing valve.

If the plumber detects high pressure in the lines, she may also install a pressure regulator in the home.

If you have diminished flow at a particular faucet or you are just tired of the cacophony of pipes banging whenever water is run, take advantage of a professional like those you can always find at InsideOutsideGuys.com.

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For housing advice and more, listen to “The Inside Outside Guys” every Saturday and Sunday on 760 WJR from 10 a.m. to noon, or contact them at InsideOutsideguys.com.

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