Is it coming from inside the house?
May 23, 2010 12:44 PM   Subscribe

A rhythmic click (every n seconds) is coming from my living room window. What could it be?

Details: I'm in a century-old, 12-story prewar apartment building on the seventh floor. The windows are more modern, double-pane glass in a reinforced metal frame. I have heard it before, so it's not new; but I'm pretty sure it's not a continuous thing, either. Today it's been going on for about an hour. Click. [maybe 10 seconds] Click.

I have listened carefully and can't pinpoint the specific spot of the click other than "in or around the window." Pretty sure it's not coming from my radiator. The apartment above me does have a window air conditioner in place, but I don't see any visible condensation, nor do I hear it running. Just like a rattle in a car, it tends to stop clicking when I stand near the window or lean a hand on it. It did not stop clicking when I opened the window to look at the upstairs A/C.

posted by werty to Home & Garden (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Update: now it's clicking once a second. Aaaand now it's quiet, temporarily. Weird! What can it be?
posted by werty at 12:46 PM on May 23, 2010

Is it a bird attacking its reflection?
posted by Laen at 12:51 PM on May 23, 2010

In an old building it could be a Death Watch Beetle.
posted by lungtaworld at 1:02 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Related to nearby pipes? Does it change if you turn on your cold or hot water? Do changes in its frequency correspond with the faint sounds that tell you that upstairs neighbors are running water?

Related to heat differential, metal expanding and contracting? Does it change regularly with time of day? Better or worse when it's a warmer day outside?

I'm also thinking of the clink-clink-clink caused by the wind blowing the flag on the flagpole. Does it change with wind patterns?
posted by salvia at 1:03 PM on May 23, 2010

Any sudden changes in temperature outside? The sounds could be caused by thermal expansion. (The metal frames.)
posted by The Mouthchew at 1:03 PM on May 23, 2010

In the Wikipedia article there is a link so you can see and hear the sound.
Is it the same sound?
posted by lungtaworld at 1:07 PM on May 23, 2010

Does it happen only when the window is getting direct sun?
posted by jon1270 at 1:12 PM on May 23, 2010

Thermal expansion. Our old steel front door used to do that and it would drive me crazy.
posted by JoanArkham at 1:19 PM on May 23, 2010

Thirding thermal expansion. Our floors do this because our contractor WAS SHIT, but metal framed windows do this routinely and yes, it is both very annoying and sounds rather alarming if you don't know what it is. Sort of like Spider Man is maybe rappelling up your building.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:29 PM on May 23, 2010

Thank you to the bunch of you that suggest thermal expansion. Is it typically a rhythmic thing, and does it set in at random? It's a logical answer, although I've lived here three years and first noticed it this spring.

@jon1270 I can't confirm prior to today, but as of now, yes, it's getting direct light (although it's hazy today) and making the noise. This window gets direct sun in the afternoons.

@lungtaworld thank you for freaking me out but thankfully it's not a beetle. We have plaster and brick walls, no rafters. (Also I'm in Manhattan.)
posted by werty at 1:38 PM on May 23, 2010

I have that in a few rooms in my house. In our case it's a screen that's missing one of the four clips to anchor it to the window frame. The slightest breeze makes it click against the frame, but a casual glance wouldn't let you know anything was wrong.
But my century old building has mid-century windows at best, so it may not be an issue for newer ones.
posted by Kellydamnit at 2:05 PM on May 23, 2010

Is it typically a rhythmic thing, and does it set in at random?

Yes, and yes. I mean obviously it isn't really random - there's some sciencey / temperature confluence cause - but it appears to be totally random from where I sit.

Which is four feet from the. spot. that. click. click. click. clicks. arrrgh.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:06 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Do you have blinds? I have a set of blinds that click rhythmically like that when there's a fan pointed in their general direction—the plastic turner sways slightly in the wind, and only every n seconds sways far enough to hit the blinds.
posted by limeonaire at 2:12 PM on May 23, 2010

Do you own a watch?
posted by Sys Rq at 2:28 PM on May 23, 2010

Chiming in to say that I don't know what's causing it, but I had a very similar experience in a 1940s apartment with newer double-pane vinyl windows. Never did pinpoint the cause. It was oddly loud, though.
posted by hollisimo at 2:56 PM on May 23, 2010

Is there anything mechanical running in the house? Like something with a blower? Perhaps the AC? I have a wall in my house that does a rhythmic ticking whenever the AC or heat is running. It's the attic-mounted air handler/blower for the system.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:03 PM on May 23, 2010

When this happened to me recently, it turned out to be a mild earthquake. Probably not the Occam's Razor explanation, though.
posted by dhartung at 4:08 PM on May 23, 2010

It could be drip from the condensation pan of that AC or from pipes upstairs that come down through your wall framing. I'm not sure if your apartment building has framing or masonry (or both), but if framing is used and it's that old, it's likely to use balloon framing which would allow water to drip down quite a distance. Balloon framing is also one reason that mice and rats inhabit old wooden houses... there's lots of open space within the frames and gives them the run of the place (especially when there's cutouts in the joists for pipes and wiring).
posted by crapmatic at 5:19 PM on May 23, 2010

It did not stop clicking when I opened the window

When you stick your head out the open window, can you tell where it's coming from?
posted by exphysicist345 at 10:18 PM on May 24, 2010

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