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Why Are My Pipes Making Strange Noises?

As our homes age they often develop a range of strange noises and sounds that we adapt to and often entirely ignore.  However, these noises can indicate that there is a problem somewhere in the house and one example of this are strong noises from the pipes throughout your home.  So what causes these noises and what needs to be done to stop them?

Banging Noises

Perhaps the most common strange noise you hear from your pipes relates to banging noises, usually one or two at a time.  If they occur when the tap is closed, then they may be caused by a loose washer in the valve.  If there is a series of banging noises, then this might be due to a float valve not closing smoothly. 

Another common banging problem is known as a water hammer.  Cold water entering the tank or toilet uses a ball valve to control it.  Hot water is drawn from the boiler when you run a bath or you flush the toilet and cold water is drawn to replace it.  The valve is how the system knows it has enough water for the job.  However, there can also be a vibration without the valve on the float arm that holds it and this leads to the banging noise known as water hammer.

Air Locks

Air locks are formed when air has become trapped in a pipe and is stopping the water from flowing freely.  This is most common in hot water pipes when the water pressure from a hot water tank isn’t enough to push the air out of the system.  As well as causing strange noises, it can also lead to problems with the flow of water, with cold water flowing normally but hot water being sporadic.  There are quick fix DIY solutions to clear it but often a plumber is the best option to ensure your system remains in good working order.

Loose Pipes

The pipes themselves can often cause a lot of noise, especially if they are loose or poorly attached to walls or floors.  When the taps are closed then quickly opened again the change in water pressure can cause the pipes to vibrate and, if they aren’t attached properly, they will knock against walls, floors or other pipes and cause noise.

A machine gun type noise can happen when the toilet is flushed and the pipes are loose enough to vibrate from the flow of water.  These noises are often loud and very annoying.  Sometimes simply adding extra fixings can solve the problem, although in some circumstances the pipe may to be cut to fix the vibration.

Boiler Noises

Sometimes the cause of the strange noises isn’t the pipes but the boiler itself.  Combination boilers and tankless water heaters can often create noises due to fast pressure changes as well as rapidly opening and closing taps.  Diverter valves are a component inside the boiler that can also create sounds when they open and close – this is usually a sign it needs to be replaced.

About the Author

Declan Small is the Digital Marketing Manager at Plumbmaster, specialist plumbing merchants based in Northern Ireland.