Home Maintenance: 10 Eerie House Noises & Smells You Should Never Ignore

Posted by Laine Smith on 10/31/16 10:52 AM

Topics: Home Ownership

Happy Halloween! Due to age, maintenance, and the efficiency of various major home systems, your house is bound to creak and clank every once in awhile. While spooky, these noises and smells are most likely typical home maintenance issues that may need some attention sooner than later. Here are some of the most common eerie home noise complaints and their causes.


Flush, gurgle, gurgle.

If your toilet is making a gurgling sound on its own or after flushing, there could be a range of problems, rating from minor to serious. According to Three-Way Plumbing Services, you could have:

  • A blockage in the toilet or drain for that toilet
  • A sewer line blockage
  • A blockage in the vent stack (from ice, leaves, an animal, etc.)

A gurgling toilet should never be ignored. Whether it’s a blocked drain, vent stack or sewer line, you’ll want to call a plumber ASAP to diagnose your problem so you can avoid a major water issue in the future.

I hear a buzzing or humming sound from my electrical outlet(s).

You shouldn’t be able to “hear” your electricity, but if you detect a buzzing sound from any of your outlets, you may have a wiring problem.

The problem is likely a loose connection causing vibrations, which you’ll want to have addressed by an electrician.

What's that smell?


Either you need to take out your garbage or you have a gas leak. Normally natural gas is odorless, but gas suppliers add an odorant called mercaptan to give gas a distinctive odor to alert residents of a potential leak.

If you smell something similar to sulfur or rotten eggs:

  • Exit your home.
  • Do not turn any appliances or lights on or off.
  • Call your utility company immediately from a safe place.

I turned on the heat...now something is clanking.

When you finally give in to turning on your heating system, it's completely normal to hear groaning as the system expands and rubs against the framing of your home.

I hear footsteps in my attic and scratches behind my walls.


You may have a pest problem. Mice, squirrels, raccoons and bats often make their way into homes when the weather turns cold, even through the smallest entrance points.

It's important to call your local pest control or exterminator as soon as possible, as some critters are known to carry hazardous diseases and can do substantial damage to your insulation, siding and/or wiring.

I smell something burning but my smoke detectors aren't going off.


If there's no smoke in the house but you still smell the odor of burnt wood, your fireplace could be the culprit.

A drafty chimney can mean exterior air infiltrating your chimney and pushing stale fire smells in with it. To minimize the smoky smells and air drafts, make sure your damper has a good seal and prep your fireplace for use each year by hiring a chimney sweep.

I'm home alone...but I hear water running.


Though eerie, this sound probably has little to do with the latest scary movie you watched. Hearing running water could indicate a burst pipe or leak.

To start, shut off your main water supply to see if the noise dissipates. Call in a plumber to diagnose the problem so you can avoid substantial water damage.

What's that bubbling and cracking?

If you have a gas-powered water heater, that could be the problem. Over the years, water sediment builds at the bottom of your water heater, forcing the burning to work overtime to heat the tank.

Bubbling and cracking could indicate a stressed water heater. Ideally, you should drain your water heater from time-to-time to keep sediment levels at a minimum. Draining the water heater might help eliminate the bubbling and cracking, but those noises could also indicate it may be time for a new water heater.

I hear what sounds like whistling or hissing.

Though you'll likely smell it before you hear it, a hissing noise could indicate a gas leak. If you hear a hissing sound by your gas meter, call your gas company immediately.

If you hear whistling, especially on a windy night, you probably have some drafts. Sealing air leaks around windows and doors is a big to-do on fall home maintenance checklists.

If you hear a whistling sound while your furnace is running, it might be time to change your furnace filters. Make sure you clean/change filters on a regular basis (anywhere from monthly to every three months, depending on your heating system).

I hear something clanking on the exterior of my home.

Vents for dryers, bathrooms and water heaters usually exit through your roof or the side of your home and are fitted with dampers to prevent drafts. If it's extremely windy, the damper might be rattling more than usual or in some cases, a new damper is needed.

Interested in doing major home maintenance or renovations? Download our free Rehab & Construction Guide for ways to finance those improvements into your home loan.

Download: Rehab & Construction Guide

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