Things That Go Bump In the Night: Spooky Home Sounds You Shouldn't Ignore

by Lauren Leazenby
Plumber adjusts gas boiler before operating.

From the creaks and groans of a settling house to the thumps and bumps of an HVAC system kicking to life, your home is a fairly noisy place. When you know where the sound is coming from, it’s easy to ignore it. But if the source of the sound is a mystery, you might be wondering what has possessed your home.

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The good news is that the phantom sounds don’t necessarily mean your home is haunted. However, some noises could be a signal that something’s up with the vital systems of your home.

We’ve put together a guide to help you exorcise your home of these disturbances.

Plumbing

Rattling Pipes

The hammering in your pipes is … well, just that. “Water hammer” is the most common cause of noisy pipes, especially for homes built before the 1990s. When you turn off a faucet, the water running through the pipes hits the valve you just closed, which creates that banging or rattling sound.

Learn more about water hammer here.

Sink Sounds

Sinks and faucets can make all kinds of sounds. One of the most common is a gurgling noise that comes from the drain. This burping sound is the telltale sign of a blockage — but not necessarily in the sink drain itself. In fact, that blockage could be anywhere along the maze of pipes that take wastewater to your sewer or septic system. This is most likely the case if more than one drain in the house is gurgling. If the sound is isolated to just one drain, you’ve probably got a localized clog.

What you need to do next is clear the blockage. Use this how-to guide to get started.

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Phantom Flushing

If your toilet is flushing by itself, you might assume it’s the work of a ghost. However, this seemingly spooky problem is actually quite common — and doesn’t have anything to do with spirits.

The long and short of it is that you have a damaged flapper. This is the part that seals the pipe that connects the toilet tank and the bowl so it doesn’t constantly fill with water. If this part is broken, water can fill the bowl, causing the toilet to flush on its own.

Fixing this problem requires replacing the flapper. Check out our step-by-step guide.

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HVAC

Banging Boiler

Your banging boiler is trying to tell you something, but in order to understand what it’s saying, you have to learn to speak its language.

The type of noise your boiler is making can tell you what’s wrong with your system. A single big bang, for instance, usually happens right when a gas boiler fires up due to delayed ignition. Constant noise is called kettling, which has multiple causes.

Read more: Why Is My Boiler Making a Banging Noise?

Plumber adjusts gas boiler before operating.

Freaky Furnace

Furnaces make a lot of noise — especially if you’re dealing with an older unit. That said, there are a few sounds you shouldn’t brush off; they could indicate anything from some loose nuts and bolts to a problem with the heat exchanger. Keep your ears open for:

  • Rattling
  • Chirping
  • Booming
  • Squealing
  • Whistling
  • Popping
  • Clicking

If you think your furnace might be sounding the warning bell, you should take a look at this troubleshooting guide from our partners at HomeServe.

Humidifier

Hissing Radiator

Does it sound like snakes are slithering around inside your radiator? Well, you might have one of three issues going on. Trapped air bubbles can make a hissing sound when they’re heated. Cracks or holes can allow air to leak out, which can also cause that hissing noise. Or, you might have a bad radiator valve. This part (also called the air vent or steam valve) lets air into the radiator until the heat cycle begins. But if the valve gets stuck open, steam can escape and cause hissing.

Dealing with this issue? Well, this article might come in handy: 3 Reasons Your Radiator Is Hissing (and 3 Fixes You Can Try)

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Appliances

Washer and Dryer Noises

You’ve probably accidentally left some change in your pants pockets, or even the belt in its loops. This, of course, can make for a very noisy wash or dry cycle. But if you’ve checked for loose objects and you’re still hearing rattling, rumbling and grinding, there’s probably something wrong with the machine itself.

Here are a few quick things you can try to silence the racket:

  • Dryers vibrate while they’re running, so a rattling sound can result if they are buzzing against the wall or another appliance. Try moving it away from other surfaces.
  • Grinding can occur if your washer is not level, so try adjusting the feet or adding shims.
  • If your washer is making noise during the spin cycle, look for something caught in the lint trap or between the drum and washer casing.

If none of these gets your machine to shut up, calling a professional appliance technician might be your best bet. However, some of these washer and dryer problems can be repaired by a confident DIYer.

Screaming Fridge

Aside from that subtle, low hum, your fridge isn’t really supposed to make any noise. A high-pitched squealing sound can indicate a number of problems, ranging from a faulty ice dispenser to a broken capacitor.

Here’s a step-by-step fridge-fixing guide.

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