Building Plumbing Noise Sources
Diagnose, & Cure Plumbing Noise Problems in Buildings
PLUMBING SYSTEM NOISE SOURCES - CONTENTS: Building & house plumbing noise sources: a diagnostic catalog of sources of building plumbing noises: lists of causes, cures, and detection methods sounds coming from plumbing pipes, equipment, controls, fixtures
Drips at plumbing fixtures may make an obvious drip or splash sound. But dripping water can be tricky to track down. Don't forget to consider
A small water supply leak inside of a building cavity can produce a noise that is hard to track down. Supply pipe leaks may be continuous (and thus are eventually discovered by water stains or mold) or intermittent, such as a leak around a tub or shower control that drips into the wall cavity only when the valve is turned "on".
A drain piping leak inside of a building cavity can also produce a noise that is hard to track down. But a drain drip noise should not be present when no fixtures have water running into them. But don't forget that a quietly running toilet can also produce a drip or other plumbing problems downstream from the toilet in the building drain piping.
Plumbing Fixture noises at drains, gurgling, glug glug sounds, burbling, bubbling during drainage when sinks, tubs, or showers drain, or when a toilet is flushed
Leaks in water pipes outside of the building but in water supply piping coming to the building from a municipal water main or city water piping can produce a humming, hissing, or ringing sound in the building. If you turn off the main water shutoff at the building and listen with a mechanic's stethoscope to the water pipes on the street side of the shutoff valve, comparing this sound to pipes in the building you can identify this problem.
Water pump noises: hiss, hum, motor sounds, clunks, or thunks: at water pumps or well pumps. Water pumps can be quite noisy, depending on the pump type and model, and the pump location. If the well pump is a submersible unit located inside the well, normally the only noise you'll observe in the building is the clicking of the pump control relay(s) that turn the pump on or off, and possibly a modest sound of water entering the water pressure tank or building piping.
Water pump noises change from loud and rattling to a more quiet hum if a pump has lost prime (contains air instead of water) and then regains its prime (contains water). Running a pump "dry" can also destroy it.
See WATER PUMP LIFE EXPECTANCY.
But if your well pump is located indoors the pump motor sound can be loud and disturbing. We do not recommend simply surrounding the pump or covering it with fiberglass insulation in contact with the pump or water tank, because condensation can lead to a mold problem.
But enclosing a well pump in a utility room that has benefited from sound control insulation can make a big reduction in pump noise heard in the rest of the structure.
Hissing noise of air escaping at water tanks: air escaping from the air volume control valve on some water pressure tanks, such as the U.S. Gauge Type 310WJ Air Volume Controls makes a hissing noise and is normal but should only occur on occasion, not constantly. Otherwise there is a problem putting too much air into the water tank.
Clicking at the water pressure tank, especially if the well pump is submersible (in the well and nowhere near the tank itself) is more likely the water pump pressure control relay clicking in and out to turn the pump on and off. If the clicking is rapid, every few seconds, your well pump is short-cycling and needs repair.
Squeals and shrieks from water pressure tank: A squealing water pressure tank sound is often due to water passing through a restricted valve or pipe clog.
A high pitched shriek or whine also occurs during fill-ups of water tanks whose water level is controlled by a float. In that case the noise seems to come from a combination of stick float mechanism that may not fully open the fill valve and thus a partial restriction in the water line.
Shrieking from a water pressure tank that incorporates a bladder may be due to a partly collapsed bladder or obstruction at the tank entrance fittings.
Running toilets - may produce a high pitched sound, or may be silent but sill running
Plumbing Supply piping noises, including a high-pitched hissing or whistling sound may be heard as water runs through building supply piping. This sound should stop immediately when you turn off any fixture that is running water in the building. You may be able to stop or reduce plumbing supply piping noise by changing the water system pressure at a municipal water supply valve.
Try first just slightly reducing the incoming water pressure.
See WATER PRESSURE REGULATOR ADJUSTMENT. We have also corrected this noise by slightly closing the main water shut off valve at a municipal supply to adjust the incoming water flow rate.
If your water pipes are making a banging or clanging sound at the moment when water is turned off,
Water heater noises:
see WATER HEATER NOISE DIAGNOSIS, CURE - identify and cure noises at water heaters such as rumbling, clanking, burbling, hissing, and clinking noises observed at water heaters. Also there may be noises at the water heater due to oil or gas burner problems.
Water tank noises: Bubbling sounds if air is being forced into the water tank from an air leak in well piping, low well water level, or from an air volume control. Hissing noise of air escaping at water tanks:
see WATER TANK AIR VOLUME CONTROLS.
