Let’s say you’re sitting in your home one night—relaxing, watching something mindless on TV—when suddenly your tranquility is rudely interrupted by a loud metallic clang coming from the walls.
First off, it’s probably not a ghost or an unwelcome intruder you’re detecting. What you might be hearing is actually something to do with your plumbing system, and it’s called water hammer.
So, this name probably sounds at least a little bit intimidating. But the thing is, it’s actually really common and something our plumbers can easily fix. We’ll dive into what water hammer is below, so you can get to know more about it, what it does, and how we can remedy it!
What Causes Water Hammer?
When you hear that clang echoing through your pipes and home, what you’re actually detecting is a bit of a shockwave, caused by the sudden stop and reversal of water flow inside your pipes. This shockwave creates a vibration within your plumbing system, and this all causes the sound that resembles a hammer striking the pipe (hence the name of this problem).
Every time a faucet or a valve is turned off in your home, it causes the water to make an abrupt stop.
You might be wondering, “If that’s the case, why don’t I hear it every time I shut off the showerhead or kitchen sink faucet?”
Well, it’s because your plumbing system is designed to avoid water damage with “cushions” inside your pipes. We’re not talking about cushions like you keep on the couch, but rather chambers with air cushions. They’re in place to absorb the shock so there isn’t water hammer. So what’s going on when you do hear it? There are a few possibilities:
- The air chambers have become water-logged, eliminating the cushions against the shockwaves.
- You have increased water pressure, too strong for the cushions.
- You have loose pipes. Even a minor shockwave in your plumbing can create the sound of water hammer if you have loose pipes.
Why Water Hammer Is a Problem
So, yes, water hammer is indeed a problem. If your pipes aren’t already loose, for instance, the shockwaves can knock them loose and cause problems like pinhole leaks. The impact of the shockwaves inside the pipes can also cause damage to your plumbing fixtures.
You can wind up with aging pipes that burst or start breaking apart at connection points. If water hammer is warning you of high water pressure, there are many other issues the water pressure will cause throughout your plumbing system.
How Can Water Hammer Be Stopped?
The short answer is, “by calling a professional plumber!”
There are a number of methods we might take to stop your water hammer, including:
- Refilling the air chambers.
- Securing or replacing loose pipes.
- Installing a water pressure regulator.
This last point is especially helpful for homeowners who live in a multi-family building, as their plumbing can be affected by their downstairs or next door neighbors. A water pressure regulator can not only stop and prevent water hammer, but solve a whole lot of other plumbing problems!