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BUILDING NOISE DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ACOUSTICAL SEALANT CHOICES
CARPETING, SELECTION & INSTALLATION
FLANKING SOUND PATHWAY CUT-OFF
HEALTH RELATED NOISE COMPLAINTS
HEATING SYSTEM NOISE TRANSMISSION
HOUSE DOCTOR, how-to be
INSULATION LOCATION - WHERE TO PUT IT
NOISE / SOUND DIAGNOSIS & CURE
NOISE AIR CONDITIONER / HEAT PUMP
NOISE, DUCT VIBRATION DAMPENERS
NOISE CONTROL for HEATING SYSTEMS
NOISE CONTROL for FLOORS
NOISE CONTROL for PLUMBING
NOISE CONTROL for ROOFS
NOISE CONTROL for WALLS
NOISE, PLUMBING CHECKLIST
NOISE, PLUMBING DRAIN DIAGNOSIS
NOISE, PLUMBING DRAIN REPAIR
NOISE, WATER HEATER
ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE
PLUMBING DRAIN NOISE DIAGNOSIS
PLUMBING NOISE CHECKLIST
PLUMBING SYSTEM NOISE DIAGNOSIS & CURE
ROOF NOISE TRANSMISSION
SOUND CONTROL in BUILDINGS
SOUND EVENT LOG
SOUND TRANSMISSION CLASS RATINGS
SOUNDPROOFING MATERIAL PROPERTIES
STAIRS, RAILINGS, LANDINGS, RAMPS
SUMP PUMPS GUIDE
THERMAL EXPANSION of MATERIALS
WATER HAMMER NOISE DIAGNOSE & CURE
Building noise troubleshooting: causes & cures.
These articles discuss building noise control: how to inspect, diagnose & cure noise or sound problems in homes or commercial buildings.
Information is provided about auditory (hearing), visual, historic, medical, or other clues of building condition that explain various sounds heard in buildings. We also discuss methods of sound or noise control in buildings during construction or as a building retrofit.
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Some building noises are just an annoyance - we'll focus on sound control, sound isolation, and sound insulation methods. But other building sounds or noises may be a sign of trouble, failing equipment, insect attack, rodent infestation, or other more dangerous conditions.
Our page top photo showed a severe air bypass leak at an attic pull-down stair. Occupants could at times hear air rushing through this opening.
This article explains how to locate the source of, identify and correct various building sounds and noises indoors or on occasion, noises from outside that penetrate indoors at annoying levels.
While we touch on environmental noise coming from outside of buildings (aircraft noise, highway noise, noisy neighbors) the focus of this article series is on identifying and curing unwanted indoor noise sources in buildings - noise control.
Regardless of their source, noises are transmitted in buildings by two methods.
Airborne Sound: Sound waves traveling through air move between building areas - such as through open windows, doors, or stairwells.
Mechanically transmitted sound: When sounds move through solid building components such as floors, ceilings, walls, framing, carrying sound from one area to another the sound transmission is referred to more technically as impact insulation class transmission or IIC sound transmission.
In many cases the source of an annoying building sound may be obvious and we can move immediately to strategies for reducing that source to an acceptable noise level. But we also receive queries from people who have difficulty tracing a sound to its source, or who are unsure if a sound that they hear at a known source (say a humming sound at an electrical component) is normal or means trouble.
In our collection of sources of building sounds and noises, below, we describe common noises that may come from various sources and we link to more detailed diagnostic and repair advice for these problems.
Separately at SOUND CONTROL in buildings we provide a series of detailed articles on noise or sound transmission control - that is, methods for reducing unwanted building noise levels through building design, insulation, sound isolation, and noise barriers.
To track a mystery-noise or sound to its source in a building, try keeping a noise log, noting the conditions, times, events, and information we list in our printable SOUND EVENT LOG.
We provide a sound event log in three formats:
Beginning below, we provide an alphabetically-ordered catalog of building noises and sounds, with suggestions for tracking down these disturbances.
Air Conditioning or Heat Pump System Noises
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Isn't that raccoon cute?
Watch out for bites, rabies, and for racoons who like to find a way into the attic where they bat around the Christmas tree ornaments and leave little sooty footprints all over everything.
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This article topic has been moved to a new article found
Appliance noises in buildings are a bit easier to track down. If you are uncertain just which appliance is a noise source, or if it is a noise source, just try turning off individual appliances to check for cessation of noise. Appliance noises cover a wide range, from humming refrigerator compressors to rattling loose metal parts.
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Watch out: A chimney fire sounds like a roaring freight train.
If you suspect a chimney fire and can do so safely, shut down your wood stove (close all air intakes) or close any chimney dampers as well, immediately exit the building, and call the fire department from outdoors.
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Please see details we have moved
Watch out: Electrical System Noises can be signs of dangerous conditions: buzzing circuit breakers or fixtures may indicate that an electrical circuit is short circuiting or that a circuit breaker is not tripping when it should.
This topic has moved
Also see FAN NOISES, HVAC
This information was moved to FLOORING NOISES in BUILDINGS
Also see FLOOR TYPES & DEFECTS - inspection, diagnosis, repair, and installation tips for resilient flooring, vinyl and asphalt floor tiles, wood flooring, tile floors, carpeting in buildings.
Among of our building inspection & diagnosis clients have been a few folks who were quite sure that noises and even some visions in buildings were due to the presence of spirits or ghosts.
In most cases sounds and odors were tracked to a physical source and speaking more accurately, if a physiological, psychological, or neurological cause of noise perception is ruled out, all other building noises can ultimately be tracked to a physical source inside or outside of the building.
