Have you ever seen the Ghost Adventures show on the History Channel? It is one of my favorites, but I can never seem to decide whether it is real or fake. They have ghosts caught on camera, ghosts threatening them by name and even a ghost throwing a brick at them in one episode! It seems almost too crazy to be true. One thing that I always chuckle about is how many times they say in a quick, startled voice, "did you hear that?!" with big eyes as they walk around their haunted houses. I am not a drinker, but if I was, that would be a good drinking game, taking a drink each time they say that.
Sometimes it can be just as creepy when you are sitting at home and you hear strange scratching noises inside your walls. Chances are that it is not a ghost, but it still is kind of disconcerting. So what could it be?
It is likely that it is a pest issue, so there are a couple of things that we are going to need to ask in order to figure this out.
#1- Where are you hearing the noises?
#2- When are you hearing the noises?
#3- What does it sound like?
Noises in the attic: Generally, when people call a pest control company to come out and inspect, we will find either squirrels, rats, raccoons or birds in the attic. If you are hearing a scratching noise at night or early in the morning, I would suspect rats or mice. If it is during the day, it would likely be a squirrel or bird. Larger animals like a raccoon or opossum will make a lot more noise and can often be heard thumping around in the early morning hours. If you are hearing little footsteps scampering around up there, you might not have anything in the attic at all and it might actually be on the roof. When a squirrel runs on the roof, it can make a lot of noise and make you think it is in the attic (this would be the best case scenario).
Noises in the walls: You can pretty much rule out anything bigger than a squirrel here. Most of the time if you are hearing something in the walls, it is a mouse. I have heard a lot of people say that it "makes too much noise to be a little mouse", but sure enough, it usually is.
Noises in the air ducts: Most of the time when you think you are hearing something in the air ducts, it is actually not in the ducts, but just running on top of them. If something was in the ducts, it would probably be a rodent and it is usually not a place that they like to be when your heat kicks on. If they were in the ducts for any length of time, you would start to smell their urine when you used your heating or cooling system (yuck!).
Noises in the crawl space: This is the most common place in the home to have critter activity. Generally, if you do have critters in your crawl space, they can go a long time without be detected since most of us do not frequent this area of the home and their noises do not travel very well in an insulated crawl space. If you are hearing something, you can rule out birds and usually even squirrels. Depending on how loud the noises are, it is probably a rodent or something larger like a raccoon, opossum, cat or skunk. The first thing, that you want to do is walk around your house and look for entry points. Check your foundation vent screens and if you see one missing, you know you might have something large down there. If you do not find any obvious opening, you might have rodents (a mouse needs only an opening the size of a quarter). I do not recommend going in the crawl space to inspect unless you know how to deal with wildlife. If you pop in unannounced on a mama and her cubs, it could mean trouble.
Other things to consider: If you are always hearing the noises in the exact same spot each day, there is one other thing to consider. Carpenter ants will make a scratching/ chewing noise when they excavating wood, so that is another possibility.
Listen, dealing with strange noises in your home can be frustrating and alarming and if you need help, I would love to assist you. I am available to take your call at Healthy Homes Pest Control, even if it just is to answer a few questions. Let me know if I can help you!