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What Is Water Hammer and Why Is It a Problem?

woman-covering-her-earsLet’s say you find yourself alone in your house at night… everything is quiet and peaceful, until.. a sudden metallic clang coming from the walls, startling you from your rest. Don’t worry, it’s probably not ghosts or intruders that you’ve heard. Instead, it could be something coming from your plumbing system called water hammer. 

A term like water hammer can sound intimidating all on its own, but it’s actually a pretty common occurrence in plumbing systems, and it doesn’t have to lead to any big plumbing problems. In fact, it’s something that can be relatively easily fixed, by calling our plumbers. Read on as we dive into what water hammer actually is, as well as what it can do and what you can do about it.

What Causes Water Hammer?

What is it that you’re actually hearing when that clang comes echoing from behind your drywall? It’s a sort of shockwave through your pipes, caused by the sudden stoppage and then reversal of the flow of water inside the pipes. This causes a vibration in the plumbing system, which is why it makes a sound that’s reminiscent of a hammer striking the pipe exterior.

Every time a valve or faucet turns off in the house–even if it’s something like your washing machine or dishwasher stopping–it causes the water to abruptly stop. So then, why don’t you hear water hammer every time you shut off a faucet? Well, because your plumbing system is designed with air cushions. These chambers in the pipes are designed to absorb the shock so there isn’t any water hammer. However, a few different things can happen here, such as:

  • Waterlogged chambers eliminate the cushions against a shockwave.
  • High water pressure–if your home is dealing with an increase in water pressure, the air cushions might not be enough to stop the shockwave.
  • Loose pipes–Even a minor shockwave in your plumbing system can create the sound of water hammer if you have loose pipes.

The Problem with Water Hammer

In addition to the way water hammer likes to play around with people’s nerves, it creates other problems too. If your plumbing pipes aren’t already loose, these shockwaves of water hammer can knock them loose, leading to more damage. The impact of water hammer inside your pipes can also cause damage to your plumbing fixtures. You might end up with older pipes bursting or breaking apart at connection points.

If water hammer is warning you of high water pressure, there are other issues that high water pressure can lead to as well.

How Do You Stop It?

As we alluded to above, by calling our team! There are a few different tactics we may try to repair the issue for you, depending on what caused it to begin with. These tactics include:

  • Refilling the air chambers.
  • Securing or replacing loose pipes.
  • Installing a water pressure regulator (assuming the water pressure wasn’t caused by a problem with your main water line!)

To get in touch with a reliable plumber in Palatine, IL, contact Reliance Plumbing Sewer & Drainage, Inc.

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