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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 NOISES
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.
Green links show where you are. © Copyright 2014 InspectApedia.com, All Rights Reserved.
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
This topic has been moved to a new article found at AIR LEAK NOISES in BUILDINGS
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.
This article topic has been moved to a new article found at ANIMAL NOISES in BUILDINGS
This article topic has been moved to a new article found at APPLIANCE NOISES in BUILDINGS
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.
This article topic has been moved to a new article found at CHIMNEY NOISES in BUILDINGS
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.
This noise diagnosis and repair topic is now found at DRIPPING WATER NOISE SOURCES
Please see details we have moved to ELECTRICAL SYSTEM NOISES
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 to FAN NOISES in BUILDINGS
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
unresolved odors (see ODORS GASES SMELLS, DIAGNOSIS & CURE) or
unexplained noises (see this article on NOISE / SOUND DIAGNOSIS & CURE) 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:
An introduction to this topic is now found at HEALTH-RELATED NOISE PERCEPTION
Details about this topic are found at HEALTH RELATED NOISE COMPLAINTS. Health related noise and apparent noise sources can involve common aging or hearing disorders, dementia, or other serious medical conditions.
Hearing Disabilities and the ability to identify and track the source of noises in buildings can be difficult for the hearing impaired.
Details are at HEARING DISORDER NOISE ISSUES
A quick summary of common sources of heating noise problems is at HEATING SYSTEM NOISES in BUILDINGS
Or see our detailed heating noise diagnosis and repair article series on heating system noises found at HEATING SYSTEM NOISES
This data was moved to HISSING SOUNDS in BUILDINGS
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 new article PLUMBING SYSTEM NOISES in BUILDINGS 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 
We describe at METAL ROOF EXPOSED FASTENER FLASHING
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 for a series of articles on sound control in buildings.
This material moved to a new article at SIDING NOISES & SOUNDS
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 at WIND NOISE at BUILDINGS
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.
Suggested citation for this web page
Green link shows where you are in this article series.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: horrible howling noise in bedroom when it is windy outdoors
I have a howling noise coming in my bedroom whenever it is windy weather. It is really awful at night when it gets really loud. Can anyone tell me how to fix this horrible sound problem? - Kate
Kate, please take a look at the articles on tracking down building noises beginning at SOUND CONTROL in buildings where you will see a series of suggested places to look when tracking down annoying building noises. In that article you'll find a section on identifying common sources of Wind Noises.
If that information leaves you with questions don't hesitate to ask and I'll research further and do my best to help.
Question: Roof vibration & snoring noises follow new stucco walls & new roof
We had our house stuccoed and a new roof installed this summer. Now there is vibration from the roof, about 20 dB inside and a little louder outside. It is on one side of the roof only and can be heard in all rooms on that side of the house. I see a buckle between 2 shingles at the bottom edge but cannot detect movement in any shingles. Current wind is about 20 mph with gusts at 30; temperature is about 40 degrees. Sound is present regardless of precipitation. - Harper Snapp
When I listen to it now, I notice that the sound resembles snoring. Earlier in the morning I thought perhaps it was somebody starting and restarting a motorcycle, maybe 1/8 to 1/4 mile away.
Thanks. I have now read about the self-sealing tabs. There is one shingle at the bottom edge which is raised. I am guessing that would be because it is improperly installed. We have also discovered that the snoring sound and the idling-motorcycle sound are coming from different areas. As soon as the rain stops I will try the brick trick and look at some other things. I had previously consider the soffit vents, but they haven't been altered or even removed. I will keep you posted.
Question: Constant humming in new wood framed house
i live in a new build , wooden framed house, that has a constant hum going round it. the housing association had sound recording equipment put in to monitor it, and this recorded a humming , but the source couldn't be detected, the ha decided not to investigate any further as it was not cost effective. But i am going round the bend with this constant humming. No one else in my street is bothered by it, as they all live in busy households , so don't really hear it, but i live in a quiet house , and have an illness.
