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Hillwood
These Rattling Walls! Vibrating Cold Water Line?
Hillwood

I have purchased a 90 year-old house. It is large, has mostly plaster interior walls, has steam heat, and many of the original galvanized pipes remain.

Nearly constantly today, I have been hearing a vibration in the house. It is faint, but very distinct. It has been coming and going for two months now, however this has been the worst day of it so far.

Facts:

* I cannot get close enough to the sound; it always sounds distant. I can get to a point in the house where it almost cannot be heard, but I cannot find a point where it is loudest.

* When the sound is heard the cold water line vibrates. I can hold on to the line where it feeds into the hot water tanks and feel it vibrate. I feel the same vibration at the line coming out of the water meter - although it is not stronger at either point.

* The sound is not linked to any particular event occurring - not the flushing of a toilet, turning hot or cold water on or off, filling or not filling of an automatic ice maker, auto-filling the boiler, boiler on, boiler off - nothing is linked to the sound. I do not think this is a 'water hammer'.

* Sometimes the sound lasts a mere second; other times it lasts 8 to 10 seconds it seems.

* The best description of the sound is a very faint jack-hammer.

* I have turned on every faucet, washing machine, dishwasher, etc and cannot expel air from any line.

* There are two Watts Expansion Tanks installed on the cold water line, just before the hot water tanks and just after a valve I have been told prevents water from flowing backwards. These tanks are pressurized at 50 psi, which I check often. Increasing the pressure in the tanks by 10 psi today has not resulted in any change. My city water source is also 50 psi.

* Oddly enough, the sound usually ceases around 6 pm, and I never hear it at night. I'm waiting to see what happens tonight, since it's been a nearly constant annoyance today.

* The first time I heard this sound followed two events: 1., it started to get cold outside, and 2., I had extensive work done by a plumber, who made a fair number of mistakes. One mistake he made was not soldering joints; another - forgot to turn back on our hot water circulation pump. He completely turned off the water supply to the house several times during the course of his work resulting in many trips through the house to turn on all the faucets and expel air from the lines.

I will be so grateful for any input!! I am desperate to find the source of this rumble. Many thanks.

dj1
Re: These Rattling Walls! Vibrating Cold Water Line?
dj1

I just read the first sentence, and I think it's time to re-pipe.

Some water sounds and vibrations may disappear with a properly installed new pipes. However, some sounds will always be there.

HoustonRemodeler
Re: These Rattling Walls! Vibrating Cold Water Line?
HoustonRemodeler

My guess; once the sun sets and the heater starts working harder overnight, the pipes stay expanded, then start shrinking when the next day warms.

If you have galvanized pipes close to or over 30 years old, start a replacement program today.

And get a new plumber.

Hillwood
Re: These Rattling Walls! Vibrating Cold Water Line?
Hillwood
dj1 wrote:

I just read the first sentence, and I think it's time to re-pipe.

Some water sounds and vibrations may disappear with a properly installed new pipes. However, some sounds will always be there.

Thank you for your input ~ I really appreciate it. I'd like to know your main concern with galvanized plumbing (90 years old). Much of it is not accessible without tearing out historic plaster. Most that is accessible has been replaced with copper. Thanks!

Hillwood
Re: These Rattling Walls! Vibrating Cold Water Line?
Hillwood
HoustonRemodeler wrote:

My guess; once the sun sets and the heater starts working harder overnight, the pipes stay expanded, then start shrinking when the next day warms.

If you have galvanized pipes close to or over 30 years old, start a replacement program today.

And get a new plumber.

I appreciate your input and thank you. New plumber: check! It's been 8 degrees F around the clock where I'm located, although I do agree the boiler may fire an extra time or two during the night.

Have you ever heard of air being trapped in water lines that cannot expel by turning on faucets? Rather, one would need to completely drain the system (water lines) and being refilling from the bottom up? I do have a few lines that are capped right now, awaiting fixture installation, so I wondered if air could be trapped near those capped lines.

I'm curious about your suggestion to replace the galvanized pipes (90 years old) Copper lines have been installed in most areas where lines are accessible, but some plumbing is not at all accessible.

Thanks so much for your time.

HoustonRemodeler
Re: These Rattling Walls! Vibrating Cold Water Line?
HoustonRemodeler

No, never heard of trapped air that cannot eventually be released.

I've also never heard of galvanized pipes much older than 35 years that haven't failed. They corrode from the inside out, much like arteries that get clogged with plaque.

Hillwood
Re: These Rattling Walls! Vibrating Cold Water Line?
Hillwood

After six months of an incessant vibration throughout the house, the mystery of the vibrating cold water line has been solved!

Three days ago, every cold water faucet, toilet, clothes washer burped ~ expelled huge amounts of trapped air ~ and I haven't heard the sound since. I don't know what caused the air to suddenly move on out; nothing out of the ordinary preceded the event - and I don't know how air could have been trapped for that long. Any ideas?

dj1
Re: These Rattling Walls! Vibrating Cold Water Line?
dj1

So you had air in your pipes. Find out why and try to solve the root of the problem.

Start with the water heater: Is your T&P valve leaking? is your water temp too high?

About your galvanized pipes: do you have a water leak anywhere in the system, even a tiny one?

Mastercarpentry
Re: These Rattling Walls! Vibrating Cold Water Line?
Mastercarpentry

I've seen 70 year old galvanized pipes which weren't excessively clogged or leaking. I've also seen 25 year old galvanized pipes fail in every way they can. Disturb the old pipes in any way and they often simply crumble; at some point they are going to do that from just the house water pressure alone. If you're not there to turn the water off you've got a major disaster on your hands.

That is why we want you to get rid of all the galvanized piping. It's a ticking time bomb where you can't know when it's going to go off, only that it most certainly will.

Phil

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