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Confusion about Creaking house

  1. Nov 23, 2008 #1
    First off I MUST say and EMPHASIZE the fact that I am not trying to screw with anyone and I come at this from a very open standpoint. I've been on this forum long enough to feel that someone won't call me a loon or a liar.

    Ever since me being maybe 14 or so I did something weird that I can't recall how I ever started. I would be laying in bed at night and the house would creak and I would start counting. I would keep a beat and count and sometimes the house would creak just once but other times it would hit on intervals or sequences. I know this sounds insane or stupid but it happens. Oddly it has been there for years but I never took at real stab at it as I did it every now and then. Just the other night I started to count and It was going in a sequence of this until it stopped at 21 (15, 17, 19, 21). The feeling of anticipation that it was about to happen and then it did was incredible and just makes me shake my head in disbelief.

    I know it sounds crazy but I know I'm not. I almost get the feeling that I'm causing it but that is doubtful. I don't know what to acheieve by putting this up here then people thinking I'm crazy seeing as I can't see much debunking being done on this subject.

    On a side note, I have played bass for about 10 years and some drums so I have a good sense of a beat.

    Note also that I have a totally different story about the house creaking that I will tell later if interested as I am tired right now.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 23, 2008 #2


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    Sounds like you are hearing the contraction of the houses building materials when the temperature outside is droping. Have you ever noticed this in the morning when the outside temperature is increasing and the house is expanding?
  4. Nov 23, 2008 #3
    yes, maybe it coincides with the heating coming on or another thermal effect. Can't explain the sequence though. If it happened over a long range I would be more curious.

    Please ellaborate on the other house tales.
  5. Nov 24, 2008 #4
    I can't say too much about if it happens in the day time. I guess mostly because the house is very quiet at night and in the day there is some noise or I'm not paying attention. If I hear the creak in the daytime I will pay more attention. I don't know if it has any correlation to the heater coming on and off but I doubt that. The heat changes as mentioned would be the best bet.

    The other instance I was with my friend in my great room a few years back at like 3 in the morning. We were just sitting there and I heard a creak across the room on the upper loft area. (This room is where the noises come from). The great room has about 20ft high ceilings and you can see down from the second level. So anyway it was across the room and I pointed it out and mentioned something about my experiences with it. We were both quiet and listened and for some reason I didn't do the count thing but then I heard a second creak on a adjacent wall. Again, silence for a while then another to our left. Again another one to my left but closer. Silence again until finally I heard another creak about 2 feet from my head on my right which freaked both of us out.

    I could understand that a creak could maybe travel along a wall as different parts of the wall settle and conflict with each other but what confuses me about this is that it traveled along 3 different walls. The first was about two stories up (I could tell approx where the noise was coming from). The second and third were on an adjacent wall around the 1st level height. The third was to my right on a wall that does not go up to the celing but instead stops at the second level and is a plant shelf.

    Gareth, what do you mean by happening over a long range?
  6. Nov 24, 2008 #5
    I mean if the creaks showed a definate pattern over a longe time span it would be interesting.

    It still sounds to me like it could be the heating, if the heating comes on hot water travels through the pipes, heating them and their surroundings as it goes, the pipes are under floors and in ceilings.

    What kind of heating system do you have in the house?
  7. Nov 24, 2008 #6


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    Also remember that "suggestivity" does not entail "madness".
    Our perceptive faculty is NOT a mere passive medium which just register sensory impressions, but it actively organizes these impressions, and also INVENTS, and FILLS OUT, the expected perception.
    That is, we do, in fact, to some extent, CREATE our own perception, based not only on the external impressions, but also on our own expectations.

    These are everyday occurences, as numerous studies of perception have shown.

    A typical example is a sparse dots-image, the brain readily fills out the image to become something recognizable.
  8. Nov 24, 2008 #7
    First off the parts of the house that creak are nowhere near any heater vents or anything. My ceiling is like loft and there is no real trusses and attic above that section. It is probably about a foot above the drywall till you get to the shingles. The heating system is a standard furnace to my knowledge. It is in the basement.

    Part of the second story was the fact that we both heard it. I personally can understand in certain situations how your brain could tell you otherwise but I don't think it applies here because it happens often and he heard it too.
  9. Nov 24, 2008 #8


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    bassplayer, I don't doubt for a minute that your story is true.

    What you're hearing may be in part temperature contraction, as other have said, but the bigger player here - moisture content (MC) of the wood. Especially in the cross grain direction, wood expands as MC increases, and contracts as MC decreases.

    The driver of MC change in wood is humidity in the air.

    It sounds like some part in the wood frame of your building is contracting and expanding against something that is stationary (which also could be wood, but may be better secured). As the wood expands or contracts, stress builds until it breaks free. If this breaking point is close to, say, your loft floor, then it would be like banging a drum - it could be quite loud!

    The noise is regular because the expansion/contraction appears constant over short periods of time.
  10. Nov 25, 2008 #9


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    From your information that the great room has 20 ft high ceilings, I suppose this is an old house. So, the wood is pretty dry and can absorb much moisture.
    As lisab said, the changing in moisture content can cause the sound.
  11. Nov 25, 2008 #10
    A lot of things can make the walls creak. I know the wind makes my walls creak.
  12. Nov 26, 2008 #11
    The house was actually built in 1997. Not sure if I made it clear but the high ceilings are the ceilings of the second level. I'm not doubting that moisture content and heat fluctuations are the reason. I pretty much thought of heat to begin with. I just don't get the sequence it follows or how it repeats.

    I guess this subject is exhausted anyway as I can't see anything more coming from it. Thanks for the comments though.
  13. Nov 26, 2008 #12
    If the last experience you describe is anything like your other experiences, I can't see how it there are patterns to it..? There are a few creaks in a short amount of time and silence in much longer amount of time? Do you call that your pattern, or is this not a great example of the patterns you describe?

    If it is, I don't think it is very odd to have multiple creaks in a short amount of time. If it's wood that's creaking, I can imagine that a wooden plank creaking somewhere on your left wall would mean that the wood moved a little bit, which could in turn move another piece of wood even in another wall, which would then creak and move another piece of wood, etc...
    In fact I can hear this quite often myself, I believe it's our wooden staircase. Often you hear it creak relatively loudly for about 4-5 times within 10 seconds, and then it can stay still for the rest of the night (as far as I'm awake to hear it)...
  14. Nov 30, 2008 #13
    Given approximately linear thermal expansion or contraction, I would expect the creaks to be spread out evenly over time. As two objects in contact expand differently, one stretches while the other is squeezed until the force opposing the deformation overcomes static friction, at which point the objects slide over each other and creak. Because none of the constants would be changing, it should take about the same amount of time for each occurence.
  15. Jan 14, 2010 #14
    In nature there are predictable patterns. Houses are made of materials which expand and contract when exposed to temperature changes. Our bodies can feel a rhythm before our brains can analyze the pattern. Maybe when you are 'telling' the creak to happen you are really acting on an impulse from your subconscious. You could be reacting to sensory input from your body.
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