Riveting mystery, with apologies to Poe and my plumber

BALTIMORE – Ever heard a strange noise in your house? Ever heard a strange noise that seemed to come from behind a wall? Ever heard a strange sound that seemed to come from behind a wall with a ghostly resonance?


Maybe not.

Either way, you have to come. What happened to me can happen to you too.

I first heard the sound three weeks ago.

I was in my room, almost napping, when suddenly there was a knock. It seemed to come from behind a wall.

I got up and walked to a small fireplace. Again I heard a knock, a little louder than before, like drums on a metal door.

Was it the deadly rattle of an old pipe?

The tapping seemed to come from a paneled wall near the liquor cabinet.

I stood there delighted for a few minutes. I couldn’t diagnose the source of the noise, and it was almost 4 o’clock, making a cocktail.

Two days later I heard the tap again – five bright, fast beats, then a pause, then five more beats. Pause. Five beats, followed by a metallic echo.

To my ear, the beats seemed to come out of a pipe somewhere. I was almost convinced of that.

I googled “drum sound in pipes” and something called “water hammer” was at the top of the search results.

Water hammer is “a phenomenon that can occur in any piping system where valves are used to control the flow of liquids. It is the result of a pressure surge or shock wave under high pressure & mldr; and may be characterized by a distinct thumping or knocking sound on pipes. “

Another source said a “pressure surge can cause pipes to bump and bump against wall frames or other pipes.”

Another said a pipe support may have come loose, causing a rattling.

I inspected every exposed pipe in the basement. When I didn’t find an obvious problem, but was concerned that there might be one, I called a plumber.

The always reliable Saffer Sanitary and Heating sent Dale.

When Dale arrived, I explained the problem – a strange drum sound coming from a pipe somewhere in the house. Google said it could be ‘water hammer’. But it only happened sporadically.

“I doubt it will happen while you’re here,” I said to Dale.

We have performed a water pressure test. Dale made me turn every faucet in the house on and off.

The results were inconclusive.

“I notice you don’t have an expansion tank above your water heater,” Dale said, referring to a tank designed to accommodate excess pressure in the domestic plumbing. Also, he said, such a tank would be needed for the next sale of the house.

I had no doubt that every word was true. But would that take away the mysterious sound in the pipes?

Dale couldn’t say. He was sure of one thing: the house needed one more expansion vessel, and if not today, another one.

Now I had to weigh up a proposal: Dale’s company would already charge me for diagnostic fees. If I wanted, he could get the new tank delivered and have it installed in under an hour without having to come back for another load.

It wasn’t a decision I planned to make when I got up that morning, but it was right. And maybe the new tank would calm my grumbling pipe.

So I had Dale install the expansion tank, and he secured some loose pipes with new brackets. The total cost was $ 344.

After two hours of silence, the hammering started again: five quick taps, a pause, followed by five quick taps. Pause. Taps. Pause. Taps.

I went back to the basement. The hammer seemed to be coming from above the furnace. I was alarmed and baffled.

Dale had asked me to call if the hammering continued, but I let go, hoping it would go away.

The next morning, when I came out the front door, something like a rivet gun startled me. It seemed to come from my neighbor’s house across the street, or somewhere above it – a loud metal eruption that left a ringing echo.

If my name had been Nigel and if life had been a British sitcom, I might have said, “What the hell is it?” or, “Good God, what was that?”

Moments later it started again, but this time closer. It was above me, above my house – the same racket with rivets.

My eye went to the roof, then to the chimney, then to the metal hood on the chimney.

A woodpecker fired another round: Ratatat-tat-tat!

A woodpecker?

Had a woodpecker hit my mantelpiece? A woodpecker had hit my mantelpiece and sent heavy metal sound waves through my house?

Some grumpy old pipe hadn’t made the sound?

A woodpecker had asked me to call the plumber, causing the plumber to sell me an expansion tank that I didn’t know I needed?


A woodpecker had used my chimney hood to make noise, mark territory and attract a mate?

I found that on Google under ‘Woodpeckers pecking at mantelpiece’.

It’s what they do every spring.

Let this be a lesson. Should you take a nap one day and hear a tap or a metal tap, step outside your room door. It’s probably just a love-mad woodpecker, that’s all.

Comments are closed.