What's that critter noise in my attic?!?

Discussion in 'Pest Control' started by EMD47, Jan 17, 2016.

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  1. Jan 17, 2016 #1

    EMD47

    EMD47

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    Hello all and Happy New Year!

    Maybe someone can help me figure what kind of animal is up here in my 3' high attic. Not a squirrel because there's no mess, not bats, no rats or mice in the baited traps from a professional exterminator company. Nothing or no noises during the summer. Only when it's very cold out, and only in the wee morning hours up to 8:30 a.m. It is dark up there day and night. Since we have been having an unusually warm winter, the noises only occur when it's below 40 degrees, I noticed that there are no noises when it rains but I can't be sure. I found that when I get up to go to the John in the wee hours, about 5 minutes later I'll start to hear the noises; a tap or click, movement, a slide or tap and it moves from one area to another. The distance it moves is not long and near the back corner of the roof/ceiling. In 12/2015 I managed to throw some moth balls (about 2 boxes) up there in the direction of the noises and that made somewhat of an impact in that the noises don't last long and whatever it is moved further away. It seems something enters and then leaves or settles. I don't know.

    I have a 3 foot high useless attic. I have ceiling vents for central A/C and that silver coil tube thingy the air flows through with vents in each room. Can't really get up in there because you have to be child size to get around or through the rafters or wood structures that do not allow for much access. Like a crawl space with insulation covering the floor up there.

    I have had the exterminator here a number of times. No mice or rats ever found in the various unsprung traps up there. After doing some sealing around the perimeter etc. of my house looking for holes or ways to get in and to prevent mice from entering the house this past summer (again) and before the cold and before they come looking, these noises are back! I have had no mice, rats or any critters on the basement or main floor. Thought it was over this year because this happens every fall -winter season, that I noticed a few years ago. When it warms up it's gone. Last year I noticed a crack along where the sheet rocks slabs meets in the room before the bedroom. This year I noticed a similar crack starting in the bedroom. I put a spot work light up there and have turned it on to ward off the noises, works for a short amount of time along with banging on the ceiling with a broom stick before it starts up again.

    Here's the weird thing; as soon as the temps began to drop here in NY upstate suburbs the noises started again right over my bedroom, again! Nothing ever in the traps that are near the trap door entrance in the ceiling because there is no way I can figure how to get the traps any further then a few feet from the attic entrance. I am hard of hearing. Would not hear the scurrying of mice tunneling under the thick insulation over the Sheetrock ceiling. But I hear this, last year I'd wake up from the noises. What I hear is a tap or taping a movement noise and some animal sound or eating sounds in the same few feet area. I have checked the facia, down spout and gutters, last I checked the roof, found nothing.

    What the heck is it? Why only when it's very cold? What kind of wildlife gets into the attic and how? Why in the wee hours does it wake and seemingly after I go to the John? Am I waking it up with my movement? and why only when it's cold do I hear anything? Seems like whatever it is comes and goes during cold nights. Is not present at all when it's warm out for the entire summer, not until October-November and it goes on till spring and warm weather. Not ever night, just very cold nights, not for all night just until it seemingly settles down and then as last as 8:30-9 a.m. movement like it's leaving and then it's quiet. I thought about chipmunks and raccoons, they are around but how do they get into your attic?
    Neither I nor the Exterminator can figure this out. Exterminator got rid of everything around here, haven't even seen any deer who use to come up in the yard all the time all year long. Nothing!

    If anyone has any idea what this is and what I can do about it I'd be most appreciative :clap:
     
  2. Jan 17, 2016 #2

    slownsteady

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    first thought is maybe it's not a critter, but some kind of expansion/contraction from the heating system. If it is an animal, there would be some indication; a smell, some staining, food bits, etc. But you might have to explore a little deeper into the space. Also possible, but i don't know how likely, that there is something traveling in the air duct; which would be unused in the winter.
     
