When your plumbing system is working, it stays out of sight and out of mind. When issues arise, you suddenly become aware of every pipe and fixture in your house as you search for the cause of your problem. Plumbing malfunctions can cause a lot of stress, especially when they’re difficult to solve.
One plumbing issue that is hard to ignore is whistling water pipes. If you’re experiencing a high-pitched noise from your water pipes, then you might be wondering what it means and what you can do about it. The team at Dick Ray Master Plumber has assembled this guide to answer your questions about water pipe noises.
What Do Whistling Water Pipes Mean?
Whistling water pipes are more than a nuisance. They can be a sign that worse issues are approaching for your plumbing system. When your pipes are working properly, they should be quiet as water flows through them. It’s normal to hear the sound of running water in your ceiling or your walls. That’s the natural sound of regular water use, such as showering, flushing and draining. Whistling or shrieking water pipes mean there is a problem somewhere within your pipeworks.
The issue of whistling water pipes could evolve into something more serious and inconvenient for you and your family. For instance, water pipe noises can be a precursor to a phenomenon plumbers have dubbed “water hammer.” Water hammer occurs when the water pressure in your home is too high. When you shut off the flow of water, the water remaining in your pipes collides with the shut-off valve and pipe walls. This creates a distinct hammering sound as the high-pressure water comes to a halt.
Many of the factors contributing to whistling water pipes also cause water hammer, so it’s important to resolve your case of noisy pipes before things get any worse. Water hammer can shake your pipes, leading to more damage and other issues. You could end up with a serious — and seriously expensive — plumbing project on your hands.
To diagnose your issue, you need to know what causes water pipes to whistle. Here are common causes of whistling water pipes to help you determine the next steps you should take.
1. The Pipes or Fasteners Are Coming Loose
It is normal for pipes and fasteners to get loose over time. Water running through your pipes causes vibrations that can loosen pipes and fasteners that use threading to stay secure. These subtle vibrations can eventually work nuts, bolts and threaded couplings out of their threaded bonds. It’s an issue that may start small but can lead to whistling pipes in the shower or other areas of your home.
As pipes and fasteners loosen, vibrations from water usage cause metal pieces to move back and forth at a rapid rate. Parts of your fixtures, such as loose nuts or pipes, begin making high pitched squeaking and whistling sounds as a result of these vibrations. If you hear whistling coming from your faucet when water is running, you may have loose nuts or old washers contributing to the unpleasant sound.
2. The Water Pressure Is Too High
High water pressure is another culprit of whistling water pipes. Water pressure refers to the force at which water travels through your pipes. If your water pressure is too high, it can cause intense vibrations that lead to whistling sounds. Areas of your piping system that contain couplings, elbows and T-valves are common areas where this can occur. High water pressure can contribute to small but rapid movements between these components, which creates high-pitched noises in pipes.
Obstructed areas in your pipes from mineral deposits can lead to whistling sounds when water passes through at high pressure. The sudden blockage causes the highly pressurized water to create vibrations as it pushes through the tiny opening, emitting a whistling noise. It may be difficult to locate this mineral buildup, so calling a professional is likely your best option.
3. The Water Flow Rate Is Too Low or Too High
Water flow rate is different than water pressure as it deals with water amount instead of water force. A high water flow rate means your faucets, showerheads and hoses release large amounts of water every second the water is on. A low water flow rate results in small amounts of water coming from your fixtures.
High or low water flow rate can contribute to water pipe noises. A low water flow rate results in more mineral deposits in your pipes. A high water flow rate can lead to increased pipe movement. Both low and high water flow rates can cause whistling water pipes, especially if other issues are present.
4. The Plumbing Is Aging
An old plumbing system could be causing noisy pipes when running water in your home. Before plumbers started using copper pipes in people’s plumbing systems, they used galvanized steel pipes. These old galvanized steel pipes corrode easily, leading to leaks and other issues — like whistling water pipes.
If your home has whistling galvanized steel pipes, then corrosion could be the cause. As water moves past these corroded areas, it creates high-pitched sounds. You’ll need to call a professional to replace the entire corroded pipe, as this is one of the only solutions for a whistling galvanized steel pipe.
5. Toilet or Faucet Valves Need Replacement
If you hear a whistling sound from the toilet after it’s flushed, there may be an issue inside the toilet tank. A faulty ballcock valve assembly could be the cause of this — specifically, a bad washer could be contributing to the noise. Ask a professional if they recommend replacing the washer or the entire ballcock valve assembly.
Faucets can also be the source of your whistling problem. When components within faucets start to corrode, bolts begin to loosen and grime starts to build up. You may want to call a professional as fixing this problem might involve taking apart your faucet, cleaning grime and replacing corroded components. You might even need a new faucet.
6. The Faucet Aerator Is Clogged With Mineral Deposits
The faucet aerator is the small, screen-like piece screwed onto the tip of your faucet’s spout. This little component plays a big role in your faucet, as it constricts water from flowing too heavily. It also catches sediment, so over time, it can become clogged with mineral deposits, leading to a whistling sound when water is running.
