Quieting Noisy Pipes

Sudden changes in water pressure can vibrate pipes, causing noise when the pipes hit the house’s framing. First identify the type of noise and its cause. Water hammer is the most common pipe noise. It results from a sudden stop in the flow of water, as when you turn off a faucet. The abrupt halting of water flow creates a shock wave in the pipes, causing them to vibrate and hit against framing members. A ticking noise can be traced to a hot water pipe that was cool, then suddenly is heated by water running through it. Pipe insulation dampens the noise. Chattering or moaning sounds may be caused by water pressure that is too high. If this is a persistent problem, call a professional to check the pressure.

Don't Blame Pipes

  • A machine-gun rattle, that annoying sound sometimes heard when you barely open a faucet, usually is caused by a defective seat washer.
  • Do pipes pound only when the dishwasher is running? An aging pump valve creates the same effect as a defective seat washer. Replace the pump.

Cushion hammering pipes. Have a helper do whatever it is that causes the noise while you search for the location of the noise. Once you find it, check to see if one of the pipes has been knocking up against or rubbing a joist. Cushion the pipe at the trouble spot with pieces of foam pipe insulation or use sound-insulating pipe hangers.

Install an air chamber. To eliminate pipe noises, install air chambers at accessible points in your supply lines. These provide a pocket of air for water to bump against. Cut the pipe, install a tee, and solder the chamber in place. For galvanized pipe, cut the pipe and with nipples and a union, install a tee to which the chamber can be attached.

Installing Stop Valves

Any time a water line bursts, a faucet needs repair, or a toilet needs replacing, you’ll be grateful to have a stop valve in the right place. Without one of these handy devices, you may have to shut off the water to the entire house simply to change a faucet washer. If you have an older home that lacks stop valves under sinks and toilets, plan to install them.

No matter what the material or size of your pipes, there’s a stop valve made to order. With copper lines, use brass valves. Galvanized and plastic pipes take steel and plastic stop valves respectively. You can also use a transition fitting to change material just prior to the stop. If the valve will be in view, choose a chrome finish. To make the connection from a stop valve to a sink or toilet, you can use flexible copper or plastic line. Or throw away the nut and ferrule that come with the valve and use the handy plastic or braided-metal flexible supply lines that simply screw on.

Match the Valve with The Flexible Line - Stop valves for sinks and toilets come with either 1/2- or 3/8-inch outlets. Make sure your flexible line is the same size.

Where stop valves are needed - To determine your stop valve needs, simply take a look at your home’s plumbing fixtures. Sinks, tubs, showers, and clothes washers should have one on both the hot and cold lines. Toilets and water heaters require one only on the cold water line, and dishwashers need one only on the hot line. The water meter should have a valve just inside the house from it.

1. Cut pipe or tubing. In the example shown, the existing plumbing consists of galvanized pipe and flexible copper tubing. To make room for the stop valve, cut enough tubing off to make room for the valve. Leave enough supply to fit the compression fitting and allow for tightening the stop valve on the steel pipe.

2. Install the valve. One end of the stop valve is sized to fit regular pipe, and the other receives a compression-fitted flexible line. Wrap the galvanized pipe clockwise with Teflon tape and install the stop valve. Slip the copper line into the other end, and tighten the compression fitting, holding the stop valve in place with a second wrench.

Troubleshooting Main Line Valves

In an older home, the shutoff valves for your main line may be worn and rusted. If you have a shutoff up-line from the valve, you can easily shut off the water and replace the valve. But often there is none, so you may have to live with a less-than-perfect valve rather than paying the water company to shut off your water while you change valves. If the shutoff valve handle breaks off in such a way that you cannot simply replace it, use pliers or a pipe wrench for those few times when you need to use the valve. However to make sure all household members can turn off the water in case of an emergency, replace the valve.

Another common problem is a slight leak from the packing nut when the valve is opened or closed. When this happens, try tightening the nut gently. Don’t apply too much force when tightening or the valve may crack. If you still have a slow drip, place a bucket under it and watch for a day or two; sometimes the leak will stop on its own. If you still have a leak, you will need to repack the valve. Shut the valve by turning it clockwise until it tightens. Unscrew the screw at the top and remove the handle. Loosen and remove the packing nut. Apply strand packing or a packing washer, and reinstall the packing nut. You can purchase valves that screw onto galvanized pipe or brass adapters, or solder-on types for copper lines.

Gate valve - This style of valve, commonly found in older houses, is not as reliable as a globe or ball valve, so replace it if you have the opportunity. A wedge-shaped brass “gate” screws up and down to control water flow. If it does not fully stop water flow, it cannot be repaired. Repair a leak around the handle by replacing the packing washer or strand packing.

Avoid Clogging Faucets - Over the years, old pipes build up rust, lime, and sediment deposits. Whenever you shut off water and turn it back on in a house with old galvanized pipe, you will cause these deposits to loosen and flow through the pipes. After turning off the main valve, take the time to remove aerators from the faucets and let the water run for a couple of minutes to flush out the gunk.

Globe valve - This works in much the same way as stem faucets. It is more reliable and more easily repaired than a gate valve. If it does not fully stop water, and if you can shut off the flow prior to the valve, replace the stem washer. Repair a leak around the handle by replacing the packing washer.

Ball valve - These cost more than the other valves but are more reliable and are easy to shut off quickly. The lever rotates a ball-like gate pierced by an opening. The gate pivots to control the flow of water.

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