Water hammer or banging pipes aren’t just annoying they’re a warning of bigger problems

Water hammer or banging pipes aren’t just annoying they’re a warning of bigger problems

What is water hammer?

Water hammer or banging pipes are differing faults with your water reticulation system.

In theory, you should never hear the sound of water moving through your hot or cold water pipes. All you should ever hear is the water flow from the tap or fixture in the room it’s installed in.

Essentially water hammer is a shock wave created inside your piping.

What causes water hammer?

Plumbing is essentially the movement of water through pipes. It, therefore, has the potential to be noise creating and create what is referred to as water hammer. 

Water hammer that is noticeable occurs with copper water pipes. But plastic water pipes also suffer from water hammer, and it’s just harder to hear it.

Water hammer audible noise in copper pipes is generated primarily by:

  • High water pressure

  • Quick closing mixer taps

  • Quick closing solenoid valves

  • Faulty or worn brass seats in taps

  • Broken tap washers

  • Airlocks in pipes

  • Shock waves in pipes

Water hammer or banging pipes aren't just annoying they're a warning of bigger problems 1

Common noise complaints

There are four very common noise complaints with water pipe reticulation systems being:

  • Sharp banging or hammering sounds coming from pipes

  • A series of loud bangs when the washing machine or dishwasher is in operation

  • A loud bang from a valve or tap

  • Audible ticking sounds that diminish after the tap is turned on

An intense banging or hammering is a result of faulty valves, defective mixer taps, defective solenoid valves, broken taps or broken tap washers or poor clipping of pipes.

A series of loud bangs while you are using the washing machine or dishwasher is caused by the instantaneous opening and closing of the solenoid valves in the machine as it traverses through its cycle.

Excessive water pressure can accentuate all of these causes as water pressure legally cannot exceed 500kPa inside the building.

The ticking sound can build up then diminish and are in fact the sounds generated by pipe expansion. This is caused by the pipe heating up when the hot tap is turned on as the hot water replaces the cold water and then cools down.

Water hammer is a shock wave

Water hammer will occur much more if your pressure is excessive. The common causes of water hammer are quick closing mixer taps or solenoid valves on washing machines and dishwashers.

Water hammer or banging pipes aren't just annoying they're a warning of bigger problems 2

In the picture above the shock wave is generated at the face of a quick closing mixer tap because the flow of water moving under pressure is stopped suddenly by the instant turning off of the mixer tap. The shock wave then ricochets back from the face of the mixer tap cartridge, through the stationary water in the pipe.  The shock-wave creates enormous pressure moving at 1280 meters per second through the pipe.

This same effect is replicated more intensely by the solenoid valves in your washing machine and dishwasher as unlike mixer taps they instantly open and shut as you machine moves through cycles.

Water hammer is an early warning alert

All of the sounds or the audible noise commonly referred to as water hammer tend to be highlighted in copper water pipes. Water hammer still exists in plastic piping systems, but it is diminished significantly as the plastic pipe absorbs the sounds.

Your plumbing reticulation pipes, taps, valves and appliances are all susceptible to damage caused by the impact of shock waves even if you hear no noise.

The noise is essentially an early warning system telling you to rectify the problem before damage occurs.

Water hammer is avoidable

Water hammer is avoidable and can be rectified regardless of whether you have copper or plastic water reticulation piping.

Banging or noisy pipes usually occur when the water reticulation pipes have not been clipped correctly as per AS/NZS 3500.1 : 2018 when the house was originally constructed. This can be much more challenging to rectify compared to water hammer.

To prevent damage to plumbing pipes, taps, fixtures, hot water valves and appliances both the noise element and shock wave element of water hammer need to be eliminated.

The noise element is auditory. The loud bang of water hammer when you turn off a tap or your washing machine is running alerts you to water hammer problems. Without the noise, there will be no indication of a problem until the damage is caused or your home is flooded by a burst flexihose or appliance hose.

