Why do Houses Creak?

why do houses creak

In today’s article, we are going to answer the debated question, why do houses creak? Well, first of all, there is not much to debate on.

A house, especially an old one, can creak for several reasons which include plumbing issues, effects of heat and rain, worn-out floors, and whatnot.

But waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of your house creaking discreetly or loudly is not a pleasant situation.

While many of us will find this situation unsettling and even scary, those of you who are into horror films may find this common phenomenon interesting. But we are sorry to burst your bubble; there is no ghost in your attic.

A creaking house can indicate several concerning factors regarding the house and it is better to address them as soon as possible before accidents.

In this article, we will be addressing all the probable causes that can originate creaks or pops within a house and finally answer your question, why do houses creak?

Why do Houses Creak?

Let us take a look at the common sources that may cause houses to creak.

1. Thermal Changes

Thermal expansion and contraction is probably the most common reason that causes a house to make creaking sounds. Because of the sun’s heat during the daytime and the use of internal heaters in a house, the structural members of a house, such as its wooden pillars, metallic foundation, etc. grow warmer.

Because of the increased heat, the materials (wood, metal, etc.) themselves begin to expand lengthwise primarily. This phenomenon consequently causes immense strain on the joints and fasteners in your house, producing creeks and other ominous sounds deep within the walls, ceilings, and floors of your house.

It is especially common in wooden houses as the grain runs lengthwise through the wooden planks, coinciding with the primary direction of the thermal expansion. When the house begins to cool back down, usually after the sun goes down, the opposite phenomenon occurs; that is, thermal contraction.

As the previously expanded structures and the joints begin to contract down to their original size and tighten back up respectively, you can experience just as much commotion as that during thermal expansion.

You can solve the issues regarding thermal expansion and contraction by taking the following steps:

  • Using reflective white paint to diverge sunlight
  • Installing expansion joints to support the structural members of the house
  • Getting a vents system installed to avoid heat building up inside your house
  • Getting a roof inspection to see if your roofing system has any cracks

2. Settling of The House

Another fairly mundane cause of creaking noises in a house can mean that it is settling. This may occur with the time when the house’s weight can cause the soil beneath the house to compact; resulting in specific areas and sometimes even the entire house sinking minutely into the ground; in other words, settling.

Settling a house can also cause inconsistent shifting and racking within the structural framing, windows, and door opening of the house.

Although the settlement of a house is often considered a lifelong process, it is not a risky one as long as the walls and ceilings of the house do not develop any major cracks.

But if it happens, it is best to get help from a structural engineer and have the necessary piers installed to support your house.

3. Foundation shifting

A creaking house is oftentimes a major indicator of foundation damage. Over time, due to settling and repeated thermal changes within the structures of the house, foundation shifting of the house can occur. It is a serious issue that must be treated with the help of professionals immediately.

Besides, the sooner you address the issue, the better chances you have of being saved from costly foundation repairs.

4. Plumbing Issues

You may hear creaking or popping noises when you turn on a hot water pipe or shower in the house. If your pipes were installed with minimal room for contraction and expansion, your PVC pipes may rub against the wooden walls, ceiling, or floor of your house when they expand due to hot water flowing through them.

Although the pipes do not suffer any damage from this contact, it is better to widen the holes to make more room for the pipes or to insulate the pipes permanently.

Another reason that can cause creaks in a house is faulty water hammers. If you notice popping noises within the house right after someone turns off a faucet, water pressure is probably triggering the sound against the closing valves.

You can solve this issue easily by wrapping the pipes with foam. Alternatively, you can install a few water hammer absorbers by calling in a plumber.

5. Poorly Fastened Subflooring or Lose Treads

Nobody is fond of a creaky floorboard or that one thread on a staircase that makes noises whenever stepped on. The main reason for these noises are the improper or loose fasteners trying to hold down the warped wood to the floor joists. You can easily combat this inconvenience by using adhesives.

In the case of the floorboard, remove the subflooring sheet and place an adhesive on the joists. Refasten the plywood with screws tightly and replace the floor covering.

There are several other reasons which may cause different noises within your house. They include:

  • Changes in the weather
  • Having a flat or damaged roof
  • Pest problems
  • Air duct issues, etc.

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Final Words

A house can creak for several reasons. While some may be natural causes, others must not be ignored as they can indicate a serious condition of the infrastructure of your house.

If you are unable to locate the source of the creaking sound, it is better to get help from structural engineers and/or plumbers. Creaking sounds in a house are nothing to be afraid of. It is a very common phenomenon and is usually mistaken as something creepy by most.

We hope our article helped in clearing the misconception about creaking houses and enlightened you to resolve the issue if you are facing it yourself.

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