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Select Proper Material for Quiet Plumbing

If you grew up in an older home, you may not realize that plumbing piping can be quite noisy. I am talking both drain lines as well as water supply lines. Plumbing system noise flies so low that it easily sneaks under the radar screen during the planning and design phase of a new home. The first time noise is detected, often immediately after moving in, it is too late to initiate an easy fix. If you want quiet plumbing, you need to solve the problem as the pipes are being installed.

One reason why older homes seem to have quieter plumbing is simply the way in which the homes were built. Thick plaster walls are much denser than a one-half inch thick layer of drywall. You don't have to switch from drywall to plaster to have whisper-quiet water and drain lines. The solution is to look at the different material selections for both water supply piping and drain lines.

Let's talk about drain lines first. My guess is that your builder and his plumber are going to use common plastic drain lines inside your new home. I have no trouble with this material so long as it is only used for 50 percent of the plumbing drain line system that is exposed above the concrete basement or slab floor.

There are two halves to a residential plumbing drainage system. One half of the drain piping carries water to the sewage system and the other half supplies air from the roof into the actual drain lines. Each time you flush a toilet or run water in a sink, the water that flows down the pipes pushes air in front of it. This air needs to be replaced or otherwise dangerous vacuums can be created within the piping system. Gurgling water within fixtures is a telltale sign that vacuums are present. These temporary vacuums can suck water from nearby fixture traps as they try to find the needed replacement air. Dry fixture traps allow sewer gas and possibly vermin to enter your home. No one wants this in a brand-new home.

If your plumber uses new easy-to-work-with cast iron piping for the one-half of the system that only carries water, you will rarely hear any water flowing across ceilings or cascading down walls. Cast iron piping is denser than plastic and the water that crashes and tumbles down the piping on its way to the sewer has a tough time vibrating dense cast iron. Keep in mind, that sound or noise is produced when something vibrates. You will pay perhaps $200 more per bathroom for this noise-free material, but it is well worth it.

Water supply piping can also be very noisy. High localized water pressures combined with thin and undersized piping materials are often the cause of whistling and rushing water as faucets and fixtures are used. Faucets themselves can be noisy and they are much harder, if not impossible, to fix. But the water supply piping in your new home is an element that your plumber and builder can control.

Many typical residential homes use copper water supply lines. The copper tubing not only comes in different diameters but it also comes in different thicknesses. You want to super size both to insure that you or someone else can continue to sleep while others in the house get up and get ready for the day ahead. How many times have you been escorted out of dreamland by that annoying sound of water running through water pipes? Perhaps many if you live in a typical new home.

Be sure your plumber uses type L copper tubing. Most plumbers will use type M copper for water supply lines. The L grade is slightly more expensive but its thicker pipe walls help to dampen vibrations that lead to noise. Larger pipe diameters also are highly effective at stopping noise. If the water pressure in two piping systems is identical, the system that has the larger pipe diameters will be quieter.

Each faucet or valve in your home has a given flow rate when it is fully open. Large diameter pipes can deliver the necessary water to satisfy the flow rate but they do so with lower velocity. Slower moving water within water lines means less turbulence. The turbulence of the water as is rushes through a pipe is what causes the vibrations that lead to sound and noise.

The primary incoming water supply line should be one inch in diameter. Keep it this size until it goes past the water heater and up to the first major bathroom group. All other water supply lines should be 3/4 inch in diameter as they snake through the house delivering water to different fixtures. Your plumber can use one half inch diameter pipe off of the 3/4 inch lines as he delivers water to each individual faucet or fixture. Do not use a one-half inch diameter line to serve more than one fixture if you want whisper-quiet water supply lines.


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