My hearing has been checked, and apparently i have very poor middle and higher hearing, and the clinic thinks my lower hearing is overcompensating for this. but i think the wooden structure of my house is somehow amplifying the outside noises, possibly from my air source heating system , and all my neighbours ones, and and my house is acting like some kind of vacuum to it. I cant take much more of this constant noise, I am so tired and irritable - A Schulen
Question: rain patter sound complaints at 50 year old house
Question: Popping sounds from French Doors
The french doors in my bedroom (to the lanai) "pop", both day and night. The popping is so loud at night that it wakes me up. I don't know if it's the wood or the windows. They pop when the AC goes on or off, when someone opens a door, or most of the time for no reason at all that I can hear. Any ideas of how I can fix this ??? I'm becoming sleep deprived !!! - Sue Newton
Question: Moisture droplets and clicking from an Amana gas furnace plastic exhaust vent
I have a 60 year old home with a fairly new 95% efficiency Amana gas furnace in the basement. The exhaust pipe is PVC and runs across the basement ceiling, vented to the outside of the house above ground level. As the furnace heats up, there is a clicking or dripping noise from the PVC. If I give it a tap with a stick, it stops. I have noticed moisture droplets off the coupling when I tap it. If I just let it alone, after 7-8 minutes the clicking stops on its own. Is it condensate heating up/moving/evaporating? It's extremely irritating because that exhaust pvc runs under my bedroom floor and I'd appreciate any tips on how to stop the noise. THANKS! - Lisa P
Question: humming noise comes from my neighbor's backyard wall - maybe pool pump noise
An unbearable humming noise has been emitting from our backyard neighbor's wall for several weeks now. They have a pool and a spa so I suspect the noise is a pump of some kind. It is constant, never stops, and, though it isn't unbearable outside, the noise filters into our attic and becomes amplified. It makes our entire house "hum." We are thinking of breaking our lease and moving, it's become so unbearable. We can't sleep and we're starting to feel physical effects from the continuous noise. We've enlisted the help of our HOA but so far, nothing has changed. And we have been unable to speak directly with our neighbors. Is there anything I can do to mitigate the sound on my end? We've tried a white noise machine, music, earplugs. NOTHING helps. - Sophie D 1/8/2012
Reader follow up:
We finally got together with the neighbors to try and troubleshoot this noise, which they've also been hearing. It's not the pool pump, although it is clearly on its last legs and was adding to the noise. They've turned it off until it can be repaired. The power company came out and changed a noisy transformer in the neighbor's yard but that wasn't the source. We can't locate the noise. It sounds like the motor of a large truck idling right out front. Only it is constant, day and night. I'm at a loss for a solution. Who would be an expert in this kind of thing? A home inspector or an electrician or some other tradesman? Thanks again!
Question: Bang noise when starting up a woodstove
HI there, my boyfriend and I live in a house that has a wood-burning stove as its source of heat. But whenever we start up a fire, which causes the metal stove to go from cold to hot, there is a loud bang when it heats up once the fire is going well. Any ideas on what that could be? Any help would be appreciated! - Jason & Ali 5/4/12
Watch out: what you describe could be dangerous. It sounds as if you are describing a noise produced by expanding metal that is at once trying to expand and is held tightly in place until the thermal expansion force takes over the restricting force. Some such noises are harmless, but if there is flexing in the chimney or in woodstove parts there could be a risk of hidden damage that could result in a spark, heat, or gases leaking into the building - thus a potential fire or CO risk. I'd ask a certified chimney sweep, woodstove installer, or fire inspector for a safety inspection before continuing to use such a heating system.
Question: tapping noise in wall heard when going to sleep
For years its been happening when I lay down to sleep within a few minutes I hear a faint tapping/pop sound coming from the same spot within the wall that repeats every 1,2,5 or 10 minutes for the next 40 or 60 minutes but them completely stops. What makes this very odd is this repeated sound only occurs 1 or 2 minutes after I lay down to sleep anytime between 11pm to 2am but never occurs any other time including if I lay down in the daytime or night, only when I go to sleep at night it will occur and almost every single night. WHAT COULD BE THE CAUSE? - Domenic R 3/16/12
Domenic, cooling house parts can make a noise that sounds like tapping or popping. Often these noises are present before going to sleep, but because we're moving around and making noise ourselves, we don't hear them until we lie quietly in bed.
