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Howling sounds in buildings - dogs to zone dampers as possible sources © Daniel Friedman Howling Buildings: Find & Cure Howling Noises at or Around Buildings
Sources of howling sounds in buildings

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Howling noise causes at buildings:

Building howling noise troubleshooting: causes & cures.

What are the common sources of a howling sound heard in or near buildings?

Which howling noises indicate that repairs are needed? Cures for building howling sounds.



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Sources of Howling Sounds in or around Buildings & Mechanical Systems

Signs of a distressed dog left alone - door scratching (C) Daniel FriedmanHowling sounds in or around buildings are often wind related but can also be traced to an improperly operating mechanical system such as an air conditioner or heat pump, and more dangerously howling, also described as a freight train sound, can indicate a very dangerous chimney fire. See these examples of sources howling sounds in or around buildings.

  1. ANIMAL NOISES - howling. We don't cite animal howling as most people can figure out if their cat or dog is tormenting everyone. Our photo at left shows a door marred by a dog's scraping at it. We don't know if this was caused by the dog's need to pee or if it was because the dog was hysterical at being repeatedly left alone.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Often dog owners, absent during howling dog sessions caused by their very absence, are not aware of the extent of dog distress nor the dog's sharing of that distress with neighbours by incessant howling or barking. Researchers including Storengen (2014) cite separation anxiety among dogs as a common source of howling dog disturbances.

  1. APPLIANCE NOISE DIAGNOSIS - dishwashers, vacuum cleaners and some other appliances can produce a horrible howling noise
  2. CHIMNEY FIRE ACTION / PREVENTION- roaring howling freight rain sound means a chimney fire
  3. CHIMNEY NOISE DIAGNOSIS - howling from wind blowing over chimneys
  4. HEALTH-RELATED NOISE complaints can include perception of howling, as you can read in these articles as well as in some of our howling noise medical research articles cited below. Opheim (1957) on Meniere's disease and Morchi (2014) are examples of sources of information on tinnitius (Opheim) or dementia (Morchi) taking the form of howling sounds.
  1. HOWLING DECK NOISE- surface textures of decking, possibly framing, deck gaps, wind direction, other factors
  2. HOWLING SOUNDS, HVAC - from air conditioners, air handlers, blower fans, heat pumps, furnaces, duct systems & their motors
  3. HVAC NOISE Group 5 - howling, screaming, singing, squealing, trumpeting, water gurgling, whine, whistling, wuwuwu sounds at an air conditioner or heat pump
  4. NEIGHBORHOOD HOWLING MACHINES: Cordier (1968) cites air cooled diesel engines as sources of howling sounds.
  5. NOISE TRANSMISSION in ROOFS - discusses howling sounds caused by roof materials + wind
  6. WIND NOISES at BUILDINGS - wind makes howling sounds passing over various building or site features

Research on Howling Noise or Sound Diagnosis & Cure at Buildinbgs

Howling Deck Noises: check wind, structure, surface textures, board gaps

A quick summary of common sources of howling noises in buildings with links to howling noise diagnostic articles
is given above beginning at HOWLING NOISES in BUILDINGS

Reader Question: Howling Noises from Trex™ Decking

(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?

Reply:

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. I suspect the howling deck is a feature of one of the following, combined of course, with wind direction and site or terrain shape and features.

You could try a directional microphone, 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. You could also try placing an outdoor carpet over the deck surface though not all homeowners like this solution.

Tell us what happens to the noise.

Reader follow-up: 11/4/2014 By Carolyn

Re-posting without link (security)

I am honored that we are under consideration for best question!
We ruled out the balusters and railing by wrapping them completely and the noise was unchanged.

The only thing that made the noise stop was to cover the entire deck surface with plastic and cardboard, which we did from the top surface rather than the bottom, as you suggest. Uncovering even part of the deck boards caused the noise to resume when the wind blew, so we are sure it is the boards. They are spaced .25 inches apart with Trex plastic hidden fasteners. The boards are EverGrain Envision (made by Tamco).

Tamco will not return our emails.

The joists are 16 inch centers. Our contractor doesn't really think it is his problem but is willing to try solutions as long as we pay for them. We are on a hill, the deck is on the second floor and measures 32 ft x 12 ft. We didn't change the size or location of the deck, it has the identical footprint as the original wooden deck, but we never heard the noise with the wooden deck. We have a few references to the problem on other websites, the one that sounded the most similar was at an onlinephotogallery

He didn't use EverGrain, but got the manufacturer (Correct Deck) to pay the cost of the mitigation. I appreciate any ideas on how best to mitigate. I don't know if we will be able to get Tamco to help.
Thank you!

Reply:

Carolyn

I suspect local site features, wind, and possibly deck board spacing and possibly framing details are the deck noise culprit here since the decking itself (Tamko's product) has been so widely used that if noise complaints from wind on the deck board upper surface were a common problem I'd think we'd have come across other consumer or builder reports by now. Maybe.

Earlier I suggested covering the deck underside to sort out the effects of air movement under and through the decking versus across the wood-grained surface of the Tamko EverGrain deck boards.

I've thought that ultimately we might suggest amending wind movement by going to plexiglas guard railings around the deck or even plantings around it but before choosing an approach like that I'd want to know which deck surface is principally the noise source. If it's air moving through deck board gaps and framing then plantings or other steps to redirect and reduce wind beneath the deck might suffice.