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Acoustical Society of America - http://asa.aip.org/ Elaine Moran, ASA Office Manager, Suite 1NO1, 2 Huntington Quadrangle, Melville, NY 11747-4502
516) 576-2360, FAX: (516) 576-2377 email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
ASA is an excellent source of noise and sound standards. Quoting from the associations history page:
"From the Society's inception, its members have been involved in the development of acoustical standards concerned with terminology, measurement procedures, and criteria for determining the effects of noise and vibration. In 1932, The American National Standards Institute (ANSI), then called the American Standards Association, appointed the Acoustical Society as sponsor of a committee, designated as Z-24, to standardize acoustical terminology and measurements. The work of this committee expanded to such an extent that it was replaced in 1957 by three committees, S1 on Acoustics, S2 on Mechanical Shock and Vibration, and S3 on Bioacoustics, with a fourth, S12 on Noise, added in 1981. These four committees are each responsible for producing, developing a consensus for, and adopting standards in accordance with procedures approved by ANSI. Although these committees are independent of the Acoustical Society, the Society provide
s the financial support and an administrative Secretariat to facilitate their work. After a standard is adopted by one of these committees and approved by ANSI, the Secretariat arranges for its publication by ASA through the American Institute of Physics. The ASA also distributes ISO and IEC standards. Abstracts of standards and ordering information can be found online on the ASA Standards Page. More than 100 acoustical standards have been published in this way; a catalog is also available from the Standards Secretariat (631-390-0215; Fax: 631-390-0217). The Society also provides administrative support for several international standards committees and acts as the administrative Secretariat (on behalf of ANSI) for the International Technical Committee on Vibration and Shock (TC-108)." - http://asa.aip.org/history.html
ANSI/ASA S12.60, Acoustical Performance Criteria, Design Requirements, and Guidelines for Schools, 2002.
 Connelly, Maureen, Hodgson, Murray, "Thermal and Acoustical Performance of Green Roofs", Sound Transmission Loss of Green roofs, [presentation, Session 1.5], Greening Rooftops for Sustainable Communities, conference, awards, trade show, Baltimore MD, 30 April-2 may 2008. Web search 4/3/2011 original source: http://commons.bcit.ca/greenroof/publications/
2008_grhc_connelly_hodgson.pdf. These authors provide an excellent bibliography of references for sound transmission in buildings, including some of the references cited just below:
Sharp, BH 1973, Study of Techniques to Increase the Sound Insulation of Building Elements. U.S. Department of Commerce PB-222 829, Washington.
Sharp, BH & Martin S 1996, "The Measurement of Aircraft Noise Reduction in Residences", Proceedings of Inter-Noise, Liverpool, 1996, pp. 2747-2752.
Friberg, R 1973, "Transmission Loss and Absorption Factors for Corrugated Steel Roofs, Insulation on the Outside", Proceedings of Inter-Noise, Copenhagen, 1973, pp. 213-217.
 Colbond, EnkaTech Note, "Acoustical Benefits of Roof Underlayments", Colbond Inc., PO Box 1057, Enka NC 28728, Tel: 800-365-7391, website: www.colbond-usa.com web search 4/3/2011, original source: http://products.construction.com/
 General Steel Corporation, "The Facts About the Acoustical Performance of Metal Building Insulation 2", Sound Transmission Class, General Steel Corporation, 10639 W. Bradford Road, Littleton, CO 80127, web search 4/3/11, original source: http://www.gensteel.com/insulation_facts-5a.htm
 North American Insulation Manufacturers Association NAIMA, "Insulation Facts #58: The Facts About the Acoustical Performance of Metal Building Insulation", NAIMA, 44 Canal Plaza, Suite 310, Alexandria VA 22314, tel: 703-684-0084, website: http://www.naima.org/
 Sarah Hager Johnston, Peregrine Information Consultants, Tel: 860-676-2228, Website: www.peregrineinfo.com Email: email@example.com
Research and writing for insurance, risk management, safety & health, business, and medical professionals. Quoting: Peregrine Information Consultants provides customized secondary research, technical information, and standards, news, current awareness services, writing, and editing to support U.S. clients in property/casualty insurance, risk management and loss control, occupational safety and health, consumer safety, business, retail, manufacturing, and other industries.
Developments in Noise Control, NRCC, National Research Council, Canada, suggestions for noise control, sound transmission through block walls, plumbing noise control, noise leaks, and sound control advice. Web search 01/17/2011, original source: https://www.nrc-cnrc.gc.ca/eng/ibp/irc/bsi/90-noise-control.html
Thanks to audiologist Cheryl P. Harllee, licensed hearing specialist, for discussing noises and noise problems in preparation for this article. Ms. Harllee can be located at the Village Hearing Center, 249 U.S. Highway One, Tequesta FL 33469 561-744-0231
 "Localization of a source of sound in a room," W.M. Hartmann, Proc. Audio Engr. Soc. Eighth International Conference, ed. S. Pizzi, pp 27-32, AES, New York (1990).
 "Auditory Localization in rooms," W.M. Hartmann, Proc. Audio Engr. Soc. Twelfth International Conference, ed. S. Bech pp 34-39, AES, New York (1993). "Listening in a Room and the Precedence Effect," W.M. Hartmann, in
 Binaural and Spatial Hearing} ed. R.H. Gilkey and T.B. Anderson, pp 191-210, L. Erlbaum Associates (1997).