Question: humming noise seems wind related
We live in a 3rd floor maisonette with a flat roof and the home is at the top of a steep hill. In the last few years the landlord extended and fitted out the offices beneath us into residential flats. Shortly afterwards we started hearing a hum which starts off quietly and then gradually intensifies in volume until it stops. This noise starts in even a slight breeze but depends on the wind coming from either an east or westerly direction. I can describe it as "mmm" "mmm" "mmm" and is loud enough to cover daytime conversation, and keep you awake at night. Have you any suggestions as to what it could be? - DP 5/26/12
DP if the hum is correlated with wind I'd start looking at all building surfaces, roof, walls, for a possible source of wind noise. Also it may be diagnostic to make yourself a list of all changes to the building - topics to investigate.
Question: horrible loud popping noises in every room, day and night, coming from attic?
We have just moved into a 40 year old home in Texas. The house makes popping noises in every room day and night. I believed the sounds to be coming from the attic but when I investigated, I couldn't hear the noises. Then I decided that the popping noises were coming from the walls and ceiling and believe most pops are near the top of the wall - but not always. The pops are always a single pop and vary in intensity. Sometimes it is a very soft sound and other times it is loud enough to wake us. In one room, the popping noise sometimes includes a sound of falling metal. In most rooms, every wall is involved. Now that I have heard the popping noise for several weeks, I find that I can also hear it from outside of our home. The structure is brick on slab foundation. The roof is a hip structure with ridge venting. The attic is well insulated.
A builder friend of our realtor inspected the return vents, roof venting and the attic and found nothing wrong. He could offer no suggestions as to the source or what to do about it. Of course, the seller denies any knowledge of the noise so we have no way of knowing if they have had anyone look at it to rule out sources. It is difficult to tell if weather is a factor. It is very hot here but I can't tell that the popping noise is any better or worse in early morning or late afternoon. It is very irritating to have spent our life's savings for our retirement home to end up with this. We live in a small town so "experts" in any field that might help us are far and few between. We really don't know where to start. - Judy 8/1/12
Judy, Popping noises that are all over the place and continuous day and night sound very strange to me - an immediate explanation does not suggest itself in those conditions; I'd track down the sound to more of a pinpoint location, using a mechanic's stethoscope if necessary.
Question: snoring noise coming from Victorian House
About the beginning of the summer our Victorian house started making a snoring noise (a guess is below 45 db) intermittently day and night. The sound is most noticeable from the dormer bedroom in the attic but can also be heard from the living room underneath the dormer room. At first we thought it was a motor of some sort but we've ruled out my mother-in-law sewing in the room below the living room and the solar-powered attic exhaust fan motor (roofer said it only operates during the day). Because of the lack of street noise, the sound seems much louder at night and is quite a nuisance. What is causing this noise? - Karen 9/22/12
Check out our sound diagnostic approach described in the article above at How to Find the Source of Building Noises by Keeping an Event Log of which I summarize some ideas just below
Question: mysterious scraping sound like dragging heavy furniture across a hardwood floor
Our mystery noise sounds like someone dragging heavy furniture across a hardwood floor. It lasts two or three seconds, ten to thirty times a day. For a long time I thought it came from the basement, until I was down there when it happened.
Now I think it may be coming from the front of the house, where the water main enters the basement. Is that crazy? The noise does not seem to be related to water usage. Just bizarre. And it has gotten markedly worse over the last several months. I wish I knew who to call!
We also may have a chipmunk problem under our walkway which is in the general area of the noise. I can't think of a way they could be making it, though! Going crazy. - Amy 10/24/2012
First we can probably rule out a chipmunk as someone dragging heavy furniture across a floor, though I've indeed encountered some surprising cases of odd sounds traced to animals - a rolling rattling sound in an attic was traced to a raccoon who was enjoying batting christmas tree ornaments around on the attic floor.
Part of the difficulty in tracking down sounds in buildings is that they are often transmitted through the building from the actual source of the sound to some other location where they are heard - through solid walls, piping, ducts, framing members. Nevertheless, for a mysterious sound such as the dragging scraping you describe, since I don't have an obvious explanation to offer, you might:
Question: how can I track down wind-related fluttering, tapping, knocking noises at a building?
I hear a tapping, fluttering and sometimes knocking noise coming from the wall in my bedroom which drives me crazy when trying to sleep. The noise only happens when the wind is blowing in a specific direction and there is a PVC plumbing vent stack that runs through the exterior wall where the noise is coming from. I've already confirmed that the noise is not coming from an outside air exhaust fan cover from the adjacent bathroom. I had that problem in my previous house.
