Most of us like our houses to be quiet, peaceful places, but we also accept that no house is perfectly silent. While a creaking floor or a noisy radiator might be part of the charm of an older home, sometimes a noisy house is trying to tell you something, and that something might be expensive to fix and dangerous to ignore.
If you hear the following noises coming from your house, it’s time to start paying attention — and maybe worrying.
Whether you have a gas furnace or a boiler, if your home’s heater makes excessive clanking, knocking, or pounding sounds when it comes on, it’s often a sign of wear and tear that could lead to huge problems if not addressed. If you have a furnace, it might be an off-balance, corroded, or worn-down fan belt that’s on its way to catastrophic failure. If you’re hearing heating pipes clank and knock every time your boiler cycles, it’s probably nothing to worry about, as expansion noises when the pipes heat up aren’t uncommon — but if the noise is excessive in duration or volume, you should contact a plumber and/or HVAC pro to investigate anyway.
If you hear a wheezing, whistling noise every time your furnace cycles, it probably means your filters are old and clogged, and your furnace is struggling to pull in fresh air for its cycle. That can lead to the furnace sucking in its own exhaust gases and circulating them throughout your house — a dangerous and unpleasant situation. The fix is easy — change your filters. To prevent this from happening again, invest in a filter whistle that will alert you when the filter is about halfway clogged.
Scratching and crackling walls
If you’re sitting in a quiet area of your house and start to hear something in the walls, don’t ignore it. Scratching sounds can indicate an infestation by squirrels or other rodents, and a crackling or crunching noise could indicate termites, carpenter ants, bees, or other insects committed to destroying your house one delicious wood fibre at a time. If you hear anything inside your walls, call an exterminator immediately.
Modern appliances are designed to run quietly. If you are hearing a consistent humming noise coming from your refrigerator, dryer, or dishwasher, it’s time to call a repair professional. While a humming noise could be caused by any number of problems — some minor — it almost always indicates a problem that’s going to get worse. A humming refrigerator, for example, indicates a failing compressor, and a dishwasher that emits a steady hum might have something jammed in its guts that will eventually stop it from operating properly.
Belching drains and toilets
If your drains or toilets gurgle, bubble, or make burping sounds, you likely have either a clogged or broken sewer pipe or vent stack (the pipe that lets sewer gas escape your house). A clog can be cleared relatively easily and will solve the problem, but a broken sewer line is a nightmare of expense and trouble — and something that you’ll need to address sooner rather than later. Unless you manage to clear the problem yourself, call a plumber pronto.
If you notice that your windows start singing to you every time the wind blows, they were either installed incorrectly or the weather stripping has eroded over time. Air is getting in, which means your heat is getting out in the winter and your cold air is getting out in the summer. Unless you repair it, water will probably also get in during a hard rain. The fix could be as simple as caulking your windows, or it could mean it’s time for new ones.
Bubbling water heater
If your water heater starts to sound like a pot of boiling water, you might be buying a new one soon. As water heaters age, they collect sediment at the bottom. Eventually, this layer of sediment starts to act as an insulator — meaning the heater has to heat up the sediment before it can heat the water. That hot sediment will bubble like something cooking on a hot stove, making your water heater work extra hard and shortening its life. You can slow this process down by draining and flushing your water heater regularly, but of you’re hearing that bubbling already, it’s probably too late.
This shouldn’t need to be said, but if you hear running water in your house when you are not running the water, you either have ghosts or a serious problem. Dripping, trickling, or flowing water sounds almost certainly means a leak, and if you can hear it, that leak is actively destroying your house even if you can’t yet see the damage. Identify the location of the leak and shut off the water to that area of the house as quickly as you can.
Groans or pops from below
If you settle onto the couch to watch TV one night and hear a loud pop or crack from below, or if your basement or crawlspace regularly makes a groaning noise, schedule an inspection immediately. Generally speaking, your foundation shouldn’t make noise at all. Houses do settle, and extreme temperatures can cause expansion that might explain some weird noises coming from your foundation, but if it was loud enough to startle you, get someone in to look at it.
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