If houses could talk, what would they say? Listen carefully, and you might hear them trying to tell you there’s a leak in the attic, or your plumbing is about to blow. You might hear dripping and knocking and whooshing and buzzing. None of these signs should be ignored, but rather, carefully considered before you have a much larger and messier project on your hands. Below, experts weigh in on what each sound might mean, and how to avoid home repair doom.
Plumbing is to blame for many of the sounds you hear going bump in the night (or day). Doyle James, president of Mr. Rooter Plumbing, a Neighborly company, says, “Hearing foreign sounds coming from your toilet can be not only stressful to you, but it can also point to a larger issue currently happening within your home’s plumbing system.” A foghorn sound when flushing might be a small piece of rubber in the back of the toilet. “Check and lift the float ball all the way to the top of the tank when you hear the noise,” he instructs. If the sound stops, you probably have a loose or worn washer in the water fill valve mechanism that you’ll need to hire a plumber to replace.
If you know nobody just used the bathroom, but the toilet is flushing itself, avoid going all ghost hunters on your home and instead check for a faulty flapper, says James. “This causes water to slowly seep out and, once the float in the tank gets below a certain level, your toilet will flush on its own.” You can test for flapper issues by putting several drops of dark food coloring in the toilet tank and waiting to see if dye appears in the bowl, indicating a leak, he says. Then you’ll need to bring in a plumber to replace the flapper at the bottom of the tank or the fill valve.
Metal on metal sounds could indicate a problem with your HVAC unit, according to Lane Dixon, VP of operations at Aire Serv. The banging sound might be a blower wheel out of balance, an obstruction, or another issue nearby. It could also mean you’re dealing with an improperly adjusted blower speed, or that a fan motor is out of balance, as the fan could hit the top of the grate on the outside of the condenser unit. All that is to say, call your HVAC professional.
Dixon does add that whistling or flapping might be improperly sealed ductwork or a clogged air filter, which might be a little easier to remedy on your own. “If the homeowner has recently changed, cleaned, or replaced the air filter within a recent period of time, then it would be assumed the filter is not the cause,” explains Dixon. “If they have not recently changed, cleaned, or replaced the air filter, then I would start with this and check the air filter as a process of elimination.”
If you hear dripping, you can typically find the faucet you didn’t turn all the way off and move on. But if you hear dripping without an obvious source, Joshua Miller, VP of technical training at Rainbow International Restoration, says that you might have dripping behind walls or above the ceiling. “This can be signs of bigger problems and should be assessed by homeowners immediately,” he says. First, eliminate the possibility that it’s a faucet, water heater, or outdoor plumbing, and call a home restoration professional to deal with a potential broken pipe or other issue.
Hear this noise? You might first think a bug got stuck in your light fixture, but if that isn’t the case, you could have a larger issue on your hands. Joel Worthington, president of Mr. Electric, says, “If you happen to hear a buzzing from your outlets or light fixtures, that’s a sign of a loose connection — this is especially dangerous because, if not taken care of, it can cause an electrical fire.” Call an electrician promptly; working with electricity without experience can be deadly.
Furthermore, don’t hesitate to call in a pro to examine any other sounds happening in and around your home that make you wonder if you have an issue, as many of them can result in larger and more costly repairs, and even dangerous situations, if left alone.