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  3. Jan 17, 2016 #3

    EMD47

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    Ummm...that's a thought Slownsteady. There is no heat traveling up there, the house is electric with baseboard heaters. I don't turn the heat on at night because it gets too hot and I prefer sleeping in the cold. The a/c ducts are not where the noise is coming from and they are those soft ducts, aluminum coil types. They are near the entrance and run along the center of the house at the highest pitch at 3'. I can see over them to the bedroom side.

    Trying to get in for a closer inspection would take a contortionist or a very small light weight to climb through the rafters and get over to that side which is the back corner of the house where the gutter meets the down spout in the corner and where the bedroom is. It's dusty up there and the insulation was probably up there since the house was built in 1980 so the air quality is bad requires a good mask with a ventilator. There is never any smell or stains. Sometimes the tap sounds or a scratching noise sounds like its on the Sheetrock, other times a metallic sound tap, or ping sound like on the metal gutters that run along the outside of the house. The sounds are never consistent or in any kind of pattern. It can be a light to loud sound. Not happening often now with the record warmth we've had here this year. Last year this happened much more frequently here in NY where we had one of the coldest, longest winters with lots of snow and ice. My roof was covered in ice most of January to March and this happened a lot more often and the sounds occurred more often during a single night over many cold nights. When the weather became warmer and all through the summer, there was none of this but it started up again in a cold fall that faded to an unseasonably warm winter. When it wakes me I try to listen for something specific. When I get up and walk to the hall bathroom within 5 mins I will hear some creaking or tap noise, then it subsides depending on the temperature out.
    Any other ideas? :clap:
     
  4. Jan 17, 2016 #4

    slownsteady

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    If you can't get up there, you have to eliminate possibilities from below. If you have a timer thermostat, check to see if the time the heat comes up coincides with the noise, or try leaving the heat on over night and see if the noise changes or disappears.
    Two other thoughts; maybe the noise is coming from your roof and you can hear it coming through the attic. Or if you want to explore the attic better, use a camera and a long pole. Have you checked to see if your ventilation is securely covered? (yeah, I know, that's three thoughts:p )
     
  5. Jan 18, 2016 #5

    nealtw

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    You could have a broken rafter or something.
     
  6. Jan 18, 2016 #6

    slownsteady

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    Hmmm....would that make noise limited to a specific time of day? Or maybe the noise is there all the time and just gets buried in the usual daytime noises..
    I know my siding creaks as it expands to temp. changes.
     
  7. Jan 18, 2016 #7

    nealtw

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    Could be anything, tin roof, al. siding, al. soffets, evan trusses with a broken upright. I might set a camera up there and sit on the computer all night to rule out animals.
     
  8. Jan 18, 2016 #8

    EMD47

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    These are all good possibilities that make sense. I'm going to have it checked out as soon as the weather warms up. I did have a flap of siding loose and nailed it last year before the cold season. After reading all the responses here I'm thinking that it might be something loose soffit, ventilation might not be secure. I'm glad to rule out the critter all together after the exterminator set traps checked regularly and there is no sign of anything. Nothing breathing could survive the mothball dosing up there for more than a minute or 2.
    Thanks Guys! :beer:
     
  9. Jan 19, 2016 #9

    KULTULZ

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    :eek:

    PARANORMAL INVESTIGATIONS!

    :hide:
     
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  10. Feb 2, 2016 #10

    elbo

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    or, you could get an inexpensive security camera from harbor freight and set it up in the attic, but my opinion is that you're getting noise from wood movement as the temp. changes
     
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  11. Feb 5, 2016 #11

    EMD47

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    The weather here has been warm and what I've noticed is that if the temps out are above freezing and higher there is no noise in the attic. I have paid attention to this even more so over the past 2 weeks while temps have been up in the 50-60 range during all hours of the night, the noises usually startle me awake. During these warmer times it is quiet with no snapping, popping or scraping noises in the attic. However when it gets cold or freezing out the noises start during the very early hours between 3- 8:30 a.m. I noticed that unlike last years colder winter, the noises this year when they do start don't last long, maybe up to 5 minutes up to half an hour the longest. So I'm thinking that what some of you guys have suggested as possibilities might be the case with the heat/cold expansion and contracting causing the noise. I am not sure what parts are expanding and contracting or what to look for if I could see up there. I don't know what I would be looking at or if I could capture movement.