(Nov 10, 2014) Carolyn said:

Thank you for your suggestions. The contractor tried amending the wind movement by enclosing the area under the deck with lattice, but it makes no difference. We are starting to think it is the grooves in the sides of the TAMKO EverGrain Envision boards that are used to hold the boards in place with the hidden fasteners. That along with the increase in board spacing (the former wooden deck had 1/8 inch spacing, the TAMKO is 1/4 inch.

If this is the case, we will probably need to rip out the boards and replace with non-grooved boards that can be spaced closer together. We have found references to this happening with other brands of composite deck boards but no clear consensus as to the exact cause. I can send the links if you are interested.

12/2/2014 Anonymous said

Cliff - While not having this noise problem myself, and as the deck in question is 12x32 feet, I offer a suggestion that might be far cheaper than re-doing the deck surface (which is what I did at my current and prior houses): Get a roll of the best / best looking outdoor carpet that you can find - many of the best are far nicer than the typical, plastic, green or brown 'grass look.'

To cushion the back of the carpet, I used some heavy-weight, soft, rather densely woven, ground-cover fabric. Both carpet and 'pad' were only laid in place (no fasteners). The weight of the patio furnishings held the carpet in place very nicely. The furnishings are/were two large sets of fairly heavy-weight aluminum tables & chairs plus a tea cart (some Brown-Jordan stuff) and a few small side tables, plastic deck storage boxes, and several large potted plants.

During a strong storm, the carpet and 'pad' would lift at a corner or two, and occasionally a winkle developed. All were easily flipped or smoothed back into place. The one carpet was from Sears (their best outdoor carpet at the time). After 30 years of use, left outdoors year-round in Ohio and then in Michigan, it is just beginning to show a bit of wear. To clean it, I use an old up-right house vac and an occasional power-wash every few years.

One side advantage is the treated deck boards under the carpet are shielded from the sun & look nearly new. Whereas I've had to replace a few of the boards that are not covered by the carpet.

My current deck is 16x24 feet, which I built nearly 20 years ago. It has the same Sears carpet and 'padding' from 30 years ago in Ohio. The other is smaller and is covered with an outdoor carpet of similar look / quality (plus the ground cover 'pad') that was purchased locally (Metro-Detroit) nearly 20 years ago.

A second side benefit, which everyone seems to like, is the deck feels a bit more like being in a great outdoor living room. The carpet has a slight padding effect, which feels good underfoot, and spills are no problem.

Reader Proposes Weights to Stop A Howling Deck

7 April 2015 Anonymous said:

In search of a cause for howling on decks, I ran across your problem, Carolyn. I have the same problem and have a hunch on how to get it resolved. I am continuing to see if my remedy will work. Here's how my problem started. I built my house in 1999. Originally my deck was 14'x 12'with two-piece vinyl decking that squeaked excessively when I walked on it. I decided to extend my deck six feet, making it 14' by 18' and then replaced the decking with one-piece vinyl "Fusion" from Menards and fastened them down by screwing them to the joists with the recommended hard rubber "T-Clips". The lengths of the decking run East to West. The North side is against the brick wall of my house. Whenever the wind blows from the SW, especially when there are gusts of 20 to 30 mph, the deck howls; sometimes in two note levels. Very annoying.

Several of my engineering friends and I discussed the problem and suspect the deck is going into a resonant frequency, similar to a bell ringing. Considering the fact the new deck is very rigidly attached together as is the new fusion decking and how it is also very rigidly attached to the joists it appears to vibrate with the wind at higher than normal velocities. What I believe is happening is the deck is going into its own natural frequency. As an experiment, I used heavy clamps to attach a 10 lb chunk of steel to one joist and a heavy piece of concrete (yard edging) to another joist.

Just by attaching the weights to two joists, the howling sound was significantly lowered (not eliminated). The result was I changed the natural frequency of the deck. I will continue to experiment on how to further change the natural frequency. I'm considering attaching "X" braces between each joist. Another method might be to inconspicuously attach a weight to each joist. In essence, its like putting your finger on the outside of a bell so it can no longer "ring" any more.

Reply:

Thanks for the howling weight ideas, Anon.

There are some different sources of deck howling sounds but the most commonly reported are apparently an effect of air movement across the deck surface or across the framed deck structure: think of the whistle you get if you blow across the top of an empty soda bottle. Also see Coney (1999) cited below. Those authors found that it was wind paths or flows around obstructions that were significant.

For cases in which the deck is actually vibrating to create a howling noise, or its surface is vibrating and creating a howling sound (less likely in my opinion) certainly weighting the surface may dampen that vibration.

It would also be easy to confound the two noise sources and their cures since adding concrete blocks or any other large objects on the deck surface might be just enough to disturb the air movement pattern and thus quiet the howling.

Try moving your blocks around or using stiffening or other methods to weight the deck without obstructing air flow.

Then try removing your howling deck weights and covering one or both sides of the deck with indoor-out door carpet (ugh).

Another place to look for the source of howling screaming decks is the guardrail system. Parallel vertical balusters or worse, cable type guardrails can produce some dramatic howling depending on their orientation to the wind direction.

The results would be very informative.

Also see


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