Pipes are a fundamental part of any home but can be very noisy. Whether you’re wanting to change this because you’re building something like a home theater, or just have loud pipes, it’s really not too hard to soundproof a pipe.
Granted, this is easiest to do during initial construction of the property as pipes generally get hidden behind walls, but if you’re doing some heavy-duty renovation, perhaps to soundproof the entire room (RELATED POST), then this can be a good time to get at the pipes.
The methods suggested below also work on exposed pipes, so here are the best ways to soundproof a pipe in your home.
What Causes a Noisy Pipe?
Noisy pipes are usually caused by one of two reasons. These are:
- The water running through the pipes, along with potential air bubbles, can cause bubbling or gushing sounds.
- The pipes are securely connected to their brackets, and so can vibrate under the pressure of the water moving around inside them.
It’s best to take a look at the pipes before you start your soundproofing project, as the solution could be as simple as changing the brackets to more secure ones so the pipes don’t wobble.
Noise from pipes can be classified as either breakout noise or radiant noise.
Breakout noise is caused by the liquid moving through the pipes, whereas radiant noise is caused by the pipes themselves, for example by them expanding when the heating comes on.
Realistically, both problems can be solved in the same way, but it’s helpful to know that radiant noise will be more common in older properties that don’t have as efficient pipe systems. These are often made of copper or iron, which can corrode over time. Many modern projects use PVC piping because it’s easier to handle and work with.
The reason pipes can be so noisy is because they’re ideal territory for reverberation and vibrations. For example, both the pipes and the wall cavity they’re hidden in are hollow, which is ideal for sound waves to transfer. As a result, pipes are likely a major cause of noise pollution in many homes.
Once you’ve identified the source of the noise, you can then move on to soundproofing the pipe. First, however, it’s worth knowing the best products you can use to complete this job.
What’s the Best Product for Soundproofing a Pipe?
As with any other soundproofing project, your best bet for efficient soundproofing is to use a material specifically designed for the task. For example, the best thing to use to soundproof pipes is acoustic lagging.
Acoustic lagging is essentially made up of several very dense layers of material, including things like vinyl or some insulation materials. It’s particularly effective for this job because it helps to both absorb noise and act as a barrier between the pipe and the wall cavity.
The key here, as with almost every soundproofing project, is to add as much mass as possible.
Most acoustic lagging is made up of laminates of dense materials, which help add plenty of mass without taking up too much space. This in turn both absorbs sound and prevents it from transferring into wall cavities or support joists.
There are plenty of types of acoustic lagging available, many of which are designed specifically for soundproofing pipes. They’re usually very easy to apply, and come in rolls that are sized to be useful for this kind of project.
The overall effectiveness of the product will depend largely on the price, as some cheaper models will be far less effective than the expensive ones.
However, this isn’t always true, so make sure you do plenty of research once you know your budget, and pay attention to user reviews. Many of these will come from industry professionals, and their opinions are very useful when it comes to a project like this.
How to Soundproof the Pipe
So now we know the basics of what goes in to soundproofing a pipe, it’s time to move on to the actual method. The complexity of this job will depend on where the pipes are located, how easily you can access them, and your own DIY ability.
As previously mentioned, soundproofing pipes is best done during initial construction, as doing it at a later date can involve ripping a lot of wall down. However, if you’re pretty handy, and happen to be taking the walls down anyway, then this is a prime time to complete the task.
Although the work involved can be quite long-winded, the actual method is quite simple. Here are the steps you need to follow to soundproof a pipe:
- Identify the wall cavity that contains the noisy pipe. This should be pretty easy, as you just need to follow the sound. Now might be a useful time to identify all noisy pipes, perhaps by running a tap or the heating.
- Locate the wall studs on either side of the pipework. This can either be done using a stud locator (essentially a small radar device like this one on Amazon) or by guesswork with a hammer and nail. If you choose the latter option, just be careful not to hit the pipes!
- Once you’ve found the edge of the stud, make a mark about an inch away from the end of the cavity. This should hopefully mark the center of the support joist.
- Use these points to make marks below the ceiling and above the floor. These should be about 12 inches from either, and this will mark the piece of drywall you’re going to cut out.
- Using the marks you made on the joists, find the center point and draw a line upwards to meet the mark you made 12 inches from the ceiling.
- Next, join up the joist marks with the top of this central line. You should end up with a triangle marked on the wall, which will be the section for cutting.
- Simply cut out the triangle. This is easiest done with a craft or drywall knife, as the surface isn’t thick enough to warrant a saw. This also gives you more control over how deep the cut is, meaning you can avoid the pipes.
- After taking the piece of drywall out you should have the exposed pipes in front of you. Take your acoustic lagging and wrap it around the pipes, securing in place using cable ties.
- Finally, nail the piece of drywall onto the studs and fill in the cuts with drywall filler. Once this has dried, sand it down so you can’t see the joins and then touch up with paint.
As you can probably see, this method is a bit fiddly, but it gets the job done. A much simpler method is to just rip all the drywall off, exposing every pipe in the cavity. While not all your pipes might be noisy, soundproofing them all in one go is an easier and more cost effective solution.
Some Final Tips on Pipe Soundproofing
Soundproofing a pipe isn’t really a difficult job, but it does require a bit of DIY knowledge. If you’re thinking of going ahead with the task, here are some final points to consider:
- A quicker, but far messier alternative to lagging is to use spray foam insulation. This is exactly what it sounds like, and is simply a foam that you spray into the wall cavity. Only consider this if you’re pressed for time and space, as lagging is more effective.
- Pipe soundproofing is definitely best if done as part of a larger soundproofing project. Soundproofing your drywalls is a good idea anyway, and if you’re ripping them off to get at the pipes then you might as well do the rest of the job while you’re in there.
- Before starting your soundproofing project, ensure the source of the noise isn’t something potentially bad. For example, it could be caused by a leak, so it’s worth taking on a comprehensive inspection of your piping system.
- Also consider your water pressure. High pressure is another big cause of noisy pipes, and can damage appliances. If you discover you have high water pressure, install a pressure regulator. These are inexpensive and definitely worth the investment.
- Mass loaded vinyl, which is used in a number of soundproofing projects, is another alternative to acoustic lagging. It comes in large sheets and is often used to soundproof cars. However, if you can work with it then it can be very good for pipe soundproofing.
Soundproofing pipes in your home is definitely worth the effort if you’re looking to enjoy some peace and quiet. However, the most important thing to bear in mind is that noisy pipes can be a sign of a bigger problem, so make sure this is the case before you start covering them up.
It’s also worth considering that many soundproofing principles also apply to heat insulation, so by soundproofing your pipes you may end up with a more efficient heating system too. Just remember that this project can get quite big, so make sure you’ve got everything you need before getting started.