info 10.28.13

Banging Pipes
Old New York

Is it Carmina Burana at 5:30am from your banging steam pipes?

The cause of the banging is water in the line. As the steam rises, some condenses on the inside of the pipes. It's supposed to fall back down into the boiler, but if the pipe is pitched the wrong way it can't drop and pools in the pipe. When the steam begins to rise the next time, it needs to get past the water. What you hear is the steam pushing against the trapped water. The fix consists of a plumber (try Sandy's Plumbing, 212.475.6510) either repitching the pipe or adding a return line to allow the water to return to the boiler.

For many people, though, you'll have to convince your landlord to act, which means corralling your neighbors since it's a building-wide problem. The tricky part is that the banging pipes aren't exactly a violation of anything. Sometimes judges will consider it a warranty of habitability issue and sometimes not.

A recording of the noise is not going to be a reliable indicator since there's no way to gauge loudness from it in real terms. For that, you need a company like JRH Acoustical Consulting, which will bring a sound meter into the building (yes, even at 5:30am) to take readings. The results are then compared with standard benchmarks for mechanical system noise. That's the ammo you need for your landlord, and if necessary, for court.

Gwen Verdon, 1953

(Available for purchase from Shorpy)


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