Anyway, what could the wind be blowing to make this noise in a plumbing vent stack? There aren't any moving parts in the stack; are there? Could it be that the pipe is loose in the wall and is being shifted slightly by the wind? I just hope there isn't a break somewhere in the pipe and it's dangling in the wall; however, I don't smell any sewer gas.
To troubleshoot if the problem is caused by wind going down inside the pipe or whether it's pushing the outside of the pipe; I'm going to wait until it starts happening again, then cover the opening of the pipe to see if it stops. Either way, I'm not sure what to do next short of opening up the wall. What a big mess. Any suggestions? - B.B. 12/11/2012
Reply: more things to check for wind related tapping, flapping, fluttering noises
In tracking down wind-related fluttering or tapping or knocking, because such sounds typically involve a moving part, I think you're on the right track to try some experiments such as temporarily covering a vent pipe, though I've not come across a tapping, rap-tap-tapping ever tapping at my plumbing vent since The Raven. In addition to our wind noise track down suggestions in this article at WIND Noise and wind-caused noises, you might also check
In fact for each of the above, the next time you hear the wind-related tapping knocking fluttering noise, try turning on each bath vent fan (if you have such installed) and the clothes dryer to see if the pressure of outgoing air stops or changes the sound.
Also inspect outside for:
- Keep us posted, what you find will assist other readers. Thanks - DF - Ed.
Question: mobile home ticking or slapping noise diagnosis
I am becoming very sleep deprived and am searching for answers. I own a double wide mobile home and in my bedroom,where wall meets ceiling above my bed, there is a very loud (seems very loud as it happens in middle of night for several hours) ticking or slapping noise, intermittent noise. it seems to be worse in extreme cold, although it does happen in summer sometime. any advice is appreciated, thank you. - G.D. 12/27/12
Without an onsite inspection (not cost-justified) I can only give some general advice and offer a few guesses. It's possible that the sounds you hear are related to thermal expansion/contraction as various parts of the mobile home expand and contract along with changes in temperature or operating of the heating system.
When I am trying to track down the cause of a "mystery noise" I find it helpful to make note of every site condition I can think of or observe that might give me a track-down clue. When we can relate the occurrence of a noise to building or site conditions such as the operation of mechanical systems, temperature changes, weather, movement of people in the building etc. we can usually find the noise source and then we will know how to cure it. Take a look at SOUND EVENT LOG - in the article above for some specific suggestions.
Question: what instrument can I use to track a noise to its source ? A mechanic's stethoscope is too limited
Is there an instrument available that could be used to locate sound source? The common mechanical stethoscope is not very effective in locating the constant 24 hr humming sound in my home. The sound is a droning 60 HZ constant, but there are other sources harmonizing with it. I managed to eliminate the sound sources one by one and I am now left with the last two major ones. I badly need some help because my health is starting to go. - C.M. 4/23/2013
Reply: six approaches used by acoustical engineers to pinpoint or localize noise and sound sources
I agree that a stethoscope is not where one would start in finding the source of a widespread building noise.
A mechanic's stethoscope is useful principally when one is checking specific machinery, surfaces, or objects for sound emanation. This tool does not quickly direct one to an area of a building when a noise is heard as ambient or widespread. For moving from an ambient widespread noise to a source requires a combination of careful listening with methodological investigation such as keeping a noise-event log to relate sounds to changing conditions of time, weather, equipment in or out of operation, nearby activities, combined as well with visual inspection and occupant interviews.
Directional microphones are sold by a variety of vendors who supply some quite different models and technologies. But I'm not sure an affordable directional microphone will do a great job tracking down a building noise source.
I have not found good success at tracking down a "general" noise using pressure-gradient-type directional microphones - the common instrument used to pick up remote conversations or sounds. Since directional microphones pick up noise from any direction you can be fooled if a sound coming from direction A is bouncing off of a hard surface B at which you have aimed the device.  In other words some skill and experience are needed to use such tools. soundonsound.com has an excellent, if technical, explanation of the types of microphone and their sensitivity to the actual direction of sound emanation.
My reading about directional mikes suggests that equipment is intended for the recording industry or for the hearing aid industry but not for sound localization.
