You can learn a lot about the state of your home's plumbing by the sounds it makes whether you're using water or not. Many sounds can indicate some kind of problem like a leak, clog, or damage, so knowing what these sounds are is important and can help you catch problems before they get worse
Gurgling and Bubbling
There are a few different things that can cause gurgling and bubbling sounds to come from your pipes or drains.
The first is the result of a slow buildup of residue on the inside of your pipes from things like cleaning products, oils, and greases. As more and more residue builds up, there becomes less space for water and air to travel through the pipes at the same time. This will often cause your pipes to drain more slowly due to the decreased equalization in air pressure and will cause air bubbles to find the nearest source of ventilation to escape. This can sometimes lead them to other drains, which can explain things like why your toilet might occasionally bubble while you're using the shower.
The second is a deep clog somewhere in your drain pipes. When you have an actual clog, air gets trapped in the pipes near the clog, and as the pipes fill with water, the air comes back up the pipes to escape. The end result is mostly the same, though you'll likely notice it spread across more drains in your house, as a deep clog can affect all drains.
Whatever the reason, this should be looked at quickly by a plumber; when water doesn't drain quickly -- or doesn't drain at all -- it can quickly back up into your house, causing water damage.
Hissing and Squealing
There are also a few different causes for pipes making high-pitched sounds or hissing, and while they aren't usually the result of any issues in the short term, they should definitely be looked at before they have the potential to cause damage.
First, hissing can indicate that the water pressure in your home is too high and that the pipes are struggling to handle the pressure. In time, the strain can cause damage to your pipes and cause bursts or leaks. Call your water company to see if your water pressure is set correctly, or hire a plumber to install a pressure regulator.
Second, these sounds can indicate physical damage to your plumbing. Hissing and squealing can often happen when the water in your pipes is forcing itself through narrow obstacles, and this can happen when something like a washer has warped, obstructing water flow. If you notice decreased water pressure at specific faucets, this is another sign of possible damage.
Finally, the hissing could be a sign of a leak, especially if the hissing is constant and you hear it even when you aren't using water.
Rattling and Banging
Rattling and banging sounds from your pipes could be caused by things like lack of ventilation or loose parts, but the year your home was built could affect how you go about fixing this problem.
Over the decades, different solutions were devised to prevent pipes from rattling when in use or when water flow was stopped. Most old houses have air chambers to help alleviate the pressure, newer homes have water hammer arrestors, and some homes have none at all. A plumbing contractor can help you figure out what type of system your house uses, then come up with a solution.
It's also important to determine when this sound happens; there could be a big difference between rattling that only happens when you turn off a faucet and rattling that happens randomly regardless of water use. Here are some of the main situations:
- CPVC pipes expanding and contracting. If your water is run through CPVC pipes, these pipes need to be given adequate room to expand as hot water runs through them. If the space is too tight, you'll hear sounds whenever you run hot water as the pipe tries to expand in a narrow space.
- High or variable water pressure can cause pipes to rattle around, but so can loose fastenings. If your pipes aren't held tight, they could start to move around even when pressure is fine.
- A banging or thudding sound whenever you turn off a faucet or shower comes from the constant flow of water suddenly being stopped. This "water hammer" is what ventilation and arrestors are designed to prevent, so this could be a sign your vents need to be cleared or the arrestors replaced.