    It is so tight up there where the noise is coming from along the side of the house where the roof and the attic floor meet is very low, there is no way to get over or through the rafters and crawl about 15' or so to see what is there and under the thick insulation, dust, strong smelly mothballs I threw up there late last year and whatever builders left behind. (I found a vintage Coke Cola can in the wall when the bathroom was gutted and restored).

    Prior to this I was considering a camera for some time now, even purchased one. The problem is that there is no way to really get up in this attic to inspect anything. I have a retractable golf ball retriever about 15' to poke as close as I can get, also used it to pour moth balls where I couldn't throw them. I was thinking about ways to get the camera set up in this 3' at the center high slopping roof. At the entrance in the center of the the roof/ceiling is 3' high and it slopes out to the floor 12' across and on a slant to where the bedroom is about 15'+. Thought about cutting a hole in the bedroom ceiling or getting access from a closet in another room. That would make a nasty boo boo in the ceiling and if there are critters up there then the idea of them getting access to me through that hole is not pleasant! Then I thought about the insulation that is very thick, up there since 1980 when the house was prefab and situated on top of a cement basement over rocks and even if I got a camera up there through a hole, it still had to get through the insulation and whatever else. If there were any critters up there I would have to stay up and watch and there is not telling which direction to set the camera up. I looked at a small stick like camera that I researched but the reviews for it were very bad and I didn't want to waste $ so I scrapped that. I plan to try taking a video using a selfie stick and my smartphone, wouldn't want to loose it up there and doubt I could get a good or close enough shot or be able to see under the insulation. By the way over the past 3-4 years I have taken pictures at varying times to see if their was any change in the lay of the insulation up there...nothing.

    Thanks elbo for reminding me of harbor freight whom I used to receive the catalogs regularly back when I first moved in and purchased so many great tools from them.

    I went poking around the soffit vents from outside because I thought if there were any loose some critter might be squeezing through. Every time I would see that real estate commercial on tv where the attic is lifted away along with the raccoon family by a helicopter I would wonder about that and if some wild life were up there. I've researched and read about the horrendous rip offs and blown up ads about wildlife trappings in homes that find you broke. Beware!

    This attic noise has been going on every winter since the hurricane (Sandy) which is something I only recently began to consider because it was after that that I noticed the noises, but only during the winter months, when it' cold and ice has settled on the roof for the duration and only up to last year when it was super super cold here and the noise was ridiculously loud which prompted me to call the exterminator a year ago nothing was never found in the traps nor were their any signs of anything living or alive up there. Exterminator took care of other pests; ants and other insects that made my summer here very pleasurable, so his fee was worth it in the long run.

    I still haven't ruled this out critters. I just don't have enough information or know. The guys here have given me great feed back.
    I really appreciate everyone's response, gives me great ideas and hope to find an answer soon.
    Thanks!:beer:
     
  12. Feb 5, 2016 #12

    nealtw

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    Some good info there,
    Do you turn the furnace down at night?
    Did the flood effect your house, did the water come up and around the foundation?
    What do you know about the structure of the roof? Would you be able to tell if it is rafters and ceiling joists or factory made trusses?
    Have you noticed any cracks in drywall ceiling or walls?
     
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  13. Feb 5, 2016 #13

    slownsteady

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    Sounds to me like you can rule out critters. First, the sounds correspond to temperature, and anything big enough to wake you up is too big to hide. You might have received some damage from Sandy that is just not obvious enough to detect by sight.

    Now, While it might be very undesirable to crawl around in your attic, it is probably not impossible. If you don't want to do it yourself, hire somebody - preferably a small guy. Unless you have a very good idea where the noise originates, poking holes in your ceiling might not be so good.
     
  14. Feb 5, 2016 #14

    nealtw

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    We want to find any hints before have some one crawl up there.
    There should be evidence of settling, a broken rafter can be found by walking the roof and a broken ceiling joist is a hell of surprise when you are laying on it.
     
