Published onMarch 7th, 2022
Common Plumbing Noises: Know What Sounds Are Signs of Potential Problems
Whether you own a brownstone or manage a large apartment building, you want to know the signs of trouble looming with your plumbing. A plumbing problem can rapidly go from a small nuisance to a catastrophe, so you want to catch problems as early as possible. Here are some common plumbing noises to pay attention to, as they could mean you’ve got a situation in need of a plumber.
Water Hammer in Radiators
Usually a battle between steam and water
Water hammer is that annoying sound steam radiators make, usually when they warm up early in the morning, at the end of the workday, or right before bed. It’s usually caused by cooled steam that has condensed back to water “fighting” with hot steam inside the radiator or associated piping.
The resultant noise is a common one, especially for apartment dwellers in New York City, but you and your tenants don’t have to live with it. If you tip your radiators a few degrees with a wooden shim towards the drainpipe, the condensation should run out, leaving only steam in the radiator.
Gurgling in the Bathroom
When you hear gurgling noises coming from the bathroom, it could be due to various reasons, including:
- Air in the plumbing (usually after there has been an interruption in the water supply, like when someone works on the plumbing and shuts off the water)
- Drain line or sewer line backing up (most commonly after flushing the toilet)
- Obstruction in the pipe (due to a foreign object or the buildup of sediment or mineral scale)
- The toilet won’t stop filling (if it sounds like the tank filling after a flush)
After some sputtering and spitting, the first situation will go away on its own. Gurgling related to a potentially backed up sewer line should be investigated by a professional plumber. Likewise, a blocked pipe needs an expert assessment. It may be possible to retrieve an item that went down the drain accidentally, but a clog from years of accumulated material may need replacement.
If your toilet keeps running, it’s usually due to a stuck flapper valve at the base of the tank or a problem with the float arm. You can often fix this yourself with inexpensive parts from the hardware store (if you need parts at all), or we’re happy to come out and remedy the situation for you to avoid water waste.
Check your water pressure
If your water pressure is too high, which is a common problem, your pipes may hum when water is turned on. This can cause wear and tear over time, so we typically recommend installing a pressure regulator adjacent to the main water valve in this scenario. This allows the pressure to be manually adjusted to a more reasonable level.
Rattling pipes are usually caused by loose pipes whose mountings have come away from the wall or other solid surface. While this isn’t generally an emergency, it should be fixed. Otherwise, over time, excess vibration and banging can damage the pipes or cause fittings (connecting parts) to come loose, resulting in leaks and water damage.
Uh oh, a leak
Speaking of leaks, dripping is a sound you never want to hear. The frequency and loudness of the drops is a clue to the severity of the leak. However, just because a leak appears tiny now doesn’t mean it will stay that way. You don’t want a burst pipe from corrosion, loose couplings, or another breach.
Call your plumber sooner rather than later to have it taken care of if the drip isn’t coming from a spigot. If it’s a tap that’s dripping, you may be able to tighten a faucet part or replace a washer or cartridge yourself. If that’s not in your wheelhouse, Sanitary Plumbing can take care of it for you.
Loud Water Heater
Time for servicing
Many buildings have separate water heaters instead of using a commercial boiler that also provides steam heat. So if your water heater starts making noise, it’s time to have it cleaned, repaired, or replaced, depending on the cause.
Sometimes, a buildup of sediment or mineral deposits at the bottom will make the water heater sound very loud every time it fires to heat up water. This is because the heating element is buried under inches of gunk that needs to be removed. Extra noise can also come from a faulty heating element, which can often be replaced. If the unit is very old and worn, though, it’s usually worth replacing the entire thing. It costs more upfront but saves on utility bills and headaches in the future.
Grinding from Pumps
Your property surely has many different pumps it uses to circulate water, provide heat, and fill the boiler, among other tasks. Noise from your pumps typically has one of two causes. Either one of the key internal components, like the impeller, needs to be cleaned, repositioned, or replaced, or the pump needs lubrication help, with oiling or bearing replacement.
Our colleagues at Antler Pumps can handle this job for you, which should be done right away in order not to compromise your plumbing system. They can also check for any noises related to loose mountings that cause potentially damaging vibrations.
Loud Popping in Pipes
Is it cold outside?
Just like a drip, you never want to hear popping noises coming from your pipes. If this occurs during the winter months, it’s a sign of freezing, as either ice passes through a narrow channel or the pipes themselves are starting to give. A frozen pipe is the precursor to a burst pipe if it’s not thawed immediately. You can follow our tips for thawing frozen pipes or call us to do the job for you.
Are your pipes making weird noises? Can’t locate or fix the problem? Call Sanitary Plumbing at 212-734-5000, or use our handy online form to schedule a service call.