The Solution for Water Hammer

One of the most well known plumbing noises is water hammer. It sounds like a hammer hitting pipes because water going through the pipe hits a bend in the pipe causing a shockwave. Water hammer is often caused by quick-closing valves, like those on washing machines and dishwashers, but the sudden shutting-off of water flow to toilets or by faucets can cause it as well. Whatever the culprit, the result is the same -a loud bang or banging sound. This impact can create pressure, and over time these repeated impacts and the pressure they cause can damage pipes and valves, weakening them and pipe joints. Most homes these days have devices called air chambers, air cushions, or water capacitors. They have chambers within them filled with air, which act as shock absorbers. 

These devices can become completely or party filled with water because over time the air is absorbed into the water beneath it. Water hammer doesn’t only affect water plumbing systems, it can also affect steam ones. But in steam delivery or distribution plumbing it’s referred to as ’steam hammer’. In these cases, steam condenses into water in one of the horizontal sections of pipe. Steam picks up this water and sends it into a pipe connection or joint. Even though water hammer generally isn’t very threatening, it has caused accidents and fatalities. Usually the most damage done is the breaking or busting of a pipe from the inside. It’s important to have a professional evaluate your problem and see how extensive the problem is and what it will take to repair it. If water hammering suddenly starts, the most likely cause is a home’s plumbing system’s air chambers have filled with water. It’s possible for a homeowner to fix the problem themselves if they can locate the water-filled chamber. 

The water needs to be turned off before it gets to the chamber, then the problem faucet or valve needs to be opened and allowed to drain thoroughly. After all the water drains from the chamber, air will replace it and restore the cushion. If the air chamber is located below the vertical level of the outlet, it may be necessary to drain the main home’s water supply lines so that the chamber can fill with air. If the air chamber won’t drain properly, it may be clogged with tuberculation, scale, or some kind of residue from minerals or chemicals dissolved in the water. Sometimes it’s possible to clean them out, but if not they should be replaced. Other than damage caused by the affected pipe’s breaking, water hammer isn’t usually dangerous. It is important though to have a professional evaluate your problem and to help determine what will be needed to fix it. About the Author: Brain LeMaire has served as President of CuraFlo since September 2006, before that he has worked in the pinhole leak and pipe restoration industry in Vancouver, Canada as General Manager of West Coast Pipe Restoration. He just updated the Page on low water pressureComments