Readers with suggestions about diagnosing
or unexplained noises in buildings
are invited to comment using the comment box found at the bottom of each InspectApedia article.
Hardware Noises in Buildings: hinges, locks, bolts, etc. can be sources of surprising building noises
More often we find these building noise sources by tracking the sound to a point of origin, seeing something moving, and then relating the sound to the cause of movement. A squeak or creak may be traced to use of a particular building door such as a room passage door or a cabinet door.
Often a squeak or creak that seems to occur in regular intervals that diminish in volume is traced to a hinged fixture that moves when disturbed. Some examples include:
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Hearing Disabilities and the ability to identify and track the source of noises in buildings can be difficult for the hearing impaired.
A quick summary of common sources of heating noise problems is
Or see our detailed heating noise diagnosis and repair article series on heating system noises found
This data was moved
Please see HUMMING NOISES in BUILDINGS
A summary of common sources of howling noises in buildings with links to howling noise diagnostic articles
(Nov 2, 2014) Carolyn said:
We just had our deck rebuilt, changing the warped wood for grooved composite boards held together by hidden Trex fasteners. The new deck makes a howling sound when the wind blows. We ruled out the deck balusters and railing, so we know it is something to do with the decking. Our builder is as stumped as are we. Any ideas on how to get to the root of the problem and fix it?
Carolyn, if I could send you a prize for "best question" I'd do so.
Before posing a solution lets gain confidence in the noise cause.
. Size / spacing of decking boards or gaps
You could try a directional mike, even a mechanic's stethoscope but let's try something else first.
Try stapling house wrap first underneath the entire deck floor, from below, on the bottom of the joists. Don't worry, it won't be permanent.
For a complete discussion of howling noises traced to building decks including a completion of discussion of Carolyn's question above,
Our article PLUMBING SYSTEM NOISE SOURCES lists the sources of all types of plumbing noises and traces them to their source.
For the broad topic of controlling plumbing noises in buildings
Details about roof noise and sound transmission cause and remedy are
Certain building configurations, such as occupied attics or under-roof areas with cathedral ceilings, and metal roofed buildings may transmit noises to the building interior through the roof sheathing and building framing.
Where roof-transmitted sound reduction is most sought is in buildings located close to high noise areas such as under the flight path to airports.
Our photo of metal roofed homes (left) shows two older houses in Key West, Florida.
Types of Roof Noises & Sounds
Roof noises may be described as those attributed to an obvious source: the patter or even the roar of falling rain or hail, popping and cracking noises (perhaps due to thermal expansion and contraction of roof coverings, metal roofing, or roof structure), and transmitted noises from other external sources such as low-flying aircraft or nearby trains or auto & truck traffic from a nearby highway.
Accurate diagnosis of the source of roof noise transmission is important in deciding what remedy may work best. For example, check during rainfall to accurately determine the loudest sound source - you might find that more noise is transmitted to the building interior through skylights than through the roof surface itself. man ear as cutting noise levels in half, a
reduction of over 20 decibels is significant. - Colbond 
Sound Transmission Class - STC & OITC: Sound Transmission Loss Properties for Building Walls & Roofs
Definition of STC or Sound Transmission Class
STC or sound transmission class is defined as the level of reduction of sound transmission from outside noise sources to the building interior. Higher STC numbers mean higher resistance to sound transmission to the building interior, or as acousticians would describe it, higher STC means greater sound transmission loss between outdoors and the building interior. Typical STC values for metal buildings are STC=20 to STC=55.
OITC or Outdoor-Indoor Transmission Class describes the sound transmission loss properties of building exterior components like windows and walls against noise from traffic, trains, or low flying aircraft.
- General Steel Corporation 
See SOUND CONTROL in BUILDINGS for a series of articles on sound control in buildings.
Reader Question: (Jan 13, 2015) Bonnie said:
I had an Owens Corning roof installed with Tru Definition shingles. They installed a Ridge Vent with O'hagin vents and there are the T Top Vents. During a wind storm I hear a sound coming from the front of the house that sounds like a horn sound. It goes on and off for the entirety of the wind storm. Had the roofer here and he can't pinpoint what is making the horn sound or how to fix it. Ideas?
I'd start by temporarily blocking off the ridge vent by simply taping some plastic over it.
Also see NOISE TRANSMISSION in ROOFS
This material moved to a new article
Stair noises in buildings include noisy stair treads that may creak or snap when stepped-on. See
Noise transmitted through walls (or ceilings) from mechanical rooms (boilers, furnaces) or utility rooms (washing machine, dryer) can be reduced by using good sound isolation construction and insulating materials.
WATER HEATER NOISES in buildings include
Watch out: water heater noises can indicate a high level of water heater scaling that increases water heating cost, reduces the quantity of hot water available, and can reduce water heater life. Water heater noises can also indicate that the heater has been set to a too-high temperature and may be unsafe, risking scalding or other hazards.
See these noise-related water heater articles:
Wind Noise and wind-caused noises in buildings include a surprising number of mechanisms and sounds now discussed
While sound-reducing or low-sound transmission windows using noise-reducing laminated glass and similar noise-reducing exterior or interior building doors are available, remember that as soon as you open a window for ventilation, the sound isolation benefit at that location is lost.
Sound-reducing doors should be of solid materials, have no glass windows or glazing, and should be sealed around the door perimeter with sound insulating foam or similar gaskets.
Continue reading at AIR LEAK NOISES in BUILDINGS or select a topic from the More Reading links shown below.
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Please see NOISE / SOUND DIAGNOSTIC FAQs
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