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Question DetailsAsked on 2/16/2015

During extremely cold nights, I get a loud bang noise. Any ideas where it could be coming from and how to prevent?

I live in 2 story, 20 yr old colonial. The bang noise only happens on extremely cold nights (~10degrees or lower). The noise comes from 1st floor area in back of house. Only happens a couple of times a night and happens more earlier in the winter. It's loud enough to wake us up on the 2nd floor. I can't locate the exact spot of the noise as it happens mostly when we are sleeping and not at any specific time. I don't think its related to the heat as i have a wood pellet stove and thus heat isn't on much (although the pellet doesn't heat the upstairs). There is a wood deck off the back of the house that could be the problem - we are changing the boards in the spring. There is a 'jut' out off the kitchen - 2 feet that juts out off the foundation. Could something expand/contract in there? Baseboard heat pipes do go through that section. I'm looking for any solution --not even sure who to contact. Thanks

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5 Answers

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Here is a link to a recent diagnosis exercise I just went through on another similar question - might be of some interest to you, though that case is likely duct related whereas your I think may be outside -

In your case however, and especially with the only on very cold night issue and especially more early in winter, my first, second and probably third guess would be the deck.

Baseboard heating pipes commonly creak, pop, and sometimes squeek as they expand and contract, but unless the pipes are jamming up where they come out of the floor so they make the baseboard radiator "pop", they usually do not "bang" like steam pipes do. And would sound like someone accidentally kicking the baseboard like a minor clang or thump - and typically quite metallic sounding in that case.

The jut out on the house could make the noiseif it is heating and cooling signifiantly, but with constant heat in the house I would doubt it - that noise can occur on occasion due to siding being installed without adequate expansion gaps at the ends of boards or edges of panels. Usually if that is the problem, though, you will get bulging or end-cracking or splitting of the siding oer time. Plus of course the expansion and noise occurs in HOT conditions (usually direct sunlight on hot days), not in the cold of winter.

Deck, especially in early winter as they initially freeze and the moisture content in the boards is typically high, tend to thump quite hard as they freeze - commonly sounds about like someone jumping up high and landing hard on the deck in boots, or maybe like someone hitting the far end of the house with a sledgehammer. Not uncommon to actually feel the thump while in your bed.

What is happening can be one of several things:

1) most commonly, moisture in the boards is freezing causing expansion - till eventually the board(s) pop a nail, or break free of the frost holding them to the support boards. They freeze at the joists first because that is where the free water is and is accessible to the air all around so it freezes hard first, then as hard freezing conditions persist through the night the water in the boards themselves expands, causing the board to eventually break the ice bond - or in extreme cases to push hard enough against the end of the next board to break it free. This commonly happens from a couple to around 4-6 hours after evening hard freeze sets in, so commonly about midnightish as opposed to early evening or early AM, in normal daily temperature fluctuation conditions. This can easily happen to several boards in one night, and if thawing in the daytime, or especially if getting rained on or getting snow meltwater again, can become more frequent for awhile then taper off a few days to a week or so later.

2) decks are basically built as a single unit without specific expansion provision, but are semi-rigidly fastened in place by the piers and commonly rigidly fastened along the house edge - so any expansion or contraction creates stresses in the deck which eventually can get strong enough to cause popping and creaking and thumping noises. Because it is rigidly constructed, the stresses (from moisture or freezing or on large decks even just daily thermal changes) can accumulate fairly well before something releases, so the thump or bang can be quite loud.

3) if your support posts (on decks with outer edge support piers/posts and fastened to the house with a ledger board) are frost heaving, then they lift the deck upwards at the outer edge, which can cause sounds from nails prying out of the house as the ledger board tilts up - or in extreme cases ripping out of lag bolts or joist hangers. Check to be sure your ledger board is not tilting away form the house at the bottom, and that the deck is not tilting up significantly at the outer edge.

4) sometimes the freezing water in the deck boards can cause splitting of the board, which makes a tearing or ripping sound usually, rather than a thump.

5) occasionally, frost heave in the ground under the stairs can lift the stairs, causing tearing or ripping where it is fastened to the deck.

