Water Hammer

Water hammer is caused by water going through a pipe and hitting a bend and changing direction. When water hits the pipe as it changes direction it causes a shockwave, this is the hammer sound. It's most often caused by quick closing valves on appliances such as dishwashing and clothes washing machines. But it can also be caused by the quick shutting off of water by toilet tanks and faucets in sinks, showers and bathtubs.

A solution to the water hammer problem, in more modern homes, is to install devices called air chambers. The chambers or cushions are filled with air, they absorb the shockwaves. The problem is that over time these devices often become partly or completely filled with water. This happens because the air, over time, is absorbed by the water, and water takes the lost air's place.

The damage water hammer causes can lead to a pipe breaking or bursting, which can lead to property damage or even injury. A professional evaluation is recommended, both to determine the extent of the problem and to get an estimate of what repairs or replacement will cost.

An air chamber that's under the level of the valve or faucet may present more work. The home's main water supply lines may need to be drained so that the chamber(s) can fill with air. An air chamber that won't drain properly may be clogged with scale, tuberculation, or minerals and chemicals in the water. Sometimes it's not possible to clean out the chamber(s), and replacement is left as the likely option.

If a home doesn't have air chambers built into its plumbing system, reducing the overall water pressure might be a solution. This can be done by installing pressure-reducing valves in the water supply lines. But this might not work because the water pressure might be too low for second and third floor faucets and toilets to work properly. Another solution is to install air chambers, may current models have built-in valves for letting their air refill.

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.


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