Strange home noises
August 3, 2011 12:39 AM   Subscribe

Strange home noise. Single family, single story home, with city water and sewer. Since moving in (renters) there was occasionally a deep hollow metallic booming sound coming from parts unknown (sometimes sounding under the house, sometimes just outside the house) lasting just one second. It happened mostly once a night or so; but past week has increased in frequency to every 15-30 minutes. It is not coming from the hot water heater. It is not so loud as to be a huge nuisance though loud enough to wake me at night. The house is on a hillside, and settling of soils is known but the footings appear relatively unchanged. A city water pipe on our street is apparently leaking. Dont know how to begin to figure out what it might be...
posted by dougiedd to Home & Garden (22 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You might want to set up a recorder to record the noise, maybe on a computer or somehow it can be time tagged. If someone can't make out the noise from the recording, at least you could see if there is a pattern to the occurrences.

With three microphones synchronized and spread as far apart around your property, you could be able to roughly triangulate the location the main source of the sound is coming from.
posted by Yorrick at 12:45 AM on August 3, 2011

does the house have central air or heat? there is a duct in the basement of my house that expands just enough when the heat turns on and off to make a gonging noise that travels all the way to my bedroom two floors up. Does the sound coincide with a temperature change?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:03 AM on August 3, 2011

Yeah, this sounds like pipe or duct expansion due to fluctuations of temperature. Of something...
posted by Namlit at 1:04 AM on August 3, 2011

Response by poster: Sorry : forgot to add: no heating or cooling, we are in the tropics
posted by dougiedd at 1:09 AM on August 3, 2011

Do you have a tin roof or walls? Is it the roof expanding and contracting?
posted by the fish at 2:26 AM on August 3, 2011

Do you have a water softner. I once had a system that made a huge noise as it finished cycling, usually during the night, 'cuz that's when it was scheduled.
posted by tomswift at 3:09 AM on August 3, 2011

Water hammer?
posted by alexei at 3:58 AM on August 3, 2011

Start by logging the time of occurrence. Find out when it is happening, then sequentially attempt to get to the source. If it's happening every 15 minutes, before long, you'll be sitting next to whatever it is.
posted by FauxScot at 4:01 AM on August 3, 2011

I've been having the same exact issue! Deep, metallic sound, two or three at a time (boomph, boomph, boomph), separated by some minutes, at different times of day. I'm a mechanically handy SAHM, and it has been driving me crazy. I'm in a slightly different house-type (AC, multi-story, etc.) but I've lived here a while and this is a new sound. I have spent 10-20 minutes at a time trying to triangulate on the sound, but I still can't find it. Some possible culprits I've looked at that you may want to check off your list:
- Sprinkler system
- Water hammer from recently turned-on pipes (we recently re-started our sprinklers)
- Large appliance (we just set up a secondary freezer) or one that may draw energy differently in different conditions
- Tree leaning against house, or wires, which then bumble against your house in wind
- Music from a nearby house or from construction nearby (my sound is almost like the regular bass thump of music, so I looked into this)

Hopefully this may help you. I'm still stumped about my sound so I'll be watching this with interest.
posted by cocoagirl at 4:09 AM on August 3, 2011

I was also coming in to ask about a water softener.
posted by cider at 4:25 AM on August 3, 2011

Or a sump pump?
posted by thomas j wise at 5:05 AM on August 3, 2011

I too immediately thought water hammer. (I also thought tommyknockers but you do not appear to live in Maine.)
posted by elizardbits at 5:14 AM on August 3, 2011

Well, water hammer in a private home is mostly easily to detect: someone stands at a tap, closes it abruptly, and bangbangbang goes something in the basement.

If you're in the tropics, I guess it's warm out there. Every time you're using cold water, sections of the pipes that normally are exposed to environmental heat-warmth-what-have-you will cool down and contract. Later, they will slowly expand again. If the pipes go anything like tightly through the walls at some spot, it is likely there they start making a racket on one, or even both of these occasions.
The same could apply to any place between the hot-water system and any hot water tap in the house. Variations of the same theme are possible, depending on how you're supplied, wherever (even slight) drops or increases of temperature occur, and how the pipes in your house are attached. (For me it's the heating system at some unidentified spot upstairs, during the winter season, but it really could be anything in any environment).
posted by Namlit at 5:26 AM on August 3, 2011

We had a weird one once (in the tropics) that sounded and felt like a distant artillery shell or mine explosion. Turned out to be the cover across part of a nearby storm drain. It seesawed just a little, and when it got stepped on or driven over, it would smack onto the other side of the drain and produce a deep booming thump. That would then rumble and reverberate along the drain back to our house, where we felt it under our feet, even on the third floor. Have you got big covered drains outside?
posted by Ahab at 5:28 AM on August 3, 2011

A city water pipe on our street is apparently leaking.

Have you called this in? You don't want to get billed for the leaked water.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:35 AM on August 3, 2011

Sump pump seems likely, especially since you mentioned a water leak, it would be going on more often. Mine starts with a hollow rattle and then a quiet humming while it works. That also would explain hearing it both inside and outside the house. (I took me forever to figure out that that's what my mysterious noise was.)
posted by catatethebird at 8:41 AM on August 3, 2011

Metal diaphragm in the expansion tank onyour water system?
posted by wenestvedt at 9:01 AM on August 3, 2011

Response by poster: Wow
Lots of great ideas.
As for water hammer, no change is apparent with the turning on or off of water anywhere. Does that rule it out?
No sump pump that i am aware of.
Wenestevdt: Where would an expansion tank be located?
Ahab's idea 'resonates" with me but the storm drain covers all appear solid.
posted by dougiedd at 9:34 AM on August 3, 2011

What you describe sounds an awful lot like the noise our cold air return duct makes.
posted by bunji at 10:43 AM on August 3, 2011

Response by poster: no air system
posted by dougiedd at 6:05 PM on August 3, 2011

Sound can carry through soil. Keep an eye out for traffic in the area when the noise occurs. Could well be something being driven over making the thump. It would likely be a thump-thump as both axles pass over it. Is there something new in the area that's getting more vehicle traffic than before?
posted by wkearney99 at 2:34 PM on August 5, 2011

Response by poster: no traffic at all at night
no water expansion system
rat came up the toilet though
posted by dougiedd at 2:57 PM on August 10, 2011

« Older "My Kindle can't play Angry Birds, but here's a...   |   What the duck was it? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.