Old House Noises

I’ve done well adapting to being a homeowner, but I don’t think I will ever adapt to the sudden and unexplained noises that come with owning an old house. I always imagine the worst, though often, the house is simply sighing or creaking or settling into a more comfortable position.

The search for the source of the noises isn’t always successful, but it has always been benign. Until the other day, that is, when the search led to a rather uncomfortable situation.

It was afternoon. I’d done my stint of gardening work that morning — watering my bushes and pulling up weeds — and I was happily reading (well, reading. It was a Dirk Pitt book. Not exactly a happy series) when I heard a loud noise. I went searching through the house, and the only thing I could see out of place was that the basement door was ajar, though I keep the door shut. (The basement is not my favorite place, and unless you like dungeons, it wouldn’t be your favorite, either.) I opened the door wider, glanced down the stairs, and noticed that the electric switch box was open. I tried to close it, and when I couldn’t, I realized what the noise must have been — one of the workers had blown a switch a few days previously. After he flipped the switch, I’m sure he would have forced the cover closed, and the noise I heard was the cover springing open. I don’t know why it had done that. Perhaps a difference in temperature? Or the pressure of being jammed shut got to be too much? (Though how it could have popped the basement door open at the same time, I don’t know.)

On the off chance that something else caused the noise, I went outside to look around the house. And saw my neighbor. And stopped to chat. And got bitten by red fire ants.

Although I am always interested in new experiences and adventures, there are some, such as that one, that I could have done without. I am truly glad I wasn’t aware of how abominable those bites were back when I was reading the sort of books where people were staked out over red ant hills and left to be ravaged by those hideous beasts. Even just thinking of it, now that I know how excruciating and hellish those bites are, gives me the willies.

If the cover to the electrical panel hadn’t sprung open, I would still be blissfully unaware of what a red fire ant bite feels like. (I’ve had other kinds of ant bites before, and they burned for a few seconds, and maybe itched a bit, but nothing like the big red sadists.)

It just goes to show . . . something. Maybe the vagaries of life.

Next time I hear a noise that I can’t ignore it, though, I’ll be sure to wear a hazmat suit before I go looking for the source of the sound.


Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator

9 Responses to “Old House Noises”

  1. Estragon Says:

    It may be from a past life in the music business, but I think our sense of hearing is underappreciated, and our sense of sight overappreciated. Especially at my cabin, I know pretty much every sound the cabin and the surrounding flora, fauna, and environmental conditions make. Anything out of the ordinary gets my attention. Even in the city, I’ve lived in the house long enough to know what sounds “off”. Seeing is what is, but hearing tells me something changed from what was, and needs investigation.

    Generally speaking, electrical stuff shouldn’t make noise. Maybe the “boing” or “hum” sound of a transformer. Maybe a spark connecting a live, low voltage, DC circuit. Otherwise, electricity shouldn’t make noise.

    I think you may be on the right track with a temperature change in the electrical box. It could be something environmental, but it could alternatively be heating from a connection going high resistance. If it’s the latter, best case, something fails and you go dark for a bit. Worst case, stuff melts and causes a fire. I don’t know what the “switch box” actually is, but I’d err on the side of caution and investigate further. FWIW.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I don’t know what it’s called. An electric panel? It used to be called a fuse box when there were fuses, now there are switches. Hence, my calling it a switch box instead of fuse box. But as I said, I don’t know what it’s called. The switches are all fine — none of them have been tripped. It was just the panel cover that sprung open, but I’ll have someone look at it.

      • Estragon Says:

        Many/most circuit breaker panel doors seem to have pretty flimsy catches. Was it windy or gusty when it happened? I’m imagining an air pressure differential opening both doors at about the same time?

        • Pat Bertram Says:

          Circuit breaker. Sheesh. I’ve been looking for that word for weeks now. I simply had disappeared out of my head! I even looked up synonyms for “fuse box” and all I found was electric breaker.

          It’s possible I didn’t get the basement door latched all the way, so when it opened because of a breeze from open windows or air pressure differential, it could also have popped the circuit breaker panel door. (The panel door really doesn’t close right, and when I closed it, it popped open right away.)

          So, my take on this — make sure the basement door is securely latched, and make sure the breaker panel door isn’t.

  2. rami ungar the writer Says:

    My apartment building always has crazy noises. It’s not limited to old houses. Some of them sound like banging on my bedroom wall, which sometimes make me think someone’s telling me to shut up whatever I’m doing. However, the apartment next to me is used for storage, so more likely it’s the building settling down. Before I figured that out, though, I was certain someone was annoyed with my sleep hypnosis track and wanted me to turn it down. Gave me some anxiety, I’ll tell you.

  3. Judy Galyon Says:

    Did you call the guy that did the problem??? It’s amazing how one thing leads to another. Snowball anyone????

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