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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I'm a GC and I live in a townhouse complex. Lots of the residents in the complex call me for random things, as does the HOA. This issue was first brought to me in January of 2013... A homeowner was complaining of popping and cracking noises in his bedroom walls/ceiling at night. I tried to brush him off for a while just telling him that it was "house sounds". He persisted and told me that it was very disturbing to his sleep...and asked if I could investigate. Bottom line....I slept at his house one night ..in his master bedroom (without him!). I rented a piece of audio recording equipment to record these "sounds". Needless to say I slept very little ...and brought my computer and paperwork to keep me busy throughout the night. Mostly between 1 and 5 AM the sounds began, and all I can say is that they was a rather loud popping, and snapping noise. Intermittently. Coming from the top portion of an interior wall...near the ceiling. I couldn't pinpoint it, but it wasn't in one specific location....it was all along I would say an approximately 4'X8' section, with an occasional pop or snap elsewhere. I recorded the entire night and compiled all of the sounds into a 3 minute sound clip (which I would upload here, but it's 19MB and the file is too large). When I finally got up at 6:00 am to leave, I went downstairs and it was quite chilly in the house. 61 degrees. The homeowner rarely uses his heat. This is located in Los Angeles in an area where year round the temps are generally 50-80 degrees. More info.... His bedroom ceiling is also the flat roof of the 2 story unit. 2x10 roof construction, with the back half of the roof (next bedroom) on an approx. 12" lower roof level. (It steps down.) The roofs in these generally have fiberglass insulation. The roof material is a membrane type of roof, (not sure what this is called). His bedroom is also an end unit and has an exterior wall. I obviously attribute the noises coming from thermal expansion and contraction in the wood and connections....however, now that the HOA is involved and agreed to help, they've deferred to me....how can I eliminate this, or help alleviate it?

Homeowner is dead set on the problem being from "termite damage". A year or more ago a small adjacent attic portion was looked at and there were some decent signs of termites. In so-cal...almost everything has termites....

I disagree....but I can't see through walls. and the place isn't falling down...yet.

My first thoughts....1.) Re-screw the heck out of the drywall in general problem locations to see if more snug connections (better than 1970's drywall nails) help snug things up. Just in case it's drywall nails moving. No visible signs of defect anywhere.

Worse case scenario: 1.)Tear off the whole roof including weak a$$ 3/8" plywood. Yes 3/8"!! I've seen it and cut it out myself for other HO's wanting bath vent fans!! It's like walking on clouds when you walk on the roof....bouncy as heck! 2.)Remove all insulation, 3.)use foaming adhesive at every wood connection and drywall intersection/connection from the roof side to eliminate gaps and room for movement. 4.) Spray foam insulate the ceiling from above, 5.) re-install 5/8" plywood sheathing on the roof, glued and ring shank nailed, 6.)re-roof.

My townhouse has some of the same noises, although they're much less in frequency, and not nearly as loud. Not disturbing to me.

I'm looking for thoughts/advice, etc. Whatever I do, I am NOT guaranteeing fixing the issue...

My advice to me would be to run because this might be a no win scenario. or light it on fire and re-build....but I can't do either.

Thanks guys...
 

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Have you tried talking to an audio expert? I saw this guy on Mythbusters https://www.meyersound.com/index.php seems if anyone could find out what it is it would be them. I've heard sounds like that before in old houses, I always assumed it was the frame of the house shrinking. But if it's doing it all night that seems odd. Only thing I could think of is tearing off the roof and replacing with TJI's. You're sure it's a snap and not a squeak? No bats or mice up there?
 

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In regular single family homes, this is many times due to expansion/contraction of PVC drain pipes. But it's usually more pronounced in the morning when people are showering. The time frame you describe makes it odd unless a night shift person lives above the unit.

Edit-I reread the OP so my post is probably not of much help.
 

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My first thoughts....1.) Re-screw the heck out of the drywall in general problem locations to see if more snug connections (better than 1970's drywall nails) help snug things up. Just in case it's drywall nails moving. .
My God!!! When will we ever not be at blame?:whistling
 

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In regular single family homes, this is many times due to expansion/contraction of PVC drain pipes. But it's usually more pronounced in the morning when people are showering. The time frame you describe makes it odd unless a night shift person lives above the unit.