While disturbing, this sort of noise (in moderation) does not normally "damage" a deck, though of course it does cause a general loosening up of fasteners over time, and sometimes snaps deck nails or screws (screws more often because they are generally higher stress steel, so can't yield as much before snapping). Of course, significant frost heaving does need to be taken care of - by solving the cause (footings bearing on/in frost heave susceptible soil) or by releveling the deck periodically if a slow, gradual year-by-year heaving of the foundations.

Measures to take - just visually inspect the deck and alll support posts and connections periodically (every year or two) for broken or loose ones, but generally unless deck board fasteners break, you will not see anything except maybe a few nail heads sticking up. And check it with a level to be sure the outer edge is not lifting up due to frost heaving of the piers, and adjust back level (hopefully you have adjustable piers/posts).

Answered 5 years ago by LCD


Thanks for the very thoughtful response. I am thinking it is the deck as well. Here are a few more details on the deck. It's pressure treated wood and is not in good shape. There is poor spacing between the boards - to a point where you can stand under the deck in many spots and not get wet in the rain. The boards are very, very close together and water pools.

In the spring there are several nails that pop and need to be hammered back down.

Also, it is a very large deck (50 x 18).

I will say when we moved into the house, the first time we heard the noise we thought a chair or something fell on the deck. So the noise seems to be coming from the deck (although when you're upstairs and sleeping it's hard to really tell).

The time frame you describe also makes sense given when we hear it. Often post-midnight and very rarely during the day.

As I mentioned we are having the boards replaced in the spring with composite (Fiberon) and the company installing them seems to be good so the spacing issue will go away. I am hoping this solves the issues but we won't know until this time next year. We need to try something because waking up in the middle of the night to a loud noise is not fun. Does the changing of the boards/spacing seem like a good strategy?

Answered 5 years ago by Guest_93670493


Could be - only time will tell. I have front and back decks of treated wood - because of the moisture in the wood the 48' long back one was built with a 16d nail spacing between boards but ended up with fairly wide spacing (up to 1/2") between boards because it came in wetter than I planned on and dramatically shrunk. The front one built a months or two later I figured I would be smart and spaced them edge to edge figuring I would end up with about 1/8" gap - they ended up not shrinking at all and actually expand when wet, so are a tight fit - but no bowing or buckling. The back one is the one that bumps and cracks every time the temperature gets significantly below freezing - not a sound from the front one, though granted it is only about 10' in any dimension. Gets about same rain and snow and sunlight. So - my theory is the back boards freeze to the joists and then break free, causing the thump.
One thing I now recommend in deck building, especially with non-treated joists, is to protect the joists (and ledger and beams) from rot and reduce the water at the interface between joists and decking, is running a strip of ice and water shield along the top of the joists before installing the decking - about 1" wider so it acts as a drip shield to keep almost all the water off the joists, which generally dry much slower. Would also act as a bond-breaker and might reduce the noise issue - I can't say for certain, but logically should.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD


Probably thermal expansion and contraction (frost quakes). I live in New England, and just experienced this myself.

Answered 5 years ago by feverfew


Those are incorrect answers. The load gun shot booms are causes by water freezing in the ground as the freeze line gets deeper....called an ice quake.

Called cryoseismic and only usually happens at night.

Answered 4 years ago by Scottbr


About cryoseismic sounds - yes that can occur, but generally only in cold conditions (about 0-20 BELOW or lower), and rare in the US, though pretty common at night in the arctic in the start of winter when the water in the shallow soil is rapidly freezing. Occasionally happens in the midwest and northeast when a severe cold front moes through on snowfree ground, causing rapid overnight freezing of the ground surface, which then cracks open as the water in the ground below it freezes and expands, cracking open the surficial frozen layer.

About the comment about deck (or wet roof) not being the source - evidently that responder has never lived in cold country. In the fall when the wood is wet, or in cold nights in the spring when the snow has been falling wet or thawing in the daytime, my deck routinely does this in the first half of the nighttime - commonly sounds like someone hitting the house with a claw hammer to sledgehammer, and up to about 10-15 times during the night. Roof also does it as the daytime runoff gets in under any icedamming or glaciering and pops it free of the roofing - occasionally followed by an avalanche of either slab or cracked up ice of the roof.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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