Considering that I once lived in a house located directly over the A train subway line in Brooklyn, I’m probably inured to most noises that would emanate from one’s home. How well I remember the look of panic on the faces of first-time visitors when suddenly there would be an approaching clamor and the floor beneath them would start to rumble, and I would have to remind myself that an explanation was in order to quell their fears that we might be experiencing an earthquake.
While noises that most houses make can usually be identified and dealt with, sometimes they can’t. Certainly, with the NYC subway system, all we could do was accept it and grow used to it.
Whether old or new, the houses we live in adjust to conditions and surroundings with many different noises. They can wheeze, knock, moan, whistle, hum, bang, and as we all know from the rare earthquake this region experienced some years ago, they also can shake, rattle and roll.
Beyond the natural settling of a house, especially during its first years after being built on top of a foundation which may or may not have been constructed well, most noises in our homes are caused by temperature change and the resulting expansion and contraction of wood and other materials used in construction.
Add to that the songs of the utilities, equipment and appliances in the house, and we have an entire symphony of possibility.
Weather conditions are another factor. An extremely rainy season for instance can change the condition of the soil and cause a house to creakily adjust to another position.
It was my three-year old daughter who first made me aware of house noises. When we moved into a very old house built in 1734, she announced that she didn’t like the place because the floors squeaked.
When I talked to a carpenter about alleviating those squeaks, he shrugged and said that in such an old house, with some of the rooms featuring a hardwood floor on top of the original wide-board planks supported on hand-hewn logs, I might as well just pull up all the floors and start fresh.
From my awareness of those noises emitted underfoot, an entire orchestra of discordant sounds has since joined the fray.
At those times when I have been able to pinpoint the cause of a distracting noise and do something about it, it has been hugely satisfying, like the burping sound my bathroom sink made when I turned off the spigot. But other sounds were just a matter of acceptance, with no hope of eliminating them. These include the chime from the pipe to my oil tank when it is being filled, the swishing sound from the waste pipe, the occasional banging from a fireplace wall, and the whistle from the release valve of my steam radiators.
Usually the short cut to solving the problem of knocks within a wall is a good plumber who like a pipe whisperer can recognize the problem and know its solution just by listening to the noise itself.
Much noise can be caused by a common upgrade to a home: replacing old windows with new ones. The two generations of materials can argue a bit as they adjust to each other with the expansion and contraction caused by heat and cold.
And let us not forget the added element of little critters that might enjoy our homes as much as we do, especially in winter. And because animals bring their food supply with them, it can sound like a soccer game is being played with nuts above your head.
With those pesky floor squeaks, there are different techniques to silence them, depending on whether you have access from below. If so, another person would be asked to walk across the floor and tap on the area where the squeak emanates. Then, a thin wood shim coated with carpenter’s glue can be gently tapped into the space between the joist and subfloor, being careful not to drive it in too far or it will raise the flooring.
And in cases of noise from critters seeking warmth in winter, quickly search the yellow pages for an animal control expert, rather than wait until spring for the furry guests to return to the great outdoors.
Bill Primavera is a Realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate and Founder of Primavera Public Relations, Inc. (www.PrimaveraPR.com). His real estate site is www.PrimaveraRealEstate.com, and his blog is www.TheHomeGuru.com. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call (914) 522-2076.