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  15. Feb 5, 2016 #15

    EMD47

    EMD47

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    Hi nealtw,

    House is all electric, baseboard heaters, no furnace, water heater is in the basement, a/c is in a hall closet, coil ducts are in the attic, noise comes from further over on the other side of house. There is nothing up there really, no pipes, a/c return and a stuffed with insulation metal chimney flue for a pellet stove not used. I don't use heat in the bedroom because it gets too hot from the baseboard heaters.

    Hurricane did not directly impact me, no water or flooding, very little damage inland here. Had a harder time with the October storm months before than, lots of tree branches down, lost one tree away from the property.

    I tried to get a blue print of the house a one story ranch structure contempri home by roycraft on a cinder block basement garage/basement level. They no longer have the records.

    Here's what else I know: this 2nd roof put up around 1999-2000 is on top of the original roof From 1980. There is a slight sway in the roof on the same side of the noise on the east side of the house. There is no noise in another bedroom across from the main one where I can get better views in the attic from the attic ceiling 'door' in the center in the hall. This room is on the west side of the house. The roof gets sun most of the day and it gets pretty hot up in the attic during hot summers where an automatic fan is set to come on when it gets 100 degrees max set up there. There are a couple of roof vents also. A/C comes from vents in the ceilings in the back rooms and high up wall vents in the front rooms.

    Yes, there is a crack running along a seam in the Sheetrock maybe of the ceiling in a 3rd bedroom on the same side as the main bedroom where all the noise is, this crack runs about 3' along a seam almost in the center I have been marking it's distance with a pencil, it grew about 3" since last year but has since stopped.

    I will point out that the noisy bedroom and the one across from it is over the 2 car garage. The heavy wooden single garage door is on the same side where the noise comes from in the main bedroom and above this garage door is the only bedroom window. There has always been a crack down the corner crevice on the same side where the house corner walls meet. I thought the vibration of the garage door opening and closing was helping to create that. Maybe some compromise in the corner structure, I don't know.

    In the main noisy bedroom another crack began appearing running from the window to the center of the room, looks like it is also along a sheetrock seam this started last year.

    Think it is factory made trusses, not sure. The front of the house has cathedral ceilings with no attic, the back has a flat ceiling standard height and above this is the attic.
    Here's a photo from the other side, the area of concern is to the right of the coil duct. Can't get over or through that. Not sure what the roof structure is. Photo is taken from the center rear of the house from the hall entry ceiling door.
    Thanks guys! This is all very very helpful!!!

    image.jpeg
     
  16. Feb 5, 2016 #16

    nealtw

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    Those are factory trusses and normally they run from outside wall to outside wall and some times with weight and weather they can actually lift a little off the interior walls.
    That will not be the case here as it looks like the roof was built for each half of the house, the trusses in the picture are what we call jacks and are sitting on a center bearing wall or beam or something. I don't think you would have enough of that kind of movement to make that much noise.

    Truss companies usually use lumber that is dryer than what is used on site so we don't expect much shrinkage, but in the photo we can see a crack in the one truss in the top cord. That doesn't hurt the strength and is ok, not to worry about that but it does say their material did shrink some, so it does make one wonder what else they did.

    Trusses are engineered for all expected loads including wind and snow. You did have a pretty good wind during Sandy so maybe?

    A dip in the roof visible from the outside may be caused by something as little as a bent 2x4 top member of the truss, but it could also indicate a broken one.
    Having some one walk on it to feel if it is spongy while some one inside listens for noises would be may best guess for a test.
    The crack in the ceiling drywall could indicate a problem with the lower cord of the truss. I would just push that up and see if it will move in the area and make noise.

    THEN you get to the big one, with the cracks you have described does say settling, so a close inspection of the foundation and checking the floor for out of level or dip in middle , if you have carpet you could just check the ceiling in the garage..
    If the floor is out of level you would want to jack up one side.
    If there is a dip in the floor the beam over the garage door is not big enough.

    If you find one problem, don't quit, it is common that one problem starts another and another.
     
