Why Do I Hear Tapping in my Walls?

Tapping sounds within your walls can be annoying especially if they are recurring and/or they occur at night when you are trying to get some rest. Other than being irksome, tapping in your walls could also indicate something amiss that likely requires your immediate attention. Read on to find out what could be the cause of the disturbance in your wall.

Why do I hear tapping in my walls? Tapping in walls could be attributed to the presence of pests such as mice, rats, termites, and wasps, to mention a few. All these animals are common home invaders and can make noise as they move from one point to another in your home.

Mice and squirrels often store food in crevices that may be within your walls. Other than pests, tapping in your walls could also be as a result of mechanical problems. Expansion and contraction of pipes could cause tapping or clicking sounds that may be heard through the walls. Heating ducts may also emit tapping sounds as the heating system turns on. In some cases, the tapping sound could simply be wind catching gutters or machinery vibrations.

One of the most common causes of tapping walls is pests that inhabit your home unbeknownst to you. From thumping, scratching, pitter-patter, and other similar noises, different animals make different sounds. That said, it might also be worth checking that all your mechanics are in good functioning order in case it is not any of the pests covered in this article.

Pests that could be making tapping noises

  • Mice – You may hear mice chewing or moving their food within your wall. If you hear a faint “tap tap tap” noise accompanied by the sound of scraping, chances are that there may be mice in your walls. You might also hear chirping and slight rustling. Because of their territorial nature, mice can sometimes be heard scurrying about as they compete for space. You might also hear squeaking especially if there are younger mice present.
  • Chipmunks – Chipmunks, unlike many other pests, are diurnal as their eyes are not well-equipped for night vision. That said, they can still see in the dark, a skill that allows them to inhabit walls for short periods. While chipmunks typically enter a building structure at or below the foundation level, it is not uncommon to find them hiding or climbing in gutters, consequently causing loud scratching sounds.  You may also hear tapping in your walls as chipmunks hide their food in wall voids and as they dart in and out of their temporary habitat.
  • Rats – Rats are relatively quieter than chipmunks, but you may hear rustling sounds as they move around in wall voids. They also make squeaking noises, and as they become accustomed to their habitat in the wall, you may even hear chewing sounds. If the chewing is especially extensive, arcing wires may emit a tapping sound indicating a possible electrical malfunction.
  • Raccoons – In case a raccoon finds its way into you’re the voids in your wall, you are bound to hear a lot of noise from their movements. Apart from the standard tapping, chances are that you will also hear hissing, scratching, and even crying sounds in some cases. Skunks also typically make similar sounds when trapped in a wall void, in addition to emitting a pungent smell.
  • Bats – Bats are commonly known for getting into attics, although it is not unheard of to find some of them living in wall voids. Bats can squeeze through small openings in soffits, behind shutters, and around chimney flashing, among other areas. During the summer, bats prefer to roost in sheltered locations – ridges and rafters in attics serve as ideal roost locations. If the infestation is particularly large, some of the bats can be found roosting in wall voids especially if there are structures that can support them.

During colder months, bats typically migrate to environments with stable temperatures such as caves and hollow trees. Attics also seem to provide the insulation that they need during this period, so you may often find them hibernating in homes. If there is a sudden increase in temperature and the bats are awoken, you may hear tapping and scratching in your wall as they crawl around, often accompanied by squealing.

  • Squirrels – Squirrels are known to cause quite a ruckus when trapped in walls. Flying squirrels are particularly active before dawn and shortly after dusk, and you can often hear them carrying food into the house. They usually set apart an area that they use for sleeping as well as a dedicated latrine, which can get quite stinky over a long period and cause stains to develop on your wall.

Gray and red squirrels are diurnal, returning to their makeshift nests in wall voids at night. Their teeth can be heard making chewing noises as they chow down nuts, whereas their claws tend to make scratching sounds.

  • Termites – Despite their size, termites can create an ever so slightly audible tapping sound if they find their way into your wall. This is true especially when you take into consideration the fact that they tend to live in large colonies. Formosan termites, in particular, are known to make a slight tapping sound especially if they are disturbed.
  • Carpenter ants – Carpenter ants are nocturnal creatures and can get quite noisy at night as a result. Each leg on a carpenter ant features four small hooks at the end that allow the critter to hold fast onto a variety of surfaces. As these ants move within the wall, a scratching and soft tapping can be heard.

Although carpenter ants don’t feed on wood, they hollow it out to create nesting galleries. As the wood is continually thinned out, noise from their movements is amplified. If the infestation in your walls is especially severe, the noise can be audible from quite a distance.

  • Wasps – The species of wasp commonly known to nest in wall voids is the yellow jacket. Yellowjackets typically make their way into homes through small holes that may be present in the foundation and siding, as well as through cracks and crevices in the attic. Once they become established, yellow jackets will continue to grow their nests, and after some time, the nest material could fill several voids in your walls. As worker yellow jackets move about in the wall, you can hear scratching, tapping, and buzzing.
  • Deathwatch beetles – Deathwatch beetles emit a slight tapping sound as they emerge from wood to attract the attention of the opposite sex. Other species of wood-boring beetles such as the Old House borer and the New House borer can also emit a tapping sound as they move through wood.

Pinpointing the pest

Other than the noise that they emit, other signs can help you determine the type of pest that you are dealing with. Here are some of the most common signs to look out for:

  • Smell – If your wall is highly infested, you will likely smell a musty odor. By tracking down where the source of the smell, you will probably come across the nesting of the pests.
  • Evidence of nesting – When pests find shelter, one of the first things that they do is create shelter. Wall voids are ideal environments for setting up nests as they are dark and rarely frequented.
  • Greasy tracks and/or marks – Grease tracks and marks can indicate the presence of a rodent infestation as rats and mice tend to use the same paths in their movements, consequently leaving a greasy trail behind them.
  • Pest droppings – Another common sign of an infestation is urine trails and fecal droppings. While you might be able to spot rodent droppings, it is usually harder to see waste from smaller pests such as wasps and ants.
  • Damage to structures – Damage to your home such gnaw marks and hole on pipes, wires, and insulation could indicate a pest infestation, particularly the presence of rodents. Damaged wood, on the other hand, could indicate the presence of termites.

Tips on how to get rid of these pests

  • Traps – If the tapping in your walls is a result of the presence of rodents such as rats and mice, the most suitable solution is to set traps along the base of the affected walls. Place the traps with the baited end facing the walls, and use as many traps as possible especially if the infestation is considerably large. For bigger sized rodents such as squirrels, place an appropriately-sized one-way trap at the point of entry.
  • Calling an exterminator – If the infestation in your wall is too severe or keeps recurring, consider seeking the services of a professional extermination company to deal with the problem.

How to prevent future infestation

To keep pests away from your walls and home in general, you will want to seal up all the openings in the exterior of your home that could potentially serve as entry points. Look for holes and cracks in foundations, roof flashing, gutter, and eaves and fill them up. Other measures include tightly sealing food containers and trash cans and trimming the shrubs and trees around your home.

Final thoughts

The presence of pests is one of the most common causes of the tapping sound you may hear in your walls. A variety of pests could emit this sound, including rats, mice, squirrels, bats, and ants, to mention a few. Once you identify which type of pest you are dealing with, you can then determine the appropriate elimination techniques and preventative measures to apply.

Melanie Asiba

Melanie is an author, and she enjoys traveling, reading, and trying out new things. In addition to writing for Apartment ABC.

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