Question: I often hear a sound like dripping water, clicking or tapping inside my walls when the water is on but I never see anything wet or evidence that there’s a leak. Should I be concerned about these noises – is there something that should be done?
Answer: These sounds are more common than you might think! It’s likely what you’re hearing are the water pipes expanding & contracting as the water flowing through them fluctuates in temperature. These sounds are most prevalent when a water pipe is rapidly heated.
When you turn on a hot water faucet, the hot water travels from the water heater, via pipes to the faucet that was just turned on. The rapidly heated pipe expands. That pipe is routed through a series of holes drilled in the wood framing and rubs or “scoots” by these wall studs & floor joists etc., as the pipes expand. Generally speaking, the lower temperatures cause matter to constrict or shrink in size, while higher temperatures result in the opposite effect.
Here’s the good news & the bad news: The good news is that these sounds are more of an annoyance than a serious problem. The bad news is that fixing it permanently can be tricky, labor intensive & expensive. We could get lucky and find the exact place where it’s happening but that probably means tearing out sections of drywall, searching for the culprit and strapping, anchoring, and/or isolating sections of pipe. An unlucky scenario would be that we keep tearing more & more drywall out until we find the exact location of the problem.
I feel it’s worth mentioning as well, there’s a practice used by plumbers when installing water pipes that prevents this from happening. It’s called “isolating,” wherein a hole is drilled for a pipe to route through and then isolated from the wood and/or other material used for framing. The part used is suitably named a “pipe isolator” (see image below). This way, when the pipe expands & contracts it’s never touching the framing or structure, resulting in a much quieter system all together!
Water pipes can generate sound and vibrations just by the water rushing through them as well. These sounds can reverberate through the framing and wallboards.
Unfortunately, these days it’s more & more common for high production expected at lower price points to force plumbing systems to be installed with speed & low-cost, over quality plumbing work. It’s kind of disappointing when you figure it would take around two hours and $50 extra to ensure that all of the water pipes are installed with pipe isolators, in a typical residential new construction home build.
If we wanted to – Sutherland Plumbing could comprise on a very long list of our own installation standards that far exceed today’s “minimum code” requirements. The difference you ask? Quite simply, we don’t like coming back to say sorry! Once again – that’s the Sutherland Plumbing “difference!”