Giovanni Valle is a licensed architect and LEED-accredited professional and is certified by the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB). He is the author and managing editor of various digital publications, including BuilderSpace, Your Own Architect, and Interiors Place.
Hearing pops and creaks at night can be a frightening and disturbing experience if you live alone. But, even if you don’t, you might be left wondering if there’s a serious issue within the walls or on the roof. Fortunately, there’s usually a reasonable explanation for wall popping.
Walls pop and creak at night due to temperature changes as the house cools. This is especially true during the summer if the house has been subjected to the sun all day. Loose drywall connections, electrical issues, structural settling, or regular roof noises can also cause popping in your home.
This article will discuss why your walls pop at night and if there’s anything you can do about it. Let’s get started!
5 Reasons Your Walls Pop at Night
Most homeowners find it strange that their walls remain silent during the day but seem to come alive at night. However, popping is usually present throughout the day, too – you just don’t usually hear it, as this is when homes typically have higher noise levels.
Popping from your walls can range from soft and infrequent to loud, constant sounds that keep you awake.
But it’s not always coming from the walls. Sometimes, it’s an appliance or pipe near or within the wall, such as:
- HVAC pipes. HVAC pipes are located within a home’s walls. When your HVAC system isn’t draining correctly or consistently set at a cool temperature, ice can build up and make a popping noise when it melts.
- Water pipes. The water pipes in your walls can gradually develop a mineral build-up, forming a rough inner coating. This can result in air bubble formation and burst, resulting in a popping sound.
- Appliances. If you run appliances during the day, they will heat up, and the metal will expand. At night, as the appliances cool down after being used, their parts can contract and make popping sounds. Since large appliances are typically stored against the wall, you may believe that your walls are making the popping sounds.
- Wooden furniture. If you have heavy, wooden furniture, it can make noisy popping sounds as it contracts during the night.
- Roof timbers. When your roof timbers heat up during the day, condensation can form, exacerbating the expansion process. When the wood cools down at night, the popping sounds can travel downward.
Those are just a few everyday things to look out for if you hear popping around your home. But if you’re sure it’s coming from the walls, it’s likely one of the following reasons:
1. Thermal Contraction and Expansion
Unless you live in a tropical location, there will be a noticeable temperature drop at night.
During the day, when the temperature is at its highest, the heat causes the materials in your walls to expand slightly, resulting in popping sounds. The same popping sounds happen at night when the air around walls cools and the materials contract.
This process is known as thermal contraction and expansion, and it’s more noticeable if you live in a desert climate where the days are hot and the nights cold.
Wood is notoriously noisy, but drywall and metal can also make sounds.
2. Loose Drywall Connections
Older homes are much more likely to have loose drywall connections, which often shift slightly and pop back into place at night.
In older drywall, screws and joints can become loose over time, causing them to move around and form holes. Screws can also become loose if the studs have contracted and expanded or if they were installed too deeply.
If you think you may have loose drywall connections, it is worth inspecting it to retighten or replace loose screws or joints.
3. Electrical Issues, Such As Poor Wiring
Walls popping at night could indicate a potentially serious problem with your home’s electrical system.
Electrical outlets or breaker boxes that make popping sounds could indicate arcing, an unsafe electrical wiring set-up. When this happens, the electrical current causes a spark as it moves from one connection to the other.
Arcing commonly happens when the electrical circuit is overloaded, poorly wired, or overheated. The resulting flash can ignite surrounding particles in the air (such as dust) and occasionally cause a fire.
Therefore, you must have an electrician evaluate your home’s electrical wiring system if you believe the popping sounds emanate from the electrical system.
4. Structural Settling on a New Foundation
Before a house is built, the area needs to be prepped. That typically involves setting a foundation onto which the house can be constructed.
Layers of gravel, concrete, reinforced steel, and drainage pipes are poured and pressed until it’s solid and stable.
After a house has been built, the underlying soil can shift slightly over time, causing its foundations to adjust to the changes. When this happens, popping sounds occur, and the sound can travel up into the walls.
This is known as structural settling and is a common phenomenon.
However, severe structural settling can emerge if the underlying soil is unstable or the house has inadequate foundations, requiring professional repair.
5. Standard Roof Noises, Such As Birds or Squirrels
Your roof can cause popping sounds at night, and you may mistakenly believe that the noises are coming from your walls. However, roof spaces are typically empty areas, so any sound made will echo and seem louder than they really are.
Innocent roof sounds include:
- The materials contracting as the temperature drops.
- The wind causing roof sheets to shift.
If the sheetrock in your ceiling is cracked, the popping sound will heighten. Chances are, the crack will get worse if there are extreme temperature fluctuations, leading the sounds to travel down the walls.
In addition, pests (such as mice, bats, or squirrels) in the roof can gnaw at the roof material and drop pieces of dirt as they run across the timbers. These noises can be surprisingly loud, and you may mistakenly believe they’re coming from the walls.
When your walls pop at night, it’s not usually anything serious.
Temperature fluctuations, structural settling, and some roof noises are expected, and you should try not to let them bother you.
Wall popping, however, can sometimes indicate a serious problem that warrants action.
For example, if you think the popping is the result of loose drywall connections, electrical wiring problems, or a pest infestation, you should call in a professional as soon as possible.
- YouTube: Loud Ticking, Popping, Tapping & Creaking Sound in the Wall
- Study.com: Thermal Expansion and Contraction
- National Geographic: Condensation
- DIY Stack Exchange: What is the concept behind drywall studs?
- Galvin Power: How Does a Breaker Box Work?
- Clover Electric: What Is Electrical Arcing and What are the Warning Signs?
Share this Post