What’s Water Hammer -- and How Do I Fix It?

What’s Making That Racket?

   Do you sometimes hear a loud “thunk” sound when you turn off a faucet or when the water stops flowing into your washing machine or dishwasher? That’s a phenomenon called “water hammer”, and it’s more than a disturbing noise — it can be the sound of serious plumbing damage.

The water in your plumbing pipes is under pressure. When it’s rushing through an open faucet and you turn it off suddenly, the flow of water slams into the closed valve, creating a hydraulic shock. The impact can cause all sorts of problems, including broken pipes, loose fittings and damage to water-connected appliances. 

The shockwaves from water hammer can also cause your pipes to physically move from the jolt. If they’re not adequately secured to the joists in your home with suitable pipe straps, the moving pipes may bang against your walls, making even more noise and increasing the odds of damage.

Unless your home’s plumbing system is very old, you probably already have one solution in place: air chambers. An air chamber is a short length of vertical pipe installed right behind a valve. Because this piece of pipe is higher than the valve, it fills with air instead of water, and the air acts as a shock absorber when the flow of water stops suddenly.

If your plumbing system doesn’t have air chambers and you’re experiencing water hammer, you might want to consider having them installed. You could also have devices called water hammer arrestors installed in the same place. The main benefit of an arrestor is that it’s a sealed system, so it won’t fill up with water over time. But the main drawback is that arrestors will eventually need to be replaced, whereas air chambers will keep working for decades.

One way to correct this is to contact your local water utility to report your high pressure problem and see what they’re able to do. They may be able to send someone to your home to reduce the pressure at the water meter. Another option is to hire a licensed plumber to install a water pressure regulator.

You will need professional assistance with more complicated steps like installing new water hammer arrestors or pressure regulators, reach out to us without delay. Water hammer is a serious problem that deserves your attention!

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