I can Hear Water Running Inside the Walls. What does it Mean?

Can you hear the sound of running water inside your walls? That can be a troubling plumbing symptom that should be attended to immediately.

Calling a professional (click here) may get you some advice on what to do, but they will likely ask you to do a little sleuthing to get to the bottom of the problem before they can determine what the problem is.

Are You Sure It’s Water?

A house can create a lot of seemingly inexplicable noises, especially older ones. Are you positive that it’s running water you hear? Vibrations from any number of sources can sound like the humming of water in pipes. A gurgling or banging hot water tank can send vibrations through pipes, or a running furnace fan could also do something similar.

If you really can’t discern the source of the sound, go check on your water meter. Take a note of the exact reading. Wait a few hours, using no water, and check the reading again. If it’s unchanged, then you know the sound isn’t water. If it is water, keep on checking these other steps.

Make Sure Everything is Off

Before you start doing any further work on this, go around the house and ensure that nobody was running water that you hadn’t realized or that any taps are on. When you know that all the fixtures are genuinely off and you still here the sound of running water, you can investigate more. If you have already shut everything off for the last step, you may already have this established.

Check the Toilet

This is a variation on the last step but worth mentioning on its own. A “running” toilet will keep the water flowing through the pipes and you can’t always tell. Listen closely or remove the tank lid to make sure that there is no water movement.

If the flapper is not closing over the intake pipe completely, the water continues to trickle into the tank, which then just drains out the overflow. Thankfully, this is a really simple fix. Either adjust the chain that the flapper is attached to, or very gently bend the arm so that the flapper hits the pipe more firmly.

You May have a Leak

Once you’ve checked on the more obvious potential causes, next you have to look for leaks. If there is no water running through the fixtures, it is most likely leaking out somewhere else. Check on the outside fixtures, under all sinks and examine all the exposed pipes you can in the basement. Use a flashlight, even if it’s not all that dark. Pooled water will reflect the light, making small drips easier to find.

If you go through all these steps and still can’t figure out where the sound of running water is coming from, it’s time to go to a plumber. The resulting problem is probably going to be a leak somewhere you can’t locate and that’s not something you want to leave untreated.