house on gramophone

6 House Noises You Should Never Ignore

When one of Bruce Ailion’s clients told the Atlanta-based realtor that he heard a buzzing noise coming from his walls, Ailion cracked the plaster to take a look. He expected it to be the pipes or electrical system making the odd sound. Instead, Ailion was shocked to discover some new residents: thousands of bees.

Houses frequently make noises—a floor creaks, a pipe gurgles, a refrigerator hums—but while some sounds are harmless and even charming, others are early indicators of potential problems that warrant attention.

“Any time there’s something different going on with the house, just like with your body, you ought to consider what that could be,” says Ailion, who has decades of experience diagnosing strange conditions in homes. “Pay attention to the way things work and sound normally; if you hear a change, that could be indicative of a problem.” Here are some potential troublemakers.

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Furnace Making Noise

furnace shaped as celloThere are a variety of sounds you might hear from the furnace, Ailion says. If they’re unusual and persistent, have an HVAC professional check it out. “If an adjustment is needed, it’s not that expensive,” he says. “And if the noise has just started, you could help prevent a more serious or complicated repair later.”

In fact, he says, having the furnace inspected every six months will not only help your furnace run at maximum efficiency, but could help prevent some of these sounds from occurring in the first place. Most importantly, he says, if you haven’t run the furnace for several months, you want to be sure there aren’t any cracks in the heat exchanger, as this could lead to a dangerous carbon monoxide leak. In between inspections, keep an ear open for the following:

  • Squeaking or squealing. This could be an indication that the bearings in the motor need to be oiled or that a piece of one has broken off. Ignoring this could cause the motor to fail.
  • Knocking. Over time, the fan—and the cage surrounding it—can shift or become bent, and a banging sound could be the fan clipping the cage. (It may sound like a spinning washing machine that’s out of balance.) Over time, it could damage the entire system.
  • Popping. This could be a sign of moisture in the gas line, or that the gas line has become clogged.
  • Clanking. More common in older systems, this is a sound you may hear when you start the furnace. It can be caused by metal that’s rusted and chipped off, or soot that’s fallen down from the flue.
  • Whistling. When the filter gets dirty, a whistling noise can result. Ailion recommends cleaning or changing the filter at least every three months, which will help the furnace run at maximum efficiency.

Clanking & Noisy Pipes

radiator shaped as accordionAnyone who’s ever lived with radiator heat knows how noisy pipes can be. When it isn’t draining properly, a steam radiator can make horrible clanging sounds—like someone hammering from inside. First, make sure the radiator inlet valve is fully open, as a partial opening could result in some noise. If the sound continues, the U.S. Department of Energy suggests placing shims under one side of the radiator, to tilt the excess water back toward the pipe or steam trap.

If your boiler is knocking, your circulation pump may be on its way out. Contact an HVAC professional.

Wall Creaks & Skittering in the Walls

mouse hole as concert stageSkittering sounds, squeaks, buzzes and other noises coming from your walls and attic may mean there’s something living in your house that isn’t part of your family. In addition to bees, Ailion says, “raccoons, squirrels and birds have been known to get into attics and cause noises.” Of course, mice and rats can do the same.

If you hear something, search the outside of the wall for anything out of the ordinary. If you don’t find anything but the noise persists, consider setting traps or calling an exterminator.

Humming Appliances

refrigerator shaped like speaker

If your dishwasher sputters or grinds, something may be stuck in the chopper blade area. A buzzing refrigerator may mean that the compressor is ailing. A humming dryer could mean that there’s an object caught in its blower wheel. These conditions are difficult to diagnose without expert attention, according to Ailion, so consider calling a professional as soon as you hear the noises.

Bubbling & Noisy Pipes

water heater shaped like a drumOver time, sediment builds up on the bottom of a water heater as minerals precipitate out of the water and settle in the tank. Excessive sediment accumulation may produce a popping or rumbling sound, which should be your signal to call in a repair professional. Depending on the severity of the situation, flushing the inside of the tank might be enough to fix the problem, but it could also be time for a new heater. Either way, this isn’t something you want to ignore. Fixing it could prevent water leaks, Ailion says.

Whistling Window Noises

windows shaped like trumpetImproperly installed windows, worn weather stripping, changes in temperature and the simple passage of time can all cause an unwanted whistling inside the house. Not only is the sound annoying, it can also lead to energy waste. If you can’t find the source of the whistling yourself, consider hiring a professional to find and fix the problem.

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Read More: Get more helpful home maintenance tips with our Ultimate Guide To Home Protection.

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    Leave a comment

  1. Valerie Jackson says,

    I am a senior with slight hearing loss but also tinnitus and i though the rumbling i heard was my ears on and off; i have checked everything in the house. So I had the idea to write down the times the noise of rumbling, which last about half hour, and although not exact as could be on for a few minutes before i am woken up, it seems about every two hours through the night and not as often during the day, or day noises of normal living cover it up. We live a few blocks from Canada Pipe Line and a few blocks from City water treatment plant. Husband says he doesn’t hear it but I sure can and have not had a full night’s sleep for a few years. I cant hear our 2 fridges when standing in kitchen and basement unless I go downstairs and put ear to them, sometimes running, sometimes not, so I dont think its them but has similar,louder, noise…pulsating mechanical dull spinning is how I can describe, driving me nuts.