Engineers use about six different methods to pinpoint the origin of sounds, procedures described by Mehdi Batel et als (2003) . Six approaches to noise localization used by acoustic experts include
These approaches were tested and described for industrial applications such as the automotive industry and it does not appear that these methods, including a relatively new beamforming microphone array methods, are being used in residential noise complaint applications. Some are quite costly, some are quite time-consuming to use. Beamforming for sound localization can examine large objects (a car in a wind tunnel, for example) and is a more rapid process that might work in or at buildings, particularly where we are less interested in the precise sound level and mostly interested in finding the sound source.
If you can find an engineer who has access to beamforming sound-localization equipment, and if her employment and equipment costs are justified by your local noise problem, that approach may be what you need.
But before trying that more sophisticated and costly approach, a thoughtful site interview, investigation, and some data logging can very often find the source of a building noise. Perhaps these items will help you
Keep us informed on what success you have, as that may assist other readers.
Question: high pitched noise and buzzing sounds
(Feb 4, 2014) Anonymous said:
High pitched noise in air, inside and outside the home after at&t installed gateway boxes to homes in neighborhood, U-verse internet, high speed, noise complaints, buzzing in air for miles around Jacksonville, Florida,Pablo Oaks/Pablo Point subdivision, annoying and constant high-pitched buzzing noise in all areas of neighborhood. Will At&t fix their January,2014 RF fiasco?
Anon if you believe there is an immediate health or safety risk that is a question to bring to your local health department. I can't offer a diagnosis ore suggestion based just on your note.
Question: crackling crunching noise in building siding
(Mar 1, 2014) Carol Boeskool said:
We also --like I seen posted, have a crackling crunching noise with our siding---and we did have it treated a couple times for ants :)--that is not the problem.... we live in a condo and it is just the outside wall that does get sun on and off---is there any like silicone spray that would make it slide easier so the noise would not be so loud? This is frustrating!!! and annoying!
Carol, silicone spray ought not harm vinyl siding; aluminum siding, or for that matter possibly vinyl too, might be discolored, however, if the siding surface is oxidized. Try first in an inconspicuous area.
I would look further to see if the siding is improperly nailed - too tightly, restricting movement.
Question: vibration & resonating noise in house - possible motor sources
(Mar 8, 2014) Ken said:
I'm experiencing vibration and resonating noise in my house from an external source. Its like have tens units on my feet. The vibration wakes me up and then it and other noise sources keep me awake. There are several electro-mechanical sources (heat pumps, HVAC, and hot tubs) in my neighbourhood. Where can I find someone to take measurements in my home for proof there is a problem? How can I determine where the source of the vibration is coming from? I just recently found a hot tub that isn't making much noise but is a likely source of vibration. So far if I complain to the owner of a particular noise source the reaction is 'its not my equipment'. How far can vibration travel through ground?
Ken, you might find help by calling on a professional home inspector (see EXPERTS DIRECTORY in the top of this page) discuss your concerns with the inspector and confirm that she/he has experience in this tpe of inspection.
Keeping a log of when noise is observed, what equipment is operating at the time, combined with tracking the noise to its source usually narrows down the cause and thus suggests a remedy.
Question: creaking cracking roof noises in Albuquerque
We have a two-story adobe home, 30+ years old with a pueblo-style roof, vigas were used in the upstairs ceilings. Throughout the day the roof makes creaking, cracking noises. We believe it has to do with expansion/contraction (this is in Albuquerque where there's big swings in temp throughout the day) but wonder if anyone has a suggestion!
Thanks in advance for your answers!
Barbara and Gary
I don't have enough information to hazard a guess, and worse, I'm not sure what you mean buy "vigas" in ceilings. Perhaps some photos of the home from outside and ceiling inside would permit a comment beyond the obvious thermal effects. Use the CONTACT link to send us images.
But we do offer diagnostics for roof noises - see
Question: drum beat sounds
(May 9, 2014) Linda Yurick said:
how or where would the sounds of beats,waves and drums come from. we just moved in to this place
Linda it's such a broad question with no information about the home, location, neighborhood, nearby noise sources and other important factors that I just don't know. You will want to combine an auditory inspection (walk around and listen for where sounds are loudest), a visual inspection, and perhaps the SOUND EVENT LOG document whose link you'll find at the top of this article. That should help you track down the noise.
Question: Outdoor rumbling humming noises in Mountain View CA
(May 16, 2014) Sarah said:
I live in Los Altos on the Mtn. View border (CA). Last Friday/Saturday (5-10-14) approx. I instantly notice a constant awful rumbling/Loud humming outside. The 1st night I thought it was just temp. but since then the nights have been pure hell. It is a continous rumbling,loud humming around the clock. It is so horrible. I am now so sleep deprived and depressed and of course. I am making mistakes at work. Please can someone pls help me locate the source. Please help me out. PLEASE
Sarah, give your local building department a call for a referral.
