If you have a bathtub faucet making loud noises, it can get really annoying, really quick. Let’s have a look at what is causing that tub faucet to make such a racket and what you can do to quieten it.
Why is my bathtub faucet so loud? The two most common reasons for a loud bathtub faucet are
- Vibration in pipes
- Restricted water flow
Both can be easily investigated and repaired under most circumstances.
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I have lived in a lot of houses and apartments over the years and have run into this too many times to count. I wish I’d understood this better at the time.
Let’s look at the main causes and how to make the necessary repairs so you can get back to sleep.
Styles and Parts of Bathtub Faucets
Before I describe the reasons and solutions to the bathtub faucet noise, it is important to understand how bathtub hardware is constructed, the different styles available, and how it all works together.
3 Main Parts of Bathtub Plumbing:
- Tub Spout (with or without a shower diverter)
- Shower Head
Styles of Faucets
Faucets can be mounted and configured in several ways, depending on the application and desired functions.
For a free-standing bathtub, like a garden tub, faucets can be mounted on the deck of the tub surround, on the floor, or on the wall.
Wall-mounted faucets are the most common mounting for bathtub/shower combo units, whether one-piece fiberglass units or custom tiled combos.
Here are the most common configurations for wall-mounted faucets.
|Faucet Style||Outlets||Valves and Uses|
|Single-Hole Bathtub||Bathtub spout only||Hot/cold mixer (Single temperature)|
|Single-Hole Combo||Tub spout and Shower head||Hot/cold mixer (double temperature), Shower diverter|
|Three-Hole/Centerset Bathtub||Bathtub spout only||Hot valve, Cold valve|
|Three-Hole/Centerset Combo||Tub spout and shower head||Hot valve, Cold valve, Shower diverter|
Of course, there are also various styles of shower heads and diverters, but for determining the noise emanating from your bathtub, it really doesn’t matter what kind you have. The process will be the same.
How Does the Faucet System Work?
Simply put, the faucet’s job is to mix the water entering the fixture from separate hot and cold pipes. Whether you have a single temperature valve or double temperature valve, the faucet serves the same purpose.
The mixed water can then flow out of the spout and into the tub.
If the bathtub is part of a shower combo, the tub spout diverter is used to close off the flow of water through the spout in order to redirect the water through the shower piping and out the shower head.
Other valves, such as pressure valves, can change the flow rate.
All of these parts work together to bring temperature-controlled water into your tub. They also create many places to have potential problems. Let’s look at the most common issues.
Finding The Source Of Bathtub Faucet Noises
Most noises originating from a bathtub faucet are related to vibration and restricted water flow.
Restricted flow forces water to stream through a smaller space, which creates a whistling noise, much like a tea kettle makes when steam escapes its valve. In addition, vibrations can resonate through a solid surface.
Here are a few reasons this could be happening and what you can do about it.
Mineral deposits, such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium, can develop over time and cause blockages and restricted water flow. You have probably noticed these deposits on shower heads.
Disassemble and inspect the valves in your system, including temperature control valves, showerheads, and pressure valves, for mineral deposits. Clean with vinegar or another hard water cleaner or replace the valve if necessary.
Worn Tub Spout Diverter
Over time the tub spout diverter can wear out, causing a loose valve inside the mechanism to vibrate. Either replace the valve or the entire tub spout.
Here’s a video from This Old House that demonstrates this process:
Loose Or Not-Fully-Opened Valve
Another common problem but simple to fix is a loose valve or washer causing vibration. Inspect all valves and replace or repair the loose pieces. Also ensure that the valve is fully open in operation—a partially closed valve creates restricted water flow.
Debris From Decaying Valve
Besides wearing down or becoming loose, valves can break apart, leaving small pieces of debris in the valve that vibrate. Replace the broken valve and flush out any remaining debris.
Air In Pipes
Occasionally, air in the pipes can cause noise. Usually this can be remedied by fully draining the line or flushing the water heater to reduce mineral buildup that causes air bubbles to build up in the line.
Pipes Vibrating In Wall
When hot water expands, it can make the pipes rub against the studs or other supporting structures. If the pipes are strapped too tightly to the studs, the sound can resonate through the walls.
Likewise, if the pipes are too loosely attached, they can move and vibrate. If none of the above remedies fixed the noise problem, you may need to access the piping, reattach the straps, and insulate with spray foam.
Occasionally, a phenomenon known as water hammering can happen from a sudden change in pressure.
This is caused when water moves quickly through a pipe but experiences resistance due to an elbow or partially closed valve (source).
First, ensure that the water valve is completely open. If the noise continues, it may need to be addressed by reducing the water pressure at the house main or adding pressure control valves.
As you can see, the most common issues that cause loud noises in a bathtub faucet involve restricted water flow and vibration. By investigating the various moving parts of your bathtub hardware, you are likely to discover a simple fix, involving cleaning or replacing valves.
Rarely, the problem is found farther up the plumbing line and can be mitigated with insulation or pressure adjustment.