We build our houses with wood, glass, metal, concrete and a very sizeable dollop of glue. These materials expand and contract at different rates from moisture, age and temperature fluctuations. The result? Our homes emit creaks, pops, ticks and whines no matter what their age. Where is it all coming from? Which sounds signal problems that need professional attention? Which are merely your house doing its job well to shelter you from the elements?
Knocking, ticking, clanking: These normal sounds of ductwork expansion and contraction occur as cool or warm air move through the system. Radiators also speak up in this fashion and a quick and easy fix often quiets them down: releasing air from the pipes through radiator valves.
Bubbling and whooshing: Bubbling sounds from water heaters indicate that sediment has built up over time. Flushing the water heater helps calm the racket and improves the unit’s efficiency. However, repeated sounds may flag the unit for replacement. A single whooshing noise? That’s A-ok, often indicating a furnace’s or water heater’s heating cycle has begun.
Creaking: Either rhythmic or occurring every once in a while, creaking means your home’s building materials – siding and roofing are typical sources - are expanding and contracting as it heats and cools throughout the day.
Scratching, scrabbling, chewing: Take action as soon as you hear these noises by setting traps or calling for pest control. They’re evidence that mice or other vermin have taken up cozy residence in your home. Once they’re comfortable, they won’t leave on their own.
Whistling: This sound, most noticeable when the house is quiet, can signal a clogged A/C filter. Unable to pull air through the filter, your system will pull air around the filter instead. A quick filter change helps your system breathe easier, improves A/C operation and reduces dust.
Rapid hammering: Often called “water hammer,” this short repetitive sound occurs as water stops suddenly or changes direction in plumbing pipes. While not harmful, it can be loud and elusive – running a kitchen faucet may prompt hammering under a distant bedroom. Handy
DIYers can install “water hammer arrestors” available in any home center; plumbers may be needed to remedy this issue, too.
Squealing, grinding: These alarming sounds – unless you’re running the disposal – usually indicate a home system that’s troubled. Follow the sound to its source, shut off the system if you can do so safely and call for repairs. Dishwashers and dryers are notorious for these distress calls.
One last sound you should never ignore? Running water or dripping sounds when nobody is using a tap. Check toilet flappers and outdoor watering devices first. If you can’t identify and correct it, call a plumber to avoid water damage and high water bills.