Does your household pipework go bump in the night? Are you irritated by strange squeaks and bangs coming from your plumbing but are unsure of the cause? "Water hammer" and other pipe problems are not only annoying but, if left unattended to, can cause long term damage to your water systems. This week the On Tap team have set out to demystify the various clunks and clatters you might hear coming from your waterworks by compiling a list of possible causes, helping you to restore peace and quiet in your home once more.
As the name suggests, "water hammer" is a series of hammering or banging noises which sometimes come from your plumbing pipework when a valve in the system is turned off quickly, for example, when a toilet, washing machine or dishwasher rapidly shuts off water flow. Modern lever operated or rapid shut off taps in kitchens and bathrooms can also be a significant source of water hammer. When water comes to a sudden stop in pipes, the result can be a shock wave which causes pipes to vibrate and shudder. Over time, water hammer can prove damaging to plumbing joints, particularly where valves are already worn, and can even cause pipelines to break where the pressure is high enough!
Solutions to water hammer often involve adding air traps a.k.a. shock arrestors to plumbing systems near valves which act as dampeners, absorbing the potentially damaging effects of moving water before it has the chance to slam against the end of the pipe. As hammer is also exacerbated by inadequately supported pipework, it's also important to ensure that mains pipework is secured at no greater spacing than every 2 metres. When undertaking this task, don't forget about any underfloor and boxed in pipework too!
If you're greeted by clattering sounds whenever you turn on the water, there's a good chance your pipes are banging against something. The easiest way to discover the source of the noise is to watch your pipework when you turn on the taps and look out for movement. Once you've discovered what the pipe is striking against, the trick is to silence it with some padding or foam insulation. If the problem pipework is inside the walls, this can still be achieved by cushioning it at each end at the point that it emerges.
Copper pipes tend to expand when hot water runs through them, causing them to rub against any surrounding wood and metal and make a creaking or ticking sound. Copper pipes begin to contract again once hot water has run through them, so the noise should stop then too. One method of controlling creaking in pipes is to try slightly lowering the temperature on your water heater, which in turn should reduce the amount your pipes expand and the associated noises. Another useful technique for this type of plumbing problem is pipework insulation, which will help to muffle the sounds of the expanding metal.
While tasks like pipe insulation may be simple enough to be undertaken yourself, complex tasks like fixing water hammer really should be entrusted to the experts. To get your noisy pipework problems solved ASAP without the unwanted costs often associated with DIY jobs, be sure to use a Quality Plumber. Search for one in your local area by postcode on our website at http://www.aphc.co.uk/find_an_installer.asp.