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 noise. 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.
Clanking in Your Pipes
Anyone who’s ever lived with radiator heat knows how noisy pipes can be. When not 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.
For those who don’t have radiators, a clanking or banging sound could be indicative of a larger problem. If your boiler is knocking, your circulation pump may be on its way out. Contact an HVAC professional.
Skittering in the Walls
Skittering 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, says Ailion, “raccoons, squirrels and birds have been known to get into attics and cause noises.” And 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.
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
Over time, sediment builds up on the bottom of a hot-water heater as minerals precipitate out of the water and settle in the tank. Excessive accumulation it 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 may 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, says Ailion.
Improperly 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.
Read More: For more helpful tips for work around the house, check out our 7 Home Renovation Do’s and Don’ts.