7 Common Noises Pipes Make and What Causes Them

Stacey Marcus
Written by Stacey Marcus
Reviewed by Jeff Botelho
Updated October 11, 2021
Plumber explaining water pipe problem to homeowner
Paul Bradbury/KOTO - stock.adobe.com

Rattling, banging, and clicking noises in your drain pipes can have a few different causes

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Do you lay awake at night trying to decipher the noises your pipes are making? Banging, rattling, gurgling, and whistling are not only unsettling sounds to listen to; they may be alerting you that you have a pipe problem that can be costly and damaging to your home. Learn about what each pipe noise means and how to fix pipe problems.

Types of Pipe Noises and Causes

Scan these common pipe noises to help find the root of the problem. After you associate the pipe noise to a potential cause, learn more about what could be causing it and see if it is a problem you can fix yourself or if you need to contact a local plumber.

Rattling

Rattling may be a sign of a loose or fallen fastener. As water navigates through each section of a pipe, you may hear a rattling noise if a fastener has become loose or fallen away. Pipes must be securely fastened to work properly and avoid rattling. 

If they’re accessible to you, you can typically tighten or replace fasteners yourself; just be sure to ask around at the hardware store to find the appropriate fastener type for your pipes.

Banging

Banging pipe noises may be caused by water hammer or air bubbles. If you abruptly shut off your water faucet or valve, you may create a water hammer. Imagine the rushing water expecting to find an exit but instead discovering a closed valve. 

The sudden valve closure can create a loud banging noise or sequences of small banging noises. Besides creating alarming noises, a water hammer can create connection and joint trouble in your pipes.

Air can become trapped in your pipes due to issues in the waterline. If air in the pipes causes the banging, the noise will mostly occur right when you first turn on a faucet. You may also notice sputtering as the air bubble travels. Try installing a water pressure regulator to see if this does the trick or have a pro come and give your pipes a look.

“Washing machine valves are some of the most common causes of water hammer,” says Jeff Botelho, Angi Expert Review Board member and Massachusetts-licensed journeyman plumber. They close rapidly, causing pipes to shake and creating a loud bang. An easy solution is adding hose-threaded hammer arresters to your washing machine supply valves, between the valves and the washing machine hoses.”

Humming

A vintage brass sink in a bathroom
Richard Johnson - stock.adobe.com

High water pressure may cause your pipes to create humming noises. A signal that the water pressure has exceeded its capacity is when the pipes start vibrating and making humming noises. High water pressure is prevalent in homes using well water. 

Make sure if your house uses well water that the setting does not exceed 55 pounds per square inch. It is a good idea to hire a professional to test the water pressure if you don’t have access to a reading.

High-pitched sounds

Worn-out appliance parts can create high-tech sounds. A high-pitched noise can also signal that a washer is loose and a screw needs to be tightened or replaced. Another possible cause is high water pressure or the heat of water going through the pipes, which you can typically check into yourself, or a professional can assess for you. In rare cases, you may have to factor in the cost to install or replace plumbing pipes.

Gurgling

An obstruction can cause your pipes to make gurgling noises. Someone may have accidentally dropped something down the drain or the gurgling noise could be caused by soap or dirt build-up or mineral deposits. A plumber can easily remove the obstruction and make your home quiet and peaceful again.

Squealing or Whistling

Your plumbing system relies on tiny components that synchronize to make the valves and faucets operate smoothly. Over time nuts, bolts, and small components get worn out or break. Broken or worn washers can make your pipes squeal or whistle. 

Appliances like washers, dryers, and dishwashers are prone to hardware malfunctions because their frequent motion erodes nuts and bolts in piping creating whistling or squealing sounds. If you suspect this is the case, it’s probably time to call in a local appliance repair company to assess the problem.

Sounds Coming From Copper Pipes

Copper heating pipes in boiler room
Kadmy - stock.adobe.com

As hot water is running through the copper pipes, you may hear mysterious noises including clicking and knocking.

You can elect to slightly lower the water temperature or simply accept the noises. The sounds are from the expanding and contracting pipes and while they may not sound pleasant, they are not typically a cause for concern.

“The most common cause for copper pipes making a clicking sound is that as hot water runs through the pipe and the pipe heats up, it expands,” says Botelho. “If it is in contact with the studs inside your walls, the pipe will rub against the wood, making that clicking sound. If the pipe is accessible, installing a hanger or clip between the pipe and the wood will eliminate the noise.”

Knowing When To Call a Professional or DIY

While some pipes are in visible and accessible spots in your home, others are inside walls or ceilings. Once you identify the likely cause of why your pipes are making noise, you can determine if you can fix the problem yourself or call a local plumber to take on the job.

“While something like a humming or rattling pipe may seem like a simple fix, it can often take several hours for even a highly trained professional to pinpoint the source of the noise,” says Botelho.

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