Question: tormented by electrical signals aimed at house
(June 8, 2014) Kevin said:
Someone who has it out for me is tormenting me with some sort of electrical signal directed at my house. They are able to cause a high pitched type hissing effect when ever my refrigerator compressor is running as well as my receiver for my dish network that is also hooked into my television even the swamp cooler fan motor is effected with a hissing sound. They have been doing this to me for over 6 months. The noise is now constant and at night they increase the surge or something like a surge, it seems to come in short waves if you really listen. I cannot sleep without earplugs and even then I can still hear the high pitch through the earplugs. It truly is a tormenting effect on me. Is there any way I can filter or scramble this signal? Can anyone help me? \
Further to my last post -- I can verify that the noise does occur, so it's not tinnitus!
Let's start by suggesting that you discuss tinnitus or other possible medical factors with your doctor and with an audiologist. Keep us posted.
Some hard to track down noise sources are discussed at GHOST NOISES in BUILDINGS
Question: pipe vibration noises
(July 7, 2014) Val said:
I hear (and feel) a large pipe vibration noise in my house once in a while...it feels like air in the pipes (but in a big pipe...) it happens sporadically, even at night when no toilets have been flushed, no sinks have been run. We have heard it approx 6 times over the last 4 months. It occurs only once, approx 5-10 seconds, then it goes away for a couple of weeks. We do not have a sum pump, and we are connected to a sewer system. It happens rain or shine. Any idea what it could be??? I am worried sick I'll have to dig up under my house..
As we suggested at your other posting on another article, try turning off the water main to confirm that the noise is in the supply piping.
Try an electronic portable sound amplifier (Radio Shack) and a portable tape recorder.
Question: hammering noise from drain pipes in bath tub
(July 25, 2014) JW said:
Every time the AC comes on the drain pipe in the bathtub continually makes a hammer noise. Don't understand it. What to do?
JW that baffles me too. All I can guess is that there may be a depressurization of some areas of the home when the blower fan comes on. If the hammering noise is continuous I'd be looking at water supply piping troubles.
See the diagnostic and cure suggestions at WATER HAMMER NOISE DIAGNOSE & CURE
Question: popping gunshot like noises
(Aug 19, 2014) NG said:
I have a question about a "popping, gunshot-like" noise that my tenant is reporting. We're both completely baffled by it! It occurs in the outside wall towards the floor in a first-floor flat. There doesn't appear to be anything tapping from the outside. There is no radiator or pipes near that wall. The electrical socket has been ruled out as the cause and the noise continues when the electricity to the flat is turned off. The flat is in a quiet area of Cambridge, UK, not near roads. It occurs randomly throughout the day and night but sometimes it stops for a day or so. We lived in the flat for 10 years and never heard it. Only two things have changed since we moved out: the tenants are using a 10-year-old cable broadband outlet on the wall that we haven't used for 5 years. However, the noise still occurs when this is unplugged. And we have had a carpet installed. I know it sounds crazy, but could the nails keeping the carpet grippers attached to the concrete floor be the cause? I just can't think of anything else! There was a suggestion that the small electrical current that is in the cable broadband box could cause a popping, but we never heard the noise ourselves and, as I say, it still occurs when unplugged.
Thank you so much for any ideas -- we just don't know what to do and our tenants are going crazy over it!
Let's start by asking you to keep a SOUND EVENT LOG (see the link above)
with that we might correlate the sound to temperature swings, leading to a look for what might be expanding or contracting such as siding or piping
Question: bird chirp noise - like from a smoke alarm
(Aug 29, 2014) Sharon said:
Bird chirp noise coming from somewhere ~we thought it was battery for fire alarm but took the thing apart still chirping noise every 30 seconds, driving me nuts !
Some smoke or CO alarms will chirp just as you said - for battery; if it's still chirping after a new battery was inserted I'd replace the unit, figuring that the sensor is fouled.
If you're not sure that the noise is coming from the alarm, remove the alarm and place it far away and check again.
Remember to see if there is more than one CO or smoke detector alarm in your home - you may be checking the wrong one.
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