5 strange house sounds explained
Shannon Lee | Improvement Center Columnist | April 28, 2014
Does your house have things that go bump in the night? Maybe between the creaking door, the strangle rattling in the walls, and the squeaking stairs, you're convinced the place is haunted.
Fortunately, the explanation is much simpler than an apparition in the attic. Houses, whether new or old, make plenty of noise. You might not notice it during the hustle and bustle of the typical day, but when things calm down at night, all those noises come out. What sounds should you expect from your house, and which ones are cause for concern?
Clicking, knocking, and clanking
No, that's not the sound of chains rattling in the attic. There are a few possible sources for this sound, but none of them ghostly - or even worrying enough to call in the pros:
1. If it's the fall or winter, then these sounds may coincide with turning on the heat for the first time all season. It's the sound of the ductwork in your house expanding and contracting with the change in temperature.
2. The noise could be coming from your roof during the hottest days of the summer, when the rays of the sun beat down on the shingles.
3. If it's coming from the radiators, you may have condensed steam built up in the system. Bleeding the radiators could be your quick fix.
Scratch, scratch, scratching
Though it may sound like your walls are haunted, in reality it's the tiny fingernails or teeth of a rodent in your house, hiding among the ductwork and turning your insulation into a comfy bed. If there is any means of entry into your house, you can bet that a wild critter will find it.
Remedy the situation by setting traps, calling an exterminator, and making sure all cracks and holes around your home are sealed up tight. However, remember that some wildlife must be protected and carefully removed from your home. To make certain of what the rules are in your state, get in touch with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble
That popping and bubbling sound isn't the wicked witch. It's probably your water heater, where sediment has settled at the bottom of the tank, then popped and bubbled as the water heats. This is especially true if you have a gas or propane-heated tank, as the gas can make a "popping" sound when it lights up. Draining your water heater of sediment can help.
On the other hand, it could also be the sound of a leak. To be sure, shut off the water at the main line and listen again. Is the sound gone? Turn the water back on and listen closely. The sound of water running could mean you need to get a plumber out there, pronto.
Bang -- bang -- bang!
That wild hammering you hear isn't a helpful carpenter ghost coming back to fix things - for better or worse. If the sound is coming from the walls, it could be a "pressure hammer" -- air pressure in the water pipes.
This might be especially pronounced after flushing a toilet or turning on a faucet. The sound doesn't have to be anywhere near that toilet or faucet, either. Since the pipes run all through the house, turning on a faucet in the kitchen could lead to a banging sound under the bedroom. Try turning off the water at the main, then draining all the lines. This often "resets" the water in the pipes, thus eliminating the hammering.
Whistling in the dark
A whistling sound is not a happy ghost; it's a very unhappy furnace or air conditioning filter. When the filter is dirty and inhibiting airflow, the system still has to get air, so it sucks what it can from around the filter. That creates a whistling sound that seems to be most noticeable when the house is quiet -- at night, when you are lying in bed wondering what that sound is. A quick filter change will help you get a good night's sleep.
What if you are hearing the whistles even after you have changed out the filter? Look to your windows. The slightest breeze can create a draft around older windows, and that can create those whistling sounds, too. Make sure your windows are sealed tightly to avoid the ghostly noise.
But it won't go away!
Houses are made up of a combination of wood, glass, concrete and other materials that contract and expand throughout the day, all at different rates. This leads to creaking, popping, and other strange sounds that might surprise you when you least expect it. So unless you're hearing ghostly footsteps across the floor or your name spoken in an eerie whisper, everything is likely just fine. However, if you have a noise that persists and you're getting concerned, it never hurts to call in the pros and get an opinion for your own peace of mind.