vibrating water pipe under drywall ceiling


I just recently noticed a vibrating water pipe under the drywall ceiling of my partially finished basement. It vibrates when the first floor toilet is flushed and the kitchen sink turns off. The previous owner finished the basement and I assume the pipes are leaning directly against the drywall since the pipes go right along the edge of the beams in the unfinished part of the basement. Is this a problem? I don't notice any of the other pipes in the basement vibrating when water is turned off. Is there a way I can minimize the vibration without cutting open the cieling?
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Sounds consistent with water hammer to me.
First thing to try there is to shut off the main supply valve to the house, then opening faucets at the highest and lowest point of the home to restore air to whatever air traps may exist in the plumbing. In layman's terms, these air traps serve as shock absorbers if you will, and over time they can fill up with water and cease to be effective.
Caveat: this will also test whether your main cutoff valves actually work. Do not apply excessive force a gate valve main cut off if it's not closing fully. I learned this the hard way, but I do have shiny new quarter turn ball valves for my main cutoffs now. :-) If your ground is frozen outside, it may be best to wait to try this all when it's above freezing.
If this procedure doesn't help, there may be strapping that needs to be added to secure the pipe in question, or air traps added by a plumber. But in my own experience, recharging the air traps seems to fix the problem in many cases.
Best Regards, -- Todd H. http://www.toddh.net /
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Thanks a lot Todd! That seems to have fixed the problem - but uncovered another one. I first tried to turn of the water from the valve that comes after the meter and it seems to be stripped (just turned and turned) so I have to turn it off from the main shutoff that comes right before the meter. I assume both of those valves are there as a safety in case one of them fails. Is it dangerous for me to attempt to replace this valve myself? The valve is inside the drywall so I don't have much space to maneuver. Also I'm worried that I won't be able to catch all the water that comes out when I take off the valve. How much of the valve needs to be replaced and is this the water companies responsibility or am I responsible for the pipes that come after the meter?
Todd H. wrote:

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LMAO (we laugh because it hurts and we're sympathetic). See my other thread "gate valves suck" We seem to be living parallel lives somewhat.
Sounds like you had a gate valve where the gate inside the valve has stuck open, and the threads and shaft that connect to the gate have stripped. Been there, done that last week!

You're luckier than I was I was on three counts: at least one of yours worked to shutoff the system, and at least your first one failed open rather than closed, and finally, at least the supply side one is the one that worked! :-)
You're also lucky in that you have the luxury of waiting on this work if you like and don't need it done today. I lived in a house for a few years with one of the two main cutoffs in the situation yours is in, and only needed to change it when the 2nd cutoff quit holding, which made replacing the failing water heater impossible without city involvement.

Correct. And to make a meter swap possible without having to turn things off at the B box at the street.

It certainly wasn't something I had any interest in trying, but if you happen to have experience sweating copper fittings (which involves solder, flux and blowtorches), your decision may vary. If you can get the street-side valve to shut completely off, you at least have a chance for someone to sweat the valve without having to get your water turned off at the B box at the street (assuming your service cutoffs there are similar to the way ours are in chicagoland).
As a data point, cost for me to get both valves swapped out with quarter turn ball valves (lever type valves) with someone arriving within 2 hrs of my phone call was $533 with an adder of $178 for wait time because the city had to be called out to clear obtruction above the B box (mud, frozen water--we had 8 inches of snow on the ground at the time). A union master plumber and apprentice did the work. Your cost will probably be less if you play your cards right.
My water hammer is gone and I have better cutoffs though.

That'll be tricky. Expect to have to cut out drywall and get it patched. Don't expect the plumber to repair the drywall--have a handyman do it, or you can safely do that work yourself. Or, replace the hole with an access panel if aesthetically that's possible.

This is often tricky to get a bucket or enough towels or what not. You can minimize the amount of water involved by draining down the system first of course.

The whole valve should be replaced, generally. A quarter-turn ball valve makes for a more reliable replacement.

I too asked the question though I suspected I knew the answer. In my municipality, all plumbing beyond the B box at the street was my problem (which of course includes valves on either side of the meter).

--
--
Todd H.
http://www.toddh.net /
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Wow, sounds like I better get that other cutoff valve fixed before the first one fails. Do you think it would be wise to have them both replaced since the one that's working looks like it's even older than the faulty one? Also do I need to contact my local water company about changing to ball valves instead of gate valves. I read somewhere that some municipalities do not allow that.
Todd H. wrote:

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Couldn't hurt. Our municipality didn't need to approve the work, but always best to hunt out whatever strange local regulartions there are.
In your situation, you have one that works, I would either try to hunt down a real plumber who'll do it as a side job so you can save some money (you have the luxury of being able to do it at your leisure), or you can also wait to queue up some other items to address to get them done at once. Your call really. It's best of course to have them working fully when ya need em.
-- Todd H. http://www.toddh.net /
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A valve can create a vibration. Commodes have valves with small orifices which are vibration prone. Try replacing the valve in the tank in that commode.
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You could try replacing the valve inside the toilet. But that won't help the kitchen sink.
You may need to install water hammer arrestors at those two fixtures. These absorb the pressure waves when you suddenly turn off the water.
Anthony
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