What is the risk of a squealing pipe to your home’s plumbing?

By on 9/20/2011 02:04:00 PM

Old Basement Piping may be to Blame for Odd Household Sounds and Squeals!
(photo:  sxc.hu/jesparado)
Is your plumbing squealing? What? Yes, you read that correctly. Many people are familiar with clanging, banging, “noisy” old pipe sounds…but, a home’s plumbing can also make high pitched, awful squeals that can lead a family to madness—especially in an apartment to multi-family home. What causes pipes to squeal and what are the risks of squealing pipes if not repaired?

Can plumbing squeal? Several weeks ago, I noticed a high pitched “squealing” sound that I wasn’t able to locate…and it drove me absolutely insane. It would go on for hours and then mysteriously stop. At first I thought that the sound came from our attic vent—which is near my home office window. Oddly enough, through, I noticed that I didn’t hear any sounds from that attic vent when outside. Hmmm. Then I noticed that sometimes the squealing stopped after the girls brushed their teeth. Could it be the pipes causing the sound? Yes, I learned, the awful, odd, squealing sound WAS coming from my pipes. Now what?

Why do pipes squeal? I’m not a plumber, but I’ve been told that the squeal sound is caused by a mixture of pressure caused by either an obstruction (rust perhaps—or even dirt if you have recently had some plumbing work done) within a pipe or—the problem could be a faulty valve or fitting, along with moving air and water. I guess it’s similar to blowing air over a filled bottle of water and getting that “musical” hum. Hmmm. I have a four bedroom, two bath home with water lines supplying the home, the garage (although those outlets are "sealed off"), and a separate outdoor water supply. How does one find such an aubible obstruction, faulty valve, (expensive pain in the mom checkbook) without hours and hours of searching…probing…plumbing billing?

Plumbers have a process to find squealing pipes. Apparently, there are ways without super-secret, spy x-ray glasses, and ultra-expensive explorations, to probe and explore your home’s plumbing. Is it expensive to fix squealing pipes? Remedying squealing pipes often depends on the layout of your home, the location of the cause of the problem, and your particular plumber.

What are the risks if you do not fix squealing pipes? If your home has older, galvanized piping, the actual pipes may be rusting, creating the squeal producing obstruction, signaling that the pipes need replaced. Rusted, malfunctioning pipes create a host of leaking and water pressure issues for homeowners if left unattended. If the squeals are simply coming from a faulty valve—the replacement may be quick and easy while unattended risks may also result in larger scale leaks or plumbing problems.

Need a quick fix while waiting for the plumber’s estimate or repairs? I have limited hearing—but, high pitched sounds are maddening! If I turn on the cold water to our upstairs bathroom sink at full force—then quickly and forcefully turn it off—the plumbing's squealing stops. (This works even if the squeal initiated from the downstairs laundry room or downstairs shower.) I have learned that, through trial and error, you can remedy the squeal with toilet flushes, or by running water through other water faucets throughout the home and quickly turning off the water flow once you locate the "stopping point".  (In my case, it's the cold water flow to my upstairs bathroom!)  You may want to try this method with both hot and cold water flow if possible since the problem may be related to only one of the water supply pipes or valves! (If you are in an apartment or multi-family home—this may not be possible, so a call to the landlord may be in order!)

Final Squealing Pipe Thoughts--From a Mama's Point of View?  As a homeowner, I would recommend calling your favorite plumber for an estimate to locate and repair the problem and avoid any future risk of damage. (Bear in mind, I grew up with a proactive mechanic for a grandfather…his logic was that mechanical things make sounds to warn you that a fix is needed…and sometimes the longer you avoid the warning, the worse your repair bill!)

About Angela

Angela is a freelance travel writer and lifestyle blogger, blessed with 3 beautiful daughters, 5 moody cats, 1 spoiled dog, and 1 very supportive husband.


  1. Squealing pipes are signals of plumbing problems. If this happens, it is a good idea to let your plumbing be checked by a plumber because if it is just left unnoticed it may lead to greater damages.

  2. Tell our management company this. The squealing is so loud and so frequent. Our complaints have gone ignored.

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  6. You are right, recently I read many articles about the bathrooms ideas and repairs it, but completely forgot that is outside of my view. These pipes also need to be changed in my bathroom otherwise it threatens to flood the floor of the house)

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