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.

GEICO can help protect your home.

Noises from the Furnace

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.
  • Banging. Over time, the fan—and the cage that surrounds 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 in the 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.

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 in the 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 Windows

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.

Originally published September 2017. Updated April 2019.
GEICO can help protect your home.

    Leave a comment

  1. Brooke Powell says,

    Thank you for this information. It is very helpful. My refrigerator chirps. It still works but the chirping is annoying.

  2. Hamid Ghazialam says,

    I some time I hear a single beat of a drum. It sounds like someone beats a large drum that has a heavy base. AC ducts?

  3. John Marks says,

    Hello, for the past few months I’ve heard a loud, high pitched “whistle” only in the morning.

    I realize it’s not just me as my cats jump every time it happens. Always between 6AM and 8AM.

    If anyone could point me in the right direction, I would appreciate it!

    Thank you,

    John

    • Joe E Kleffner says,

      Could be a hot water heater blowing off excess pressure or a hot heat boiler system doing the same. Check those two items for water discharging or for excess pressures. Only things I can think of

  4. Carolyn Mobley says,

    Thank you for this information , it was very helpful! I hear noises all the time and I definitely will get my pipes checked . Thank you again

    • Joe E Kleffner says,

      Pipes move when pressure change causes clanking and popping. If its annoying check the pipes to be sure they are tight against the joists and not able to move to much where they pop against the joist or another pipe. Pin point the area then investigate under the floor or up in the walls in the areas of the noise. Hope you do not have to much trouble getting to the area that the noisy pipes are located. I tightened one of the clamps that holds the pipe tight against the joist and that’s all it took to get rid of the loud knocks I had. Glad it was not the boogie man. Happy Halloween.

  5. Anne Harding says,

    I found a snake on a sticky trap in my basement boiler room. My basement is partially finished. I am terrible afraid of snakes. It was lying still. I called my son who was not @ home, he told me if its not moving, it’s dead. I went back to look two hours later the snake was gone. Left its skin on the trap. I got the exterminator to check, he searched the entire house, did not find any signs or indicators.. That was this past July. A month ago, two days in succession. First one baby snake one day? The same size the next day. , stuck on sticker trap between the wall & refrigerator in the same basement room where I saw the larger snake in July., those baby snakes were dead. What must I do?

  6. Nancy says,

    You didn’t mention a sump pump making noise… I heard it for 2 days and then BAM… 4” of water in my basement.

  7. Alois kuhelj says,

    I hear some bang once in a while in side the wall,I think the hose is falling apart and this is my wish,I am 80 years old in hopefully will lesst my life time,after that who cares!!??

    • Lidia Moreno says,

      Had strange sounds on my attic and never found out what it was , believe they were rats but got a cat and problem was solved. Thank you for your information very helpful.

  8. Arlene Tobia says,

    Another noise that must be eliminated…birds in the chimney…chimney swifts made a home in mine. had to wait until they all flew out in the morning. Had a professional install a chimney cover complete with a little roof to keep them out. For several days at dusk, they circled over and over. I do not know of any other homes in the area that have real fireplaces and thus a chimney.

    • Alois kuhelj says,

      Same thing happen to us but in a went from bath roomsI made a wire hook and pull nest out and instal wire mesh over the hole!Problem solved!!

  9. Joseph Slomka says,

    The bee thing actually happened to me.
    I hired a contractor to install some new windows.
    Working from the outside, he encountered a lot of bees, and told me that he
    would not work until I had the bees eliminated.
    I called an exterminator that specialized in bees, he poured some powder into the
    cavity.
    The bees were gone and the contractor happily finished the window job.

    • Alois kuhelj says,

      Yes,I had the same problem in previous home,not bees but wasp,yellow jacket, deadly!I pump in the the wasp entrance some diesel ful and they die all of them.I gave them a dissent funeral!

    • harvetta says,

      Bee problems ought be solved by bee KEEPERS, not exterminators. Bees are critical to our ecology, our planet, ourselves. Please BEE compassionate to all living BEEings.