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  17. Feb 5, 2016 #17

    nealtw

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    One other thought, I have electric heat also. When I sit at my computer I am right beside the biggest unit and never hear anything from it, but at night when it is quiet it pops and cracks while heating up and cooling down. When I first moved in, it woke me up and a few times, I got up and looked for a fire because that's what it sounded like. And needless to say by the time I started looking to locate it, it had already stopped. It took about a week to find what it was.
     
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  18. Feb 5, 2016 #18

    EMD47

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    I didn't even notice that crack for looking for critters! We have wind often during winter storms here. How could wind affect the trusses? I will take a walk up there come spring, haven't been up there in a couple of years to check for a spongy area.

    Yes it's a beam that the trusses are sitting on that runs down the center of the roof like you said. I wanted to have the insulation replaced up there but I can only assume that it was put down before they added or closed the roof up. There's another steel beam along the center under the house at the ceiling of the basement/garage atop the concrete/cinder block basement and 3 support poles of poles in the front of the house. None in the garage but the beam is resting on something behind the cinder block wall to the back wall, maybe a pole up through the blocks because there is some red bricks at that end of the beam the bottom resting on a metal plate. Along this beam I notice only during the summer that there is a buckle in the floor (not a dip) down the center of the bottom beam. It's not here now. There is definetely settling of this place season to season. Plus it was hauled up here on top of a hill of rocks partially walled in cinder blocks like a knee wall covered in a floor of concrete which is a storage area. (Does it end...lol)

    Hey guys...this is all very very interesting and certainly giving me a new view of this place. I am relieved to realize there's no critters up there nesting each winter season! :clap: yeah!

    I have to consider replacing the roof and assume that after removing the asphalt shingles they would have to remove some or all of the wood planks over the trusses to get to the insulation? And to look for cracks to the trusses, that's going to take some tight space investigation.

    The A/C and ducts that were put in early 2000 later were done by a skinny young teen just where you see it, it would take a special body type and know how to get through those rafters to the other side where there is no duct work. I can't imagine how it's done and can only imagine the insulation put it at the factory or it was done before installing the roof.

    Same side of house; bedroom over garage; the bottom of the cinder blocks downstairs just outside the garage door appear soaked and wet through after the rain or snow melt outside at each side of the garage door entrance floor level, more so at the rear corner of the house. I tried doing some point work with some cement patch but it's not working, still looks damp. This is also a new development over the past couple of years. I thought it was due to snow drift pile or rain collecting in the corners outside the garage door or rain stain? The concrete looks dark or wet even on a stretch of dry days.

    I see what you mean about one problem starts another and so on!

    Thanks guys for all your helpful information! :beer:
    Enjoy the Super Bowl weekend!
     
  19. Feb 6, 2016 #19

    EMD47

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    The a/c unit isn't used during this time of year. I am familiar with all the sounds from the baseboard heaters in all the rooms, the fridge, computer, rain falling, the a/c in summer, a/c hum, laundry pump...everything. If something falls down in the garage or tips over, something as minute as a nail rolling off the bench or plastic bottles shifting in the bin I know what it is before I go check to take a look, I am super sensitive to the sounds here when it's quiet, and since this problem began I have taken time to sit quietly to listen to anything out of the ordinary.....all accept what's above me and out of my direct view. Couldn't figure it out until you guys pointed these things out to me. (Thanks!)

    A thought; when I stuffed the flue with a roll up of insulation up past the ceiling; that was the outcome of yet another investigation to find out if the noise was coming from that or critters were getting in somehow that way. What that did was keep the draft out of that room in winters.

    I think you nailed it with the trusses and other things you and the guys pointed out with the roof and attic that seems to rule out critters, much to my relief.
    Thanks for all your thoughts and any others you come up with!
     
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  20. Sep 17, 2016 #20

    EMD47

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    Hope everybody had a great summer. It's that time of year again when the critters are looking to bunk down for the winter. I followed all of the suggestions you gave and like I anticipated throughout the entire summer or warm season...no noise. I have had a chance to do some repairs and plug ups around here so let's see what happens. So far so quiet. I know these little pests are around because they've been in my outside baited traps....but nothing up in the attic ...so far.
     
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