Turn off the water to your faucet and unscrew the aerator. You may notice a large amount of grime that you can clean by soaking the aerator overnight in vinegar. Make sure not to soak the washer, as this can damage it. If the whistling persists when you replace the aerator, you may have a bigger issue on your hands.
7. A Drain Vent Is Blocked
Your plumbing system connects to the outside world with drain vents. These critical components of your plumbing system allow gases to escape from your pipes, aiding odor elimination and proper water flow. If you hear whistling from your pipes — even when no water is running — then you may have a blocked drain vent.
Depending on how blocked your drain vent is, air could create a whistling sound as it flows past the blockage. This creates whistling noises when no water is flowing. And since a functioning drain vent aids in water movement, a blockage could result in a decreased water flow rate, which can lead to other issues that cause noisy pipes.
8. The Main Water Valve Is Worn
All the water in your home must pass through the main water valve. Located outside your home, this important valve brings water from your municipality to your home and is a contributing factor to your home’s water pressure and water flow rate. If the valve is set to pressure that’s too low or too high, you may experience whistling that sounds like it’s coming from everywhere.
This can be a difficult valve to try to fix or adjust by yourself, so you may want to call a professional. Have them check your water pressure and adjust your main water valve if necessary. Pressure that is too low or too high can contribute to mineral buildup or shaky, loose pipes throughout your home.
Locating the Source of Your Whistling Pipes
You may be able to locate the source of your whistling pipes in some cases. It may take some trial and error, but if you give the following five tips a try, you might solve your issue. Always remember that the team at Dick Ray Master Plumber is ready to help at any time, whether you find the source of the noise or if you need some extra help figuring out what’s causing it.
1. Clean Your Faucet or Shower Head
Faucets and showerheads are prime suspects for whistling sounds in your piping system. They’re some of the most-used fixtures in your house. Because of this high usage rate, they can become clogged and gunked up with mineral deposits and other debris.
If you think the whistling is coming from any of these fixtures, try taking them apart and giving them a good cleaning. Make sure you shut off the water to these fixtures before taking them apart. Replace any corroded parts as needed. See if the whistling stops after you reassemble the fixtures and turn the water back on!
2. Check the Water Pressure and Lower It If Needed
High water pressure can cause whistling water pipes. Go to your local hardware store and purchase a threaded water pressure gauge. They shouldn’t be too expensive. Screw it onto any valve or faucet in your house to get a reading on your water pressure.
The ideal home water pressure is usually 40 to 60 pound-force per square inch (psi). Anything higher than 60 psi can cause damage to your pipes, resulting in a whistling sound. Extremely high water pressure can even burst your pipes. If your water pressure is too high, try lowering it by adjusting your main water valve. This could solve your noisy pipe issue.
3. Add Water Pipe Insulation
People use water pipe insulation to protect pipes from freezing in the winter, but you can also use them to try to reduce or eliminate whistling water pipes. Water pipe insulation looks like pool noodles with a slit running the length of the tube. Fit the pipe insulation around your pipes so it is snug and secure.
This could stop your pipes from whistling since the insulation will minimize the vibration of loose components. It also acts as a sound absorber, limiting how much noise can escape into the rest of the house. Water pipe insulation comes in several sizes, so make sure you’re getting the right size for your home’s pipes.
4. Consider Securing the Pipe or Adding Supports
Water pipe insulation helps to secure your loose pipes, but you can take other measures to increase pipe security. First, you can try tightening your pipe’s existing support fasteners. These can be straps that hold up your pipes or other wall-mounted fasteners that you can tighten with a screwdriver. Check to make sure none of them are broken, and tighten where you can.
The second thing you can try is adding supports. You can buy different sizes and types of pipe fasteners from plumbing and hardware stores. Make sure you get the right size and check what materials are compatible with your new fasteners. You must make sure they’re going to work with your existing pipe system. Combine this tip with water pipe insulation to further decrease the sound of whistling or rattling pipes.
5. Ask a Professional to Replace Corroded Piping or Valves
Pipes and valves corrode over time. This is a common factor that increases your chances of having whistling or shrieking water pipes. Corrosion only worsens as time goes by, so the sounds can get louder and louder. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is ask a professional to replace your corroded valves and pipes.
This can be an extensive job, especially if your house is older and contains galvanized steel piping. Your best bet is to call a professional to see how big of a job it will be and to give you a quote. It might be a lot of work, but it will be worth it to enjoy silent pipes once again.
Call Dick Ray Master Plumber to Diagnose Your Plumbing Issues
If you want to solve the issue of your noisy water pipes, Dick Ray Master Plumber is the answer. As a second-generation plumbing business, we know how to fix whistling pipes in both new and old homes. We provide friendly, professional and prompt plumbing services for a diverse range of plumbing needs. We’re relationship-driven, and we won’t call a job finished until you’re happy with it.
Contact us today to get in touch with us. We look forward to meeting you and helping to return your pipes to quiet, working order!