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Houses make noises: what is yours trying to tell you?

pipes12.07.18 AMEven brand new homes make noises than can be unsettling. In fact, most of the creaks and groans our houses emit are the sounds of wood expanding and contracting, HVAC systems regulating the environment, hot water heaters kicking in. You know, the normal house noises that are to e expected.

Some noises aren’t so normal. If your home begins to make sounds that you’ve never heard before, sounds that make you think something might be wrong, then something might indeed be wrong. Home building inspectors offer tips on which snap, crackles and pops might be a signal that your house has a problem that need to e addressed right away:

You hear water running when no one in the house is running water.

Problem: The sound of running water can indicate one of many issues, none of them good; a burst pipe in a wall or floor, for instance.

Solution: As soon as you realize you that you hear running water when you shouldn’t and you have confirmed your daughter isn’t running a bath, the first thing to do is shut off the main and listen for it. If you can still hear water running, you have a leak somewhere that needs to be found and fixed right away. Time to call a plumber if you’re not a home repair savant yourself.

You hear a switch turning on and off, which can be pretty unnerving. But no matter how you try, you can’t find the source of the sound.

Problem: Homes with well water or a pool have pumps located inside the home or in the yard. The well pump transfers water from the well to a holding tank where it’s stored. If you hear your well pump switch click on and off, or if you hear it when you use a water faucet, there might be a problem since the pump should not activate every time someone turns on a water source—the pump can wear out prematurely. A leak in the well equipment or in a household fixture like a toilet could be causing the holding tank to drain, triggering the pump repeatedly.

Solution: Start by checking the well, toilets, and any fixtures that may have a leak that keeps activating the well pump. Call a plumber if the fix is beyond your scope of knowledge.

Banging pipes

Problem: If you suddenly have a problem with banging pipes, a new high-efficiency appliance may be the culprit. New washing machines and dishwashers with quick-acting valves that repeatedly slam from fully open to fully shut in a millisecond, create a change in pressure that can cause pipes to jerk and whack against walls or framework within the home’s structure.

Solution: Adding pipe hangers can stop the pipes from moving around, but they only stop the noise if you can find the exact spot the pipe is hitting, which could be hidden inside a wall or a floor.

A better solution might be to install water hammer arresters, shock absorbers that cushion the change of water pressure connected to whatever appliance is causing the hammering sound. Water hammer arresters help relieve pressure throughout the system but have the greatest effect when placed beside the offending machine. Simply detach the washing machine’s hot- and cold-water supply hoses from their spigots, and screw on the arresters between the spigots and hoses.

Something’s hissing

Problem: Any strange hissing noise can indicate a gas leak. Sometimes you might hear the hissing outside by the gas meter or outdoor gas light post, which could mean the gas line is corroded. You may or may not be able to smell gas.

Solution: Any time you smell gas near the gas main, do not mess with the gas shutoff unless you absolutely know what you’re doing. Any mistakes or spark could escalate the problem. If you hear hissing noise and smell gas, immediately evacuate the house and call the gas company.

Scratching sounds coming from behind the walls or up above.

Problem: It shouldn’t be a mystery if you hear scratching coming from behind the walls or in the attic—you may have squatters in the form of mice, squirrels, raccoons or even bats. These little freeloaders can cause serious problems, not only with their potential to carry germs and disease, but in their propensity to tear up insulation, nest in siding and even chew through electrical wires, creating a fire hazard.

Solution: Once you suspect your home is harboring creatures, set traps yourself or call in a professional pest control company. The next step is to prevent the problem from reoccurring by sealing up their passageways into your house. Make sure vents and chimneys are securely covered with mesh or a grille to block intruders without blocking air flow.

The water heater starts making bubbling or cracking sounds

Problem: Your gas-fired hot water heater works much like a boiling pot of water—a fire is lit and the water inside is heated until it’s ready to use. Sediment can build up at the bottom of a hot water tank and works like an insulator to force the burner to work harder. The bubbling or cracking noise you hear is the sediment, and a sign that the tank is probably wearing out and may be failing.

Solution: Begin with prevention: flush out your hot water tank every few months using the drain valve near the bottom of the tank. If your water heater is already making noise, draining it might help and buy you a little more time with it, but the damage is probably done. Time to replace it.

The furnace starts making a whistling sound you’ve never hear it make before

Problem: Have you changed your filter lately? Your furnace is trying to pull in air, and that whistling / sucking sound could mean it’s working too hard against the clogged filter and may have begun sucking exhaust gasses from the furnace into the house.

Solution: If you haven’t already, install clean filters regularly every 30-90 days depending on how hard it is working.

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