From clanking radiators and creaky floors to gurgling toilets and dripping pipes, your home can sometimes make a cacophony of sounds.
It’s important to know the difference between noises that are simply annoying to live with and ones that you should not ignore.
Here’s what home experts say are the noises that are potential emergencies:
1. Rushing Water Noises
“Water damages can be one of the most common and costly home insurance claims that come up for homeowners. And it can be one of the the easiest to prevent when you’re actually taking steps to mitigate issues ahead of time,” said Courtney Klosterman, a home insights expert for Hippo, a property insurance company.
If you do hear the rushing water noise, it can mean that water is moving through your pipes consistently, which signals a leak, Klosterman said. If you hear the sound, she suggests doing a quick check for pooling water in areas that would be susceptible to leaking, like your sink or bathroom. Walking outside your home and looking for missing or damaged roof shingles would be a good idea too to see if it’s coming from your roof, as well.
Not all dripping noises are bad, though. Philadelphia-based plumber Kelly Ireland said that if a cold pipe has hot water running through it, it makes “like a tap sound, which sort of mimics a dripping sound,” for example.
If you think you have an active water leak, check your water meter, Ireland said. They can be typically be found in the basement, garage, utility closet or front yard, depending on if you’re in an older or modern home.
“There’s a little dial. It’s either a dial, or for some people it looks like a cog ... if your meter is spinning, that would be your first sign you have an active water leak,” Ireland said. “It’s very sensitive so even, like, a drip in the faucet will get that little thing to go.”
2. Buzzing From Lights
If you hear any sounds coming from your outlets or switches, you should call a licensed electrician, said Katie Whitaker, owner and founder of New York City-based Handyma’am, a home repair business.
“While many LED lights and dimmers produce a slight humming or buzzing noise, they shouldn’t. Proper installation, power supply and dimmer compatibility won’t produce any noise at all from your fixtures,” they said. “Not all noises signify an emergency, but electricity isn’t something you want to take lightly.”
Some electricity issues can be a simple fix. Klosterman said humming noises from your lights could mean that your wattage on your lightbulb is incorrect but it could also mean a larger electrical issue that requires professional help, which is why she also suggests calling an electrician.
“Have it checked at the first sign to prevent a much larger issue down the line. When it comes to electricity, you are 100% better off safe than sorry,” Whitaker said.
3. Whistling Or Hissing Noises Near Gas-Based Appliances
“If you hear a hissing sound in an area in your kitchen where you’re using gas based appliances, that could be a really serious indicator of a potential danger in your home that could lead to a house fire,” Klosterman said. “It’s recommended that you remove yourself and your family immediately from the home.”
Make sure not to touch anything electrical like light switches as you get a safe distance away, Klosterman added.
“When there’s a large [gas] leak, it will make a whistle noise,” Ireland said. She said it can sound like the noise you hear when driving and a back car window is open. But with smaller gas leaks, Ireland noted that you wouldn’t hear it ― you would only smell it.
In general, with electrical appliances, the smell may be the first indicator of a major problem over sound.
“With an appliance, you should be less worried about sound and more concerned with smell,” Whitaker said. “The biggest red flag for an appliance is a burning or melting smell. That could signify overheating and permanently damage your appliance or outlet.”
4. Dripping Faucet Sounds
A dripping faucet will not be an immediate emergency, but it will become more costly the longer you ignore it. Ireland said the leaking faucets can be caused by the faucet cartridge, which controls water flow, breaking down.
“You can ignore it, but then soon the leak will turn into a trickle. And then trickle will turn into a stream. And your water bills [are] really going to pay,” Ireland said. “And also it just wears your fixture out ... Instead of just changing a cartridge in the handle, now you have to replace the whole fixture.”
5. Gurgling Toilets
If you flush your toilet and it gurgles, then “that would be indication that you either have a backup and the water can pass but it’s struggling or a lack of vent. So a lack of vent would just mean it’s struggling to flow because you need airflow [to flush],” Ireland said.
If a clog is the reason for the gurgling, “it’s only going to get worse and then your toilet will overflow eventually,” Ireland said. Adding ventilation to your pipes can fix plumbing vent issues, but it can sometimes mean “a couple thousand dollars opening up a wall to get some type of venting in it,” Ireland said.
So don’t ignore a gurgling noise even if you can still flush. Ireland recommends that you call a plumber so you can at least know what you’re dealing with and assess how serious the issue is. Then, they can tell you, “This is what will happen if you do this work, this is the potential if you don’t do this work, but, also, you got to pay rent and eat first, so on the level of priority, I would put this at a five,” she said.