 Medhi Batel et als., "Noise Source Location Techniques - Simple to Advanced Applications", Sound and Vibration, March 2003, retrieved 4/23/2013 original source www.sandv.com/downloads/0303bate.pdf [copy on file as Noise_Source_Location_Techs0303bate.pdf]
Thanks to reader Sue Hazeldine, from the U.K. for discussing how she tracked down a whistling chimney noise to an antique hanging sign on the building exterior - 01/19/2010.
Thanks to reader Michael Anderson, 8 May 2009, for discussing clicking sounds coming from air conditioning equipment.
Thanks to reader Erna Ross who described loss of sleep due to a hissing noise at her home 06/15/2008.
Marpac, produces white sound generators, a product that they identify as the Marpac sound conditioner. Marpac can be contacted at http://www.marpac.com/ or contact the Marpac Corporation,
P.O. Box 560 Rocky Point, NC 28457 Phone: 800-999-6962 (USA and Canada) Fax: 910-602-1435 1-910-602-1421 (worldwide), 800-999- or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sound Oasis sound conditioners are produced by Sound Oasis: http://www.sound-oasis.com/ email: email@example.com or 1-866-625-3218
Barrier Ultra-R super high-R building panels, produced by Glacier Bay, use Aerogel and are rated up to R-30 per inch, or in Barrier Ultra-r™ panels, R-50 per inch. The company also produces acoustic panels that are Ultra-db resistant and lightweight. Unlike the appliance insulation panels discussed in the original Q&A above on miracle insulation, these Areogel based panels will continue to retain some, though reduced insulating value if punctured, performing at perhaps R-9 per inch. The product is used in marine refrigerators, but in the future may be available as a residential construction product. The company is researching specialized products in medical, transportation, and aerospace applications. Contact: Glacier Bay, Inc., 2930 Faber Street, Union City, CA 94587 U.S.A., (510) 437-9100, Sales and Technical Information - firstname.lastname@example.org
Noise - a Health Problem - http://www.nonoise.org/library/epahlth/epahlth.htm - quoted below
Racket, din, clamor, noise. Whatever you want to call it, unwanted sound is America's most widespread nuisance. But noise is more than just a nuisance. It constitutes a real and present danger to people's health. Day and night, at home, at work, and at play, noise can produce serious physical and psychological stress. No one is immune to this stress. Though we seem to adjust to noise by ignoring it, the ear, in fact, never closes and the body still responds - sometimes with extreme tension, as to a strange sound in the night.
The annoyance we feel when faced with noise is the most common outward symptom of the stress building up inside us. Indeed, because irritability is so apparent, legislators have made public annoyance the basis of many noise abatement programs. The more subtle and more serious health hazards associated with stress caused by noise traditionally have been given much less attention. Nonetheless, when we are annoyed or made irritable by noise, we should consider these symptoms fair warning that other things may be happening to us, some of which may be damaging to our health.
Protective Noise Levels - 1979, basis for many local noise ordinances and codes - http://www.nonoise.org/library/levels/levels.htm This publication is intended to complement the EPA's "Levels Document,"* the 1974 report examining levels of environmental noise necessary to protect public health and welfare. It interprets the contents of the Levels Document in less technical terms for people who wish to better understand the concepts presented there, and how the protective levels were identified. In that sense, this publication may serve as an introduction, or a supplement, to the Levels Document.
"Measurement of Highway-Related Noise", US Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/noise/measure/chap8.htm
"Sound Decisions" 9/85 p.11 and "Soundproof Room" in 5/85 p.7 in The
New England Builder, Box 97, East Haven, VT 05837 (802) 223-6123.
"Noise and Vibration Control in Buildings", Robert S. Jones,
McGraw-Hill Book Co., PO Box 400, Hightstown, NJ 08520-9989 #006431-8 [$47.50]
"Shoptalk", Builder Magazine, NAHB, Feb. 1986 p. 138, Martin M.
Mintz, AIA, Director of NAHB Technical Services - article about constructing
soundproof floors using wood joists and plywood subfloors.
Guide to Airborne, Impact, and Structure Borne Noise Control in
Multifamily Dwellings", Federal Housing Administration publication.
"Construction Principles, Materials and Methods", Olin, Schmidt, and
"Soundproofing a Music Studio", Gene DeSmidt, Fine Homebuilding,
Taunton Press, 63 S. Main St., PO Box 355, Newton, CT 06470 No. 35,
"Building a Recording Studio", Jeff Cooper, Synergy Group, Inc., Los
Angeles, CA, ISBN 0-916899-00-4.
"The Book Nook" - how to build a quite room, Rodale's Practical
Homeowner, October, 1987, p. 50-61. This issue, p. 98-99, has a good list of
manufacturers/distributors of a range of noise control products such as
acoustical sealants, ceiling systems, resilient channels, wall panels, window
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