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Is Your House Haunted or Just in Need of Repairs?

Written by Irena Martincevic

Published on October 17, 2023


Is Your House Haunted or Just in Need of Repairs?

We reveal the explanation behind the most common haunted house symptoms and offer solutions to these spooky occurrences.

To provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information, we consult a number of sources when producing each article, including licensed contractors and industry experts.

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According to a study, half of Americans believe their house is haunted by a ghost. But before you jump to supernatural conclusions, there's another statistic to consider: American homes are aging, with many in dire need of remodeling. In fact, data from the National Association of Home Builders reveals that the median age of owner-occupied homes in the U.S. is now 40 years, with around 35% built before 1970.

So let’s have a look at whether those flickering lights and nocturnal noises are symptoms of a ghostly presence or simply signs of general wear and tear that needs tending to. 

1. Flickering lights freaking you out

Flickering lights can be unsettling at any time of year, but when you’re about to sit down in front of this year’s latest horror movie, the thought of a ghost playing around with your light switches can be frightening at best. But before you start lighting candles and chanting spells, here are some not-so-supernatural explanations for this common phenomenon:

Faulty light switch or loose bulbs: If the lights flicker in just one area of the home, you might be dealing with a faulty light switch or a loose bulb. Try tightening the flickering light bulb first, and if this doesn’t help, consider replacing the light switch for around $50 to $150 depending on the type of switch you need. 

Outdated or loose wiring: If the lights are flickering throughout various parts of the house and are accompanied by a buzzing sound, this might be due to old or loose wiring, which can be a significant fire hazard and needs to be addressed as soon as possible. Consult with an electrician to make sure your wiring system is in good condition and up-to-date.

Circuit overload: If you’re experiencing harsh and consistent flickering, especially when a few electrical devices or appliances are turned on simultaneously, you may be overloading your circuit breaker. The circuit breaker might trip frequently, and you may notice a slight burning smell near the electrical panel. In this case, it’s important to have a professional upgrade your circuit according to the needs of your home. 

Talk to local pros to get quotes on your circuit panel upgrade

2. Odors from the underworld

If a foul smell is looming around your home and you can’t point out where it’s coming from, you may want to turn your attention toward your sink rather than assuming it’s some evil spirit trying to drive you out of your home. Here’s what could be causing a sink stink:

Food stuck in the pipes or the disposal: If you notice a persistent rotten smell emanating from the kitchen sink, especially after washing dishes or using the disposal, you may be facing the decomposing odors of last week’s dinner. If you have a disposal, fill the sink with hot soapy water, then pull the plug and turn on the disposal as the water drains. Alternatively, pour a mixture of baking soda and vinegar into the drain and let it sit for a while.

A dry P-trap: The P-trap is designed to hold water and prevent sewer gasses from entering your home. If it dries out, those gasses can escape. So if you’re experiencing a sewer-like odor that seems to come and go, try running the water for a few minutes to refill the trap.

Sewer issues: Over 1.5 million homes experienced a sewage disposal breakdown over just a 3-month period in 2021. So if you’re facing a strong, consistent sewer smell that doesn't go away with basic cleaning or flushing, you may have a blockage, leak, or clogged vent. Sewer gasses can be dangerous, so don't delay in calling a professional to assess the situation and fix it accordingly.

3. A creepy chill sweeping over you

As summer comes to an end, it's easy to imagine ghostly apparitions causing a sudden chill in your home. But before