Snap, crackle, pop! These noises don’t just come from a cereal bowl, but from your attic, basement, and every floor in between. If your home is putting on a worrisome symphony of creaking and hissing, fear not. We asked experts to translate what your home’s noises are trying to tell you, and also provide solutions to shut down the causes so the sound effects aren’t driving you nuts.
Gurgling toilet tank
Translation: This means your toilet is running when you’re not on it—and likely costing you wads of cash in high water bills.
To fix it, “ensure that the flapper in the toilet tank is completely covering the valve opening. If not, replace the flapper,” says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman, the nation’s leading commercial and residential repair, maintenance, and improvement franchise
“If the flapper is completely covering the valve opening, check to make sure the float is adjusted so that the water level is approximately 1 inch below the top of the overflow pipe,” Sassano says.
Water should stop filling the tank when the float reaches the proper water line level. If not, the float assembly will need to be adjusted.
Translation: Uh oh, you might have a leaky flapper on your hands.
The flapper is “the connection point between the tank and the bowl,” says Sassano. A loose connection causes “the fill valve to turn on slightly, refilling the tank due to water loss.”
Sassano offers this tip to pinpoint the noise: “Flush the toilet and wait for the bowl to completely refill. Add a few drops of food coloring to the tank. If any color seeps into the bowl, it’s time to replace the flapper.”
Translation: Some noise from your heating and air-conditioning unit—namely a low hum—is normal. But if you begin to hear loud clanks and thumps, Kevin Cargile of Omaha’s Aire Serv recommends checking the unit “to see if a screw or belt needs tightening.”
If you are unable to quickly diagnose the problem on your own, Cargile advises turning the unit off “to prevent further damage. Contact your HVAC technician for inspection.”
Translation: “Sounds in a house can be benign or baneful,” says Frank Lesh, executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors.
A squeak in the attic could be wood shrinking or expanding because of cold, moisture, or heat. “Or it could be the sound of a roof rafter failing under a heavy snow load,” Lesh notes. If your mystery noise happens around the same time of the day, it’s probably the former.
“However, a loud, sudden crack could be a sign of an imminent problem,” says Lesh. He recommends a careful examination of the attic with a bright flashlight to pinpoint the issue.
Dripping in the walls
Translation: Yikes—this could be a hidden plumbing leak.
“If the sound is steady and nobody is using the water, it’s a good indication of a leak from a plumbing fixture or pipe,” says Lesh. “If the sound only happens when a drain is being used, then there may be a leak in the drain, waste, or vent pipes.”
Lesh advises getting the opinion of a local, qualified home inspector at ASHI if you hear this sound.
Translation: Crackling or snapping near an electrical fixture, receptacle, or the electrical service panel (aka the fuse box) “is an immediate cause for concern,” says Lesh. “These sounds typically signify a loose connection, which could start a fire.”
Immediately contact a home inspector or licensed electrician if you suspect electrical issues.
Translation: Yep, you have a gap in the wood. If the underside of your staircase is accessible, Sassano suggests installing shims “and applying construction adhesive to all visible gaps between treads and risers.
Translation: Do your waterlines start banging as soon as you turn on the faucets? You’re not alone.
Don Glovan, a Mr. Rooter franchise consultant, explains that water uses lots of energy to move through a pipe. If the pipe makes a 90-degree turn, the change in direction of water/energy shakes the pipe. If that pipe is loose or touching another pipe, “the banging or clanging begins.”
To minimize noise, “turn the faucet on slowly,” says Glovan. Pipes also bang when a faucet or appliance that uses water is turned off abruptly. To fix both issues, secure all pipes and ensure no two are touching.
“You may have to consult a professional to check for or install water-hammer restrictors,” Glovan says. “These absorb energy from the moving water.”
Translation: “Foundations should not make noise,” says Reggie Marston, president of Residential Equity Management Home Inspections. “Noise indicates movement, expansion, or contraction of the material.”
So if your foundation is doing this, “that could indicate a significant structural concern. Any noise emitted from a foundation, like a loud bang, thud, or cracking noise, could indicate significant movement of the foundation and would require immediate inspection.”
Translation: And then there is something called “the worldwide hum,” according to Glen MacPherson. This is an unusual low-frequency sound heard around the globe—and it lacks any discernible source.
Auhtor Margaret Heidenry
Article originally printed in Realtor.com