Water Hammer – What it Really Means And When To Worry

It is not unusual to hear a loud sound coming from your home’s water pipes when you turn off the water at a faucet or spigot. But the sound quickly disappears, and so do your thoughts about it. You assume that it is normal and move on with your day. However, there are a few things that every homeowner should know about this banging and clanging that is called water hammer.

What Is Water Hammer?

Technically, the sound is hydraulic shock, but it is known as water hammer in lay terms. While the common name makes you wonder if there is some piece of debris in your water line that is banging around, the technical term provides a clearer image of the issue. The noise that you are hearing is caused when water stops or changes direction suddenly. When the water shifts or stops abruptly, it transfers energy in the form of a shock wave through your home’s plumbing pipes. And that force is what is causing your pipes to rattle and bang around.

Is Water Hammer Dangerous?

It might sound like the water hammer will cause your pipes to explode, but that is not really a possibility. However, it can do substantial damage over time. The repeated shaking and movement of your home’s water lines and fittings can result in damage and early failure. So if you hear the noise every once in a while, it is probably not too serious. But hearing water hammer regularly is a sign that you need to call in a licensed plumber to get to the bottom of the issue.

How Can Water Hammer Be Corrected?

There are several ways to correct water hammer. Your licensed plumber is the one to tell you which method is best for your situation. Below is a basic overview of the most common solutions for water hammer issues.

  • Securing loose pipes is a straightforward solution. And in some cases, that is all you will need to do to eliminate the noise and potential damage from water hammer. Over the years, the motion of water flowing through your plumbing pipes can cause the pipe straps or hangers to work loose. And when that occurs, the lines can move more and bang into the surrounding studs or joists of your home. Adding pipe wrap or insulation can also work as a shock absorber to help lessen the pipes’ motion and the banging sound.
  • Installing an air chamber is another cost-effective way to eliminate water hammer. An air chamber is a short section of pipe installed vertically near a pipe fitting or valve. The air chamber gives the excess water and force a place to flow without slamming into the pipe or valve. A licensed plumber can install this solution for you in a short time and usually very economically.
  • A mechanical water shock arrestor is the most reliable solution for severe water hammer. This device consists of an air bladder and spring installed in problematic areas of your plumbing system. And just like the name implies, these devices absorb the force and energy that would cause your pipes to move and bang against the joists or studs supporting them.

It is essential to understand that water can exert excessive force. And water hammer is just one example of that potentially destructive force. If you have found that you are noticing these banging sounds for the first time, it is best to call (214) 388-8838 for a plumbing inspection. A Flow Plumbing licensed plumber will inspect the pipes and components of your home’s plumbing system to determine what is causing this new and annoying sound in your home. In most cases, the issue can be easily corrected. But if left unaddressed, the problem can lead to cracked or shattered pipes, excessive water damage, and some large repair bills.