The elimination of the water hammer eliminates the shock waves which impose undesirable stresses on reticulation pipes, flexihoses and appliances.

Does Your Insurance Cover All Water Leaks?

Does Your Insurance Cover All Water Leaks?

Here at Whywait Plumbing, we frequently get a phone call asking does insurance cover water leaks? Every week we are called upon to deal with insurance companies or assessors on behalf of clients when they have sustained water damage to their home.

does insurance cover water leaks in walls With water leaks just like everything else to do with insurance, there seem to be multiple grey areas with numerous interpretations. It is our experience we find every time we deal with an insurance company where the circumstances of the water leak are similar to previous we meet with a different response.

The product disclosure statement issued with your policy is where we find all the confusion starts. This is where the insurance company hopefully discloses what is covered by your policy. If you find the product disclosure statement confusing then call the insurance company to clarify what the coverage is that you are paying for. The more questions you ask, the more you will understand. Remember there is no such thing as a stupid question. Also, remember insurance companies record all calls, so keep diary notes of when you called and who you spoke to. Better still send them an email confirming your phone call and what your understanding was of the answers you received. This creates an electronic paper trail that can be utilised at a later date.

Important Definitions & Clauses

There are three important definitions and clauses which appear to apply to the question does insurance cover water leaks:

  • the “Water Damage Clauses” in the actual policy
  • the definition of what is water damage
  • the definition of what is gradual water damage

The Water Damage Clauses

The water damage clauses you should always read carefully and ensure you understand. Generally, it will have a section with several clauses and subclauses in the policy which will cover water damage and what you can claim for if you make a water damage claim on your home.

As a rule, it will state precisely what water damage your insurance policy covers and what is excluded. The exclusions are what you need to be aware of as often they will include an all-encompassing negligence clause coupled with a failure to maintain your home in good repair. If you have these general all-encompassing clauses, ask your insurance company what they precisely mean as we’ve seen these clauses used to deny coverage where it was in a very grey area and open to interpretation in their favour.

The Definition of Water Damage

does insurance cover water leaks caused by stormsWater damage can occur in so many ways that it’s generally not well defined in your insurance policy. In our experience, insurance companies specify water damage in two ways:

  • accidental or sudden water damage
  • gradual water damage

We’ve found that instances such as burst pipes, burst taps, burst valves, overflowing sewerage, overflowing stormwater and storm damage are covered by most insurance policies. This is because it was a sudden event that you could not have prevented.

In contrast, the damage caused by slow plumbing leaks in pipes, showers, toilets, gutters and roofs not damaged by a storm is not covered as they are classified as gradual water damage.

The Definition of Gradual Water Damage

Essentially gradual water damage is the insurance policy get out of jail free card. It is water damage they assess has occurred gradually over time. Frequently the water damage was visible to the trained eye but invisible to you as it covers the rotting of timber under the paint or mould in the walls, floor or ceiling. Essentially the insurance company will conclude you were negligent in not maintaining your home.

Examples of gradual water damage we frequently see are:

  • seepage from leaking taps into cupboards
  • leaking shower trays
  • leaking shower taps
  • leaking toilet cisterns
  • leaking drain pipes
  • rusted-out sections in gutters and roof

The water damage from many of these occurrences is often not covered by your insurance policy as it will be concluded you failed to keep your home in good repair through regular and reasonable maintenance.

Water Leak Prevention

The best way to avoid an unsuccessful water leak claim is regular maintenance by Whywait Plumbing. Now this will not prevent every possible water leak scenario happening, but it will demonstrate to the insurance company that you have been undertaking regular maintenance.

At Whywait Plumbing, we see instances every day of water damage that has occurred through the failure to maintain your home regularly. That is why we recommend all our clients to become a Service Partner and enjoy the VIP benefits of having a Service Partner Plan to maintain your most valuable asset, your home, proactively.

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