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Plumbing in the Home/diagnosing very loud rumbling noise from plumbing fixture/appliance


QUESTION: Hi, hope this finds you well.  Please help me, as I am desperate with this problem.  I am writing for help for a plumbing related rumbling noise that has been happening at home since the fall.  I am unsure how to proceed because it is intermittent, only with the flushing of the first floor toilet and when running the first floor laundry washer (separately not together).  
It does not happen with every use of the washing machine, however.  Sometimes the toilet and washer operate fine without this very loud rumbling noise, seemingly in the walls.  Other times flushing of the toilet or using washing machine makes the noise happen.  
The noise does not happen with water running in other ways on the first floor, such as water from the utility sink (in laundry room) faucet or kitchen faucet or dishwasher usage. The noise is so loud it seems like it could even be on the 2nd floor, though, which has me confused.  In the fall there seemed like there might be a leak from the laundry room into the basement but it was not attended to to date.  The leak may have stopped but the rumbling noise continues.  
In fact, I thought the rumbling noise was from the washing machine only (an old 1989 Sears model)but now I hear the rumbling with the flushing of the first floor toilet, which has not been heavily used in twelve plus years of residence here. I imagine this means the problem is worsening? Any help you can give in diagnosing this will be greatly appreciated.  I have never experienced such a plumbing related loud noise here and it has occurred for longer than in winter, so it is not as simple as a frozen pipe.  What is the problem, how serious is this, and how can it be fixed?  Thanks for listening to this tale of woe and any help you give.

ANSWER: Dear Sharon,

   I cannot be absolutely certain but from what you have described I would guess that there is a loose pipe in the wall or ceiling somewhere... possibly more than one.  Changes in water pressure and the flow of water cause the pipes to flex and move... normally they are fastened to the framework of the house to keep them from moving but over time the fasteners could deteriorate and allow the pipes to become loose.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Dear Mr. Ambler:  thank you, you have been so helpful I am praying you will be willing to reply to these follow up questions.  imagining it is a loose pipe,how likely is it that pipe will burst due to looseness and do serious damage (pipes are from 1994 installation)? lower likelhood (less than 50%) or higher?  does refastening always need to be done or if it is only water pressure change, does it need fixing? is it best to wait for pipe to burst to locate the problem further or fix before bursting, if bursting can happen? does such noise happen with only increased water pressure, so best to cut down (such as not run washing machine with toilet flushing?) the pressure?  how common a problem is loose pipes or do I have to find a master plumber for a fix if fixing is necessary?  

thanks again am hoping you are having a good day and will reply.  take care and bless you, sharon.

Dear Sharon,

    The decisions about fixing this issue are very individual and depend on your level of tolerance for the problem versus your financial ability to get it fixed.  Assuming that the solder connections were properly done and that the movement of the pipes does not cause them to contact or rub against other pipes or metal objects, then the only issue of concern is the noise.  The possibility of water damage is a scary one because it can be very expensive to repair.  If it were to break and no one were around to turn the water off then the damage could be catastrophic.  If though, you are home most of the time and able to turn off the water in case something happened then the danger is minimal.

    Some companies and contractors have the technology to use small cameras to inspect and examine situations like this inside the wall which minimizes the damage and trouble that would normally be caused by removing drywall to examine the pipes.

   I would suggest taking time to research and locate one of those contractors who would have the technology to investigate the issue without tearing apart the walls.  The money spent in pinpointing the problem would prevent unnecessary damage and save time and money in any repairs that need to be made.  

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Thomas Ambler


I am experienced at troubleshooting and solving all types of plumbing problems. Issues related to specific manufacturers fixtures and specifications though are beyond my field of expertise. I have dealt with problems in both rural and urban areas, and with water supply and drainage systems. Plumbing issues can be very obscure... such as odors, stains or occasional seepage. I have even had to chase rats from a customer's sewer line.


I have 25 years experience dealing with plumbing systems (which also includes hot water and steam heating systems). My main expertise is in diagnosing and solving problems. I have worked in construction and installation of new systems but do not regard myself as an expert in that area.

Asbury Park Press, Seattle Times, Denver Post.

I completed high school and one year of college. I served 4 years in the Marine Corps and have education in electronic and electrical troubleshooting and repair. I have attended classes on installing and repair of oil burners, and I have EPA universal certification for air conditioning and refrigeration. I am now enrolled as a full-time student at Everest college to re-train for a new career. Any donations of financial support would be greatly appreciated.

Past/Present Clients
All of Denny's Restaurants in NJ, Several Burger King stores, I have done work at two different homes for Bruce Springsteen. I have also worked for Jim Johnson (of J&J) and his family, Whitney Houston, Steve Forbes and many others.

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