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Silencing A Noisy House

By Jim Sulski

Summary: Everybody hears little bumps and squeaks in the night. Jim helps you identify and fix some of the most common house noise makers in the night.

It's three a.m. and suddenly you're awaken by a mysterious sound emanating from the attic.
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Burglars? Probably not, as crime statistics show most smart burglars operate when no one is home. Poltergeists? Even more unlikely.

Those unnerving and irritating sounds you often hear in the wee hours are usually just your house making itself, well, comfortable as it settles in for the night. And why are such extraneous noises usually only heard at night? Well, that's when your house and neighborhood is extremely quiet, so you're much more cognizant of any noise. Mysterious house sounds are usually nothing more than just an irritation and are rarely a sign of trouble, such as a structural problem.

Homes shift, expand, settle, etc., and when you have all that activity they can make a few strange sounds. House sounds are produced by a number of sources. For example, there are the sounds that the mechanical systems in your home make around the clock. Sump pumps, furnaces, ice makers, central air conditioners, etc., all make noise during operation and never really stop working, even when you're asleep. Short of getting rid of those things, you'll never really silence them (although newer models tend to work much quieter than their older counterparts).

But there are some home sounds that can be eradicated or at least diminished. What follows is a guide for getting rid of things that go thump, creak, bang and scritch in the night. Tracking down the source of a noise that takes place in the middle of the night may not be that easy. The best bet is to isolate the sound while it's occurring. If that's impossible because the sound is taking place outside during a late night thunderstorm, carefully inspect the area the next day.

Usually the source of the sound is fairly easy to find. Look for loose pieces of siding or roofing or check for signs of wear, such as marks from where wiring may be thumping against the side of the house. You can also almost differentiate between a wood noise and a tin noise. So that can narrow down your search.

One of the most common sources for unexplainable home sounds, especially during the summer months, is the contraction and expansion of aluminum or steel siding. It's often a result of improper installation, which doesn't allow the siding to move. The siding then makes a creaking noise as it struggles.

A homeowner might have to learn to live with those sounds. To repair the siding is a major job. You might have to take it down and rehang it. Or you can try to cut it where it's too tight.

Wood siding, particularly darkly-stained cedar, can also make cracking and popping sounds as a result of expansion and contraction. Again, there is not much you can do about the problem.

Another common source of sounds are tree branches or utility and antenna wires banging against a home, especially in a windstorm. Loose downspouts, shutters and even storm windows can also imitate the sounds of a noisy burglar or a troublesome ghost during heavy winds.

If you determine that it's a utility line making the noise, call the utility company and let them make repairs. If it's a television or cable antenna wire that's thumping away, fasten it down with clips that are especially made for such wire.

Loose downspouts - the vertical gutter pipes that run down the sides of your home - can simply be reattached with the proper nails or screws. The same with shutters.

An inconspicuous piece of duct tape can usually solve the rattle associated with a storm window. Stick it in the window track to keep the window from bouncing back and forth when the wind hits it.

Even soffits - the underside of a roof where it meets the exterior wall - can become loose and cause noise.

Trees hitting a home simply require pruning. A small tree branch brushing against the house can make a lot of noise. The tree branch should simply be clipped and it should be taken care of rather soon. A moving tree branch can wear the roof shingles away and cause a leak to take place.

© by Jim Sulski. All rights reserved. February 23, 2005.

NOTE: This column is distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate, PO Box 366, Glencoe, Illinois, 60022. This column may not be resold, reprinted, resyndicated or redistributed without written permission from the publisher. 

2005 by Ilyce R. Glink. Distributed by Real Estate Matters Syndicate.




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