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The mysterious water pipe noise

cat-mouse
I need "Car Talk" for houses. A radio show where you can call in to describe the sound your house is making and have experts tell you what's going on.

Months ago, I noticed an odd, continuous wooshing noise in the basement. It seemed to come from behind the cabinet of shelves mounted above the washer. But behind those shelves is nothing. I puzzled over this for a while, got SJ to listen to it, and periodically would notice it and scratch my head.

Since we've come back from NZ, the noise is now audible in the living room, coming from the exact same area. It's gotten louder.

I scratched my head some more, and stared at the cabinet a bunch.

Eventually I noticed that the shelves themselves seemed to be making the noise. Sure enough, when I touched them, they were vibrating a bit, like a sound board. Resonating with what? With, it turns out, the water pipes. The copper water piping for the washer runs along & is attached to said cabinet. The pipes are carrying a fair bit of vibration.

Meanwhile, we can hear the noise in the bathroom too; I think the water pipes in the stack (i.e. in one of the bathroom walls) are using the walls as their sound board.

It sounds like... well... it sounds like a damped rumbling noise. It sounds like the dryer is running downstairs. A bit like water flowing through a pipe, or traffic in a tunnel. It sounds like an airplane passing overhead. It seems periodic, like a running engine of some kind.

There's not much in the house that could be generating the vibration. The fridge? The boiler? The heating? 24/7? Nope.

I think the resonance is coming in on the main water supply pipe. But what the heck is generating it? And how do I figure it out? And really, would all that ground it passes through not dampen it?

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( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
dreamerfi
Apr. 16th, 2009 03:22 pm (UTC)
Get a plumber to look at it - something has changed with the water pipers - the way they are attached to the house at some place, or a piece of it that regulates flow in one direction, or something like that. It is likely that if you fixate the pipes in a way that the shelves stop vibrating you have not fixed the thing that made the pipes vibrate in the first place, and that will spring a big, big leak sometime in the future.
dreamerfi
Apr. 16th, 2009 03:23 pm (UTC)
pipers = pipes
maarten
Apr. 16th, 2009 09:51 pm (UTC)
I looked at the water meter, and it's not running--so there's no current leak in my part of the pipes.

I had checked that a week ago, probably on a rainy day, and missed what was obvious today: there is water coming up in the planted area of the sidewalk, and running into the street--clearly a leak there.

Called the city, they'll send a crew.

To be continued...
(Anonymous)
Dec. 2nd, 2009 12:37 am (UTC)
Recirculation pump?
We had a similar problem that I tracked down to our hot water recirculation pump. I put it on a timer, which limits the noise to morning and evening. This turned out to be a good thing not only for reducing noise, but also for pipe longevity. Our neighbor in a similar unit experienced leaks because our water pipes are apparently not designed to have water running through them continuously.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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