  2. Ann Craggs says,

    I have an ongoing hum in my house that is really debilitating, I have replaced the furnace, had someone crawl under the house who found nothing and no one else seems to hear it.
    It is pretty persistent although there is the occasional respite.

  3. Merle Tindall says,

    I live in apartment and am hearing whistling. I have had the smoke alarm replaced by still hear it occassionally and it seems to be getting worse. What would be causing this whistly.

  4. Bob Dobalena says,

    my neighbors play loud death metal all night , every night. These singers growl , howl and yell about the devil and corpses and other odd subjects. Its making me crazy with anger. I’ve called the cops and they just drove by slowly while these heathens partied like teen girls on spring break. Im at my wits end.

  5. Valerie Vivas says,

    My whole house has a low frequency hissing/whistling/hum (for 10 months ). It’s not HVAC, bees, phone, cable, gas. Could it be electric, water, gas meter, tvs? I’ve been doing all the hard investigating work. What specialist can definitively find the source ? Thank you!

    • michele mencher says,

      my house has a low frequency hissing/whistling/hum 24/7 for months now. it’s not hvac, bees, phone, cable, gas. could it be electric, tv’s. what specialist can definitively find the source. i’ve already had an exterminator come and check and he found nothing. can you help? thank you.

    • Valerie says,

      Update – almost everything has been checked and no source has been found making the noise!! Last to check will be a plumber but water bill is the same and no leeks detected. Still need help!

  6. jim says,

    this drove me crazy for 3 years. I assumed my house was falling apart. Then one day it hit me: it sounded like a bass speaker. I have surround sound througout both floors and stray electrical signals from the control unit were doing it. I unplugged it and it stopped!

  7. Pietro Piras says,

    Avery 10 to30 minutes my house make noise like someone banging hamer on the water pipes ( watt it is ????)

  8. Brenda says,

    Our whole house has a low frequency hum ( for 8 months ). It’s not electric, water, propane gas, HVAC, water pressure, bees, phone, cable. We’ve done all the hard investigating work. It’s not nearby factory ( they shut everything down just to prove this for us, which was actually amazing when you think of it ). It’s like a huge truck is parked outside, idling 24 hours a day. I’m ready to move to Green Hills in WV. What specialist can definitively find the source ?

    • Iris McLemore says,

      Noise in my small apartment is very loud and low pitched with vibrations. It never stops and the source cannot be located. No one else can hear it but me. I’m worried it may be ultrasonic or something dangerous. It is the same as the posting above mine here. Please help me.

    • Sharon says,

      We have a similar noise. We’ve lived here almost 30 years. Ongoing for about 2 1/2 years! Sounds like many semis idling in a truck stop lot @ night. Started lighter @ first & would stop somewhat. Now it’s EXTREMELY louder, more rapid & NEVER stops it’s 24/7! It also seems to make all floors vibrate! No one else claims to hear it!!! I have tinnitus (it’s not this), neuropathy from chemo & diabetes since 2006. It seems to make me clumsier! I’m only 67!! It’s affected my walking, sleep (exhausted) & mood, it’s driving me insane! My husband could care less…he calls me crazy!! I know what I hear!! I’m home bound, I’m stuck with it! It’s maddening!

      • Rick says,

        Depending on where you live, this could be coming from active underground tunnel systems. More commonly found in northern New Mexico and parts of Utah and Colorado. Google “Taos Hum”. Some people hear it and some don’t. It can be maddening for those that hear it.

      • Wendy Mary Browning says,

        Hi Sharon , you have described the exact same problem we have in our Bungalow, we moved into a year ago, and the noise is 24/7. droning and reaching a rapid speed at times. Any advice you can help us with will be great.

      • Diane says,

        It sounds like a speeding rotating motor under our house and feels as though cold air being pushed into home at same time. Husband says that he doesn’t hear nor feel it. Yet, he claims to be cold. What is it? It is deafening!!!

    • Rick says,

      Depending on where you live, this could be coming from active underground tunnel systems. More commonly found in northern New Mexico and parts of Utah and Colorado. Google “Taos Hum”

    • Wendy Mary Browning says,

      Hi Brenda, we have the exact same problem, and we also are at our wits end, we have contacted environmental health who cannot help. we have had new electrics, new boiler, and still the sound persist. Our neighbours, family and friends, cannot hear it either.

  9. Vicky says,

    My walls click very softly.
    It feels like someone is stalking me and has invaded my privacy.
    Well i was stalked and harrassed and had to move.
    I want it to stop
    I dont know who to talk to , it has been going on 4 yrs

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