Are mysterious house noises making you think your home is haunted? If you hear squeaks and creaks, things that go bump in the night and knocking behind walls, your home is actually being plagued by normal household quirks gone a little awry. Here are house noises explained, with tips on how to quiet them.
Squeaky floors: Are squeaky floorboards grating on your nerves, or foiling nighttime trips to the kitchen or bathroom? Squeaks are the result of boards rubbing together or nails that have loosened. To eliminate the noise you have to eliminate the movement. Regardless of the type of floor you have, there are a couple of easy fixes.
If you've got access to the squeaky floor via a crawlspace or basement, recruit an assistant to walk the floor and help pinpoint the problems, and at the squeak sites, gently tap a glue-coated shim in between the floor and the joist. If the floor is carpeted you can remove the carpet and drive a hardened drywall screw into the board. A short-term fix without removing the carpet is to locate the floor joist with a stud finder and pound a hot-dipped galvanized finish nail through the carpet floor into the joist. The carpet can be pulled up through the head of the nail so that it's invisible. If you have a wood floor, try a little oil soap in the joints, which will quiet the squeak, eliminate the house noise and clean the floor at the same time.
Knocking behind walls: Most likely this house noise is a plumbing problem. There are two common causes of pipe noises: expansion and what is known as water hammer. If a copper pipe is not snugly attached to wood studs in your wall, it rubs on the wood as it expands. This can create a sound that could be described as a knock, bang or even a drip.
The other house noise, water hammer, occurs when the faucet is turned off. Water is very heavy (about eight pounds per gallon) and as it runs through the pipes it picks up speed and a centrifugal force that shakes the pipe when it is turned off. The solution is to better secure the pipe to the framing it is attached to and also to install a water hammer arrestor which is basically a shock absorber for your plumbing system. The good news is that while both of these pipe sounds are annoying, they rarely cause any plumbing damage whatsoever.
Mysterious toilet flush: That house noise is no poltergeist, that's a simple leak. When your tank has a slow leak, it will eventually empty enough to cause the toilet to flush by itself. To confirm a leak, add a drop of blue food coloring to the tank and see if your bowl turns blue.
Drafts: In the movies, frigid air pockets signal a ghostly presence. Most likely, you have drafts rather than spirits. The exterior walls of your home are like swiss cheese, and each "hole" (for a window, door, outlet or light switch) is a source of air leakage. Sealing these openings from the inside can prevent serious drafts and energy loss. Use caulk and weather stripping to seal up these areas and keep cold air out.
All house noises can be explained and remedied with a little investigation, so use these tips and a little DIY time and the haunting, annoying sounds will stop!