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Come heating season, hydronic baseboards love to complain. But what do the ticks, squeaks, and thunks you hear when you turn up your heat really mean? How can you silence them? To a plumber every sound means something. Here’s what we hear when pipes start talking:

Tick, tick, tick sound

Translation: Your copper pipe is scraping against metal. Hot water entering cold pipes causes them to expand along their length—as much as ¾ of an inch over 50 feet—and that can cause a clicking sound as they slide against metal hangers or shift the fins that dissipate heat inside baseboard convectors.

The fix: Separate the pipe from whatever metal it’s in contact with by replacing metal supports with plastic suspension clamps (Sharkbite Suspension Clamp, $7 for 10; homedepot.com). If convector fins are the source, make sure they’re resting evenly on a plastic expansion cradle that allows them to move freely over a support bracket.

Squeak, squeak

Translation: Squeaks and moans indicate the expanding pipes are rubbing against wood. This often occurs where a pipe comes up through a floor, runs through framing, or is clamped too snugly against a joist.

The fix: Again, the key is to separate the two materials. Loosen or replace clamps that cause pipes to press against joists; cushion a pipe coming through the floor with a plastic clamp or sleeve.

Thunk!

Translation: A thunk or bang can occur when there is no room for a hot pipe to expand, causing it to bow and knock into the convector cover or wall.

The fix: Hire a plumber to cut out a small section to shorten the pipe run, or install a corrugated flexible connector to allow for expansion. This will require draining the affected zone, but the silence it provides will be golden.


Steps for Quieting Noisy Pipes

  1. Raise the temperature on the thermostat to activate the heating boiler. As hot water flows through heating system, listen for creaking, popping sounds.
  2. Inspect the hot-water pipes leading from boiler. Check to be sure there's sufficient expansion space where the pipes pass through holes in walls and ceilings.
  3. Use pliers to remove any metal strap clamps holding the pipes tightly against joists or other hard surfaces.
  4. Replace each metal clamp with a plastic "Mickey" clip. Slip the plastic clip over the pipe and then screw it to the joist.
  5. Now move upstairs and check the vertical sections of hot-water pipes that come up through the floor.
  6. Slip a plastic clip around each pipe and then press the clip down into the hole to isolate the pipe from the surrounding wood.

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