Houses can make various settling noises as they age and adjust to changes in the environment. Some common settling noises that houses may make include:
- Creaking: This can be caused by wood contracting and expanding as the temperature and humidity change.
- Popping: This can be caused by wood or other building materials contracting or expanding as they adjust to changes in temperature and humidity.
- Squeaking: This can be caused by wood rubbing against wood, such as when a door or floorboard rubs against a frame.
- Rattling: This can be caused by loose objects vibrating or moving as the house settles.
- Thumping: This can be caused by heavy objects shifting or settling.
It is normal for houses to make some settling noises, and these noises are typically not a cause for concern. However, if you notice any unusual or loud noises or if you have concerns about the structural integrity of your home, it is a good idea to have a professional inspect the property.
1. I hear a bubbling or cracking noise coming from the water heater
The problem: A gas-fired hot-water heater works pretty much like boiling a pot of water: A fire is lit and the water inside is heated until it’s ready for use. “A lot of sediment builds up at the bottom of a hot water tank, and that sediment works like an insulator,” forcing the burner to work harder, Kuhn says.
The strange noises you hear are the bubbling sediment — and a sign that the tank is probably experiencing fatigue and maybe facing premature failure, Kuhn says.
The solution: Ideally, you should flush out your hot-water tank every few months, using the drain valve near the bottom of the floor. “However, nobody does it,” Kuhn says because it can be a pain to do. If your water heater is already making these noises, draining it might help. “It could (work) a little longer, it could go a lot longer,” but the damage is probably done, Kuhn says.
2. I hear a switch turning on and off regularly, but I can’t isolate where it’s coming from
The problem: If you’ve got a well for your water, you’ve got a good pump — either in the house or above the well in your yard.
“If you are sitting in your house and hearing the pump switch click on and off, you may have a problem,” Kuhn says.
The pump pulls water from the well and into a holding tank, where it’s stored for your use. If you’re hearing it when you, say, turn on the faucet, something may be wrong. The pump “should not operate every time there is a call for water.
The wear and tear would cause the pump to fail prematurely,” he says. It’s likely that you have a leak in the system. “The leak is either going to be in the good equipment itself, or in a fixture.” For example, a leaky toilet — that is causing the holding tank to drain, Kuhn says.
3. What’s that hissing sound?
The problem: If your home has gas, a strange noise that sounds like hissing could indicate a gas leak, Richardson says. Sometimes you can hear a hissing outside at the gas meter or at a home’s outdoor gas light post. Places where the line could have corroded, he says. “You should be able to smell it, but you never know.”
The solution: If you smell gas around the gas main, don’t mess with the gas shutoff. Get professional help unless you absolutely know what you’re doing. Because any mishandling or spark could make things much worse, Richardson says. If you hear the noise and smell the gas, immediately evacuate the house and call the gas company.