8 Annoying Sounds Your Home Might Be Making — And How to Fix Them

published Sep 13, 2023
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There are lots of things that may keep you up at night. Perhaps it’s the dread of a looming deadline, the excitement of an upcoming trip, or that delicious espresso martini you couldn’t resist after dinner. But if you’re staring at the ceiling due to things that go bump, drip, creak, or clang in the night, that’s a whole different issue. While you’re trying to make your house a home, the plumbing, electricity, and other culprits can sometimes seem like they’re collaborating just to thwart your plans.

Whether you own an older home or just moved into a new one, strange noises throughout your house can be irritating as you count dollar signs instead of sheep as you try to drift off. The good news is that many of these pesky sounds are fixable — some with the flick of a switch or the tightening of a screw. Others require a professional, which is why Apartment Therapy chatted with four pros to get the scoop on everyday household noises. Here are eight of the most common sounds and what you can do to get them to go away.

Clanging Pipes

The sound of water hammering through pipes can be incredibly unsettling because, unlike some other noises, it might not occur at regular intervals. “This happens when water suddenly stops or changes direction, causing a shockwave that makes the pipes bang against their fittings or against the walls,” says Mark Morris, a master plumber with Deluxe Plumbers. The root of the problem is often high water pressure or the lack of air chambers. Before you call in an expert, you can try to reduce the water pressure by adjusting the pressure-reducing valve on the main water line.

Credit: Joe Lingeman/Apartment Therapy

Dripping Water

While the constant drip of water is grating, Jay Sanders, owner of Castle Dream Construction, dislikes it for another reason: It always leads to trouble. “Water damage is extremely expensive,” he reveals. If you hear dripping water, turn off your main valve and assess where the sound is coming from. Josh Mitchell, the owner of Plumbing Lab, says that the issue is often a worn-out washer or defective cartridge. After turning off the water supply, disassemble the faucet to identify and replace the faulty part. “If in doubt, don’t hesitate to call an expert,” adds Mitchell.

Rattling Ceiling Fans

Strange noises from ceiling fans are, thankfully, usually an easy fix. “If you hate the sound of a rattling fan, then you may need to tighten the blades,” says Sanders. Ben Green, CEO of Green Leaf Air, notes that odd sounds could also be due to dust accumulation or lopsided blades. Start by turning the fan off, cleaning the edges, and then tightening any loose screws. If that doesn’t solve the problem, your ceiling fan may be imbalanced, and inexpensive balancing kits are available at most hardware stores. If your ceiling fan is still noisy, it’s time to call in an expert, such as an electrician, to diagnose the problem.

Creaky Floors

If you live in an old house, chances are you have that one creaky board that makes its presence known every time someone steps on it. “Over time, wooden floorboards can dry out and shrink, leading to creaks when they rub against each other or against nails,” notes Morris. The sound can also be due to uneven subflooring or loose nails. If you can access the area below the floor via a basement or crawlspace, try to fasten the floorboard from the underside. Morris suggests purchasing a squeaky floor repair kit for carpeted areas to fix creaks without pulling up carpets. When the sound persists, call in a professional unless you can live with a squeak now and then.

Credit: Viv Yapp

Running Toilets

Described as “the perpetual murmur of a toilet tank that refuses to stop filling” by Green, usually a toilet makes sounds due to a defective flapper valve. When the flapper can’t close properly and create a watertight seal, the bowl won’t fill, creating a constant rushing sound emanating from the toilet. Remove the tank lid for traditional commodes and observe what’s happening inside. Sometimes, things such as toilet cleaning tablets can obstruct the opening, but the more common problem is a misaligned or worn flapper that can be quickly replaced with parts from the hardware store. If the issue isn’t easily solvable, call a pro.

Gurgling Drains

After showering or brushing your teeth, you may hear the drain making a bubbling sound, typically indicating that air is trapped in the drainage system. Another cause could be a blockage causing air bubbles. Although a chemical drain cleaner should work, if you have a septic system, most plumbers advise against it.

Instead, Mitchell suggests using household ingredients to fix the issue. “Start by pouring a mixture of hot water and dish soap down the drain to dissolve minor clogs,” he says. If the sound continues, a plumbing snake or hydro-jetting service should work, but call a professional if you’re in doubt.

Buzzing Light Fixtures

When task lights are humming, concentrating and getting things done can be difficult. Morris says that buzzing is often caused by a loose bulb, malfunctioning switch, or dimmer issues, depending on the fixture. The first line of attack is to check the lightbulb and ensure it’s screwed in properly. Those familiar with electricity can try replacing the switch or dimmer if the bulb isn’t the source. However, Morris recommends calling in a professional electrician for electrical tasks beyond simple replacements.

Squeaky Doors

There’s nothing like getting up in the middle of the night to use the restroom and disrupting the entire household by opening a door that creaks. The cause is usually a lack of lubrication, which can be alleviated easily in most cases. Hinges, door knobs, and latch mechanisms accumulate dust and show wear, causing noise-making friction. Green recommends greasing the hinges, knobs, and latches with a silicone-based or graphite lubricant. “If the sound endures, tightening screws and replacing worn components might be necessary,” he adds.