Plumbing Noise: Causes, Solutions and the Importance of Acoustic Isolation
Pipe vibrations cause shaking, and shaking produces noise. When machinery, piping or ductwork vibrate, the resulting sound can travel throughout the structure, causing unwanted sound. This is a common irritant to building occupants and is a primary reason for tenant complaints.
While there are several ways people have discovered to “soundproof” a house, soundproofing plumbing systems poses different challenges. Noisy pipes are generally considered one of the most intrusive and difficult sounds to mitigate. Once such an issue arises, it can quickly become a complicated, labor-intensive and expensive problem to solve.
Here’s what you need to know about acoustic isolation solutions, whether you’re specifying them or you’re a contractor who sees them in the spec.
What Causes Plumbing Noise?
There are a few reasons why pipes may vibrate and cause a disturbance. Some common sources of plumbing noise include:
Drainage systems. This can include sanitary waste piping, storm piping, ABS or PVC piping. Bathroom features like bathtubs, shower pans, and tub and shower valves (with direct contact to building structure) can also contribute to plumbing noise.
Water distribution systems. This results when there’s direct contact between piping and building structures and can even be tied to water pressure, flow velocity and turbulence caused by changes in direction. Noise can also stem from:
- Water flow when a fixture or faucet is activated.
- Thermal expansion and contraction of plastic piping.
- Water hammers when valves are closed quickly. Laundry washing machines, ice makers and dishwashers commonly cause this problem.
Fixtures, faucets and appliances. These mainly make noise because of the materials they’re made of, each one having a different effect. Common materials include stainless steel, cast iron, fiberglass and plastic.
Valves, pumps and equipment. Valves emit different noise levels depending on the friction or turbulence they generate. Pumps are typically very loud in general, and equipment creates noise in a wide variety of frequencies through vibration.
Some building owners today may be familiar with the frustration pipe noises cause occupants and will assign an Apparent Sound Transmission Class (ASTC) rating to their building. Architects may then employ a holistic approach, which involves specifying acoustic isolation products, to meet the acoustical requirements put forth by the owner. This may involve working with an acoustic consultant to help with the acoustic design of the building, which affects everything from plumbing and mechanical systems to the type of wall structure and sealants used.
How to Reduce Pipe Noise and Vibrations
While the type of materials you use in your plumbing systems have some effect on pipe noise, the main goal is to isolate components of the system from direct contact with the building structure to mitigate structure-borne noise. And the best way to do that is by using the right isolation tools.
While it once took a lot of time and energy to locate the proper materials and perform a quality pipe vibration isolation installation, recent advances in materials and methods have made quieting noisy pipes one of the easiest and most affordable tasks in soundproofing a building.
In the past, foam insulation or felt liners were placed around pipe, yet those methods would typically deteriorate over time, as movement from the pipe would slice through the insulation material. Plus, if that insulation was exposed, natural elements like condensation could cause mold or deterioration too.
Today, acoustic isolation pipe supports are the key to preventing noise problems stemming from vibrations, effectively dampening the noise transfer between piping and building structures.
Still, acoustic isolation is sometimes ignored in a project, driven by three main factors:
- Owner/developer and design team’s lack of awareness.
- Lack of contractor awareness.
- Perceived high cost of acoustic isolation methods.
Design engineers can best address this issue through engineering specification and drawings. You can easily add models of acoustic isolation products to your specs using a manufacturer’s BIM library.
Types of Acoustic Isolation Solutions
There is a range of products to choose from depending on the application and where in a building you’re isolating piping. To provide effective acoustic isolation, HoldRite pipe noise isolation solutions include many options such as:
Pipe clamps and inserts. Ideal for sound-rated and isolation applications, these products are specifically engineered to dampen noise transfer.
Isolation liners. Composed of either rubber or felt for sound and vibration isolation.
Riser pads. Minimize noise and vibration transfer at piping stacks and risers.
Pipe hangers. Ideal for noise and vibration isolation and dissimilar metal isolation.
Galvanized pipe brackets. Ideal for vertical or horizontal use in rooms like lavatories, showers and water closets.
Sealant. Used to seal around penetrations in non-rated horizontal or vertical construction assemblies.
With this suite of solutions, pros can reduce pipe noise for all sorts of fixtures, including shower heads, sinks, tubs and water closets.
Benefits of HoldRite Acoustic Isolation Products
HoldRite Silencer products are specifically engineered to dampen noise transfer between piping and building structures, reducing pipe noise by an average of 87%. They also:
- Are FBC certified to ensure the isolator doesn't degrade PEX or CPVC piping material.
- Are third-party acoustical lab tested (ISO-3822 certified) as well as field tested and approved — no other manufacturer offers this.
- Are compatible with a range of pipe materials such as copper, PEX, CPVC, cast iron and more.
- Include a wide range of products that are simple to install and integrate with HoldRite pipe brackets — covering several needs and applications.
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