How can I muffle loud pipes in a wall, preferably cheaply?
August 26, 2010 4:44 PM   Subscribe

How can I soundproof or muffle loud pipes in a wall, preferably cheaply?

We just moved to a new place, and one bedroom wall borders the house's pipelines. Whenever hot water is running, they emit a terribly loud, high-pitched whine.

There's a little door near the floor, but we can't access most of the pipes without punching holes in the wall, so wrapping them in insulation won't work, but what else could we do? We'd love to silence them completely, but would be happy if we could just muffle the high frequency. The noisy area seems to be about a 3-4ft length of the wall.

I'm thinking about a tall bookshelf with some sort of insulation between it and the wall (eggshell mattress topper? some kind of insulation that usually goes inside the wall?), but are there better options? If there are affordable options we could ask the landlord for, I'd love to hear about those too. Thanks!
posted by susanvance to Home & Garden (5 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Blown-in insulation?
posted by dolface at 5:16 PM on August 26, 2010

Maybe there's a chance of making it stop by tweaking your plumbing.

First, see if it happens if and only if one particular hot water faucet is on. If yes, make sure the cut-off valve on the pipe leading to that faucet is fully open. You could also replace the washers and packing on the faucet itself and see if that helps. That eliminated a water hammer in one of my houses once.

If all or multiple faucets cause the noise, mess around a little with the cut-off valve for your hot water tank.

If it's still happening, and you have a pressure-limiting valve for the entire house, lower the maximum allowable pressure and raise it to see if that makes a difference.
posted by jamjam at 6:03 PM on August 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I silenced a loud PVC drain in my kitchen by carefully drilling three 1/4" holes in the wall at 3ft intervals along where the pipe ran. I then squirted some expanding foam into each of the holes and into the cavity beyond. The holes were easy to patch and touch up, et voila! no more noise. Future plumbers will hate me, but I can live with that.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 6:22 PM on August 26, 2010

You could theoretically acoustically isolate the entire wall but it will be easier to fix the plumbing problem. Follow jamjam's advice and see if the noise varies as a shut off valve is adjusted.
posted by llc at 6:33 PM on August 26, 2010

I've seen builders on This Old House avoid this (my house suffers from the same problem) by using heavy old iron pipes for upstairs drain lines instead of PVC. The heavier the pipe is, the less vibration and noise.
posted by mathowie at 9:15 AM on August 28, 2010

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