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. Kristal says,

    I’m a single woman and I hear a very high frequency sound? I haven’t seen any bees but it sounds like thousands. Who should I call to look into this problems

  2. Gail Dwinell says,

    Our house rumbles like thunder and then a big pop only at night. Very, very loud. Shakes the walls in bedroom.

    • Margaret says,

      I too have a thunder like sound in my home. It’s constant though about every 30 seconds and the intensity varies. It will shake the walls. I have contacted HVAC.

  3. Betty Markland says,

    I can personally relate to you. I constantly hear music and singing to the point I recognize the songs and can sing alone with them. Also, there is an extremely loud noise that sounds like a generator running. This is in my bedroom and keeps me awake. I know it’s not a generator,etc. I just wish it would stop or I could find out why this is happening. I probably will have to be see a neurologist(misspelled) to find out the reason so I just hope it’s nothing serious. Good luck to you and may God bless you.

    • all says,

      I have checked out ALL logical explanations. But when a sound moaning or buzzing by
      your bedside wakes you up in the middle of the night.. Something is very wrong..?
      I need help here… Is there anyone out there who can?? No cranks please…….

  4. Isabella McCracken says,

    A bit later and noise has not come back. I am sure now that it was/is the baseboard heat … a few years ago, but much colder than it has been. Dripping sound woke me up, oh dear, roof leak, this leak, almost drove myself crazy …when finally it dawned on me, baseboard heater. Mechanic had been here for yearly check up, had warned me to be sure to run upstairs heat when it gets down to 25 or so so the water in the pipes do not freeze …well he had turned it on …leak sound was water in the pipes.

    Anyway, so thankful tp you for letting me find the cause ….p

  5. Isabella McCracken says,

    It has stopped. I have an old house but well kept.have hot water base board heating now that it has stopped, think maybe that was it. It has no teen very cold, 32 the lowest, I have had the downstairs heat on …turned it completely off tonight. Upstairs has not been on yet. Thanks for calming me down, will call furnace guy tomorrow. Burch oil is my furnace company, my #6oil supplier.thank you.

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