Edit-I reread the OP so my post is probably not of much help.
I was thinking the same thing. Maybe a pvc vent for a power vent water heater in a hole drilled snug?
 

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We just dealt with a similiar issue where the house was a two story modular and made all sorts of noise. Ends up the home installers flipped the soffits down but never fastened them to the house. So everytime the wind would blow the soffit would pick up and periods of high wind would slam it down hard and loud. All the movement ended up popping the truss plates which if they are more than 1/32" separated from the truss member consitutes a failure. Expensive repairs. I would guess that you are having the same type of issue caused by wind uplift which could be more pronounced on a flat roof than a gable. the gable has an opposite truss pushing back whereas the flat roof truss does not. Check for cracking at the wall to ceiling junction and don't fasten drywall to top plate, hold last screw back 6" from corner on ceiling sheet and wall sheet. Other than that, good luck? Sounds like a good reason for some exploratory surgery....
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Have you tried talking to an audio expert? I saw this guy on Mythbusters https://www.meyersound.com/index.php seems if anyone could find out what it is it would be them. I've heard sounds like that before in old houses, I always assumed it was the frame of the house shrinking. But if it's doing it all night that seems odd. Only thing I could think of is tearing off the roof and replacing with TJI's. You're sure it's a snap and not a squeak? No bats or mice up there?
Definitely a snap and pop sort of noise. No squak. No animals...this is a structural noise.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
We just dealt with a similiar issue where the house was a two story modular and made all sorts of noise. Ends up the home installers flipped the soffits down but never fastened them to the house. So everytime the wind would blow the soffit would pick up and periods of high wind would slam it down hard and loud. All the movement ended up popping the truss plates which if they are more than 1/32" separated from the truss member consitutes a failure. Expensive repairs. I would guess that you are having the same type of issue caused by wind uplift which could be more pronounced on a flat roof than a gable. the gable has an opposite truss pushing back whereas the flat roof truss does not. Check for cracking at the wall to ceiling junction and don't fasten drywall to top plate, hold last screw back 6" from corner on ceiling sheet and wall sheet. Other than that, good luck? Sounds like a good reason for some exploratory surgery....
No wind.....at all. No visible cracks anywhere.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
I was thinking the same thing. Maybe a pvc vent for a power vent water heater in a hole drilled snug?
Much different than that sound. That almost sounds like a metronome once it gets started. I have one of those exact problems about 8 feet up the wall above where I'm sitting right now. Every time the wife starts the shower when I'm at the computer, I think of punching a hole straight through the drywall to fix it.

As I said...this happens mostly between 1-5 AM. It happens a few times in the day etc, but barely noticed, as he's either at work, or generally not trying to sleep and the whole world is quiet. He's not laying there in the bedroom all day listening for it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
In regular single family homes, this is many times due to expansion/contraction of PVC drain pipes. But it's usually more pronounced in the morning when people are showering. The time frame you describe makes it odd unless a night shift person lives above the unit.

Edit-I reread the OP so my post is probably not of much help.
Nobody lives above... and see the other response above like yours...
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
OK, so I uploaded the audio file to YouTube. There's a cheesy background pic because I had to turn it into a video before I could make it public. Note...this 1 min. 55 second audio clip was cuts of all of the audio from the entire night (the loudest "events"). They didn't all happen at once in this 1:55, but throughout the night. However, sometimes, as you'll hear, a few or more will all pop at once... Turn up the volume to to get the full effect...
http://youtu.be/SMQ7iR1pHFY
 

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My smarta## answer would be to tell them its ghosts.

I think it is contraction and expansion of the framing. I hear that every evening in my living room. Depending on the temperature, it might be 5:00 or 7:00. In my case, it is only in my living room.
In my last house it was only in the main bedroom at about 9:00 to 10:00 at night. That house has steel framing.

I still like the ghost answer though. It sounds just like the ghost hunter shows on TV. Of course when my wife it watching those, in my head I'm thinking contraction and expansion. They are always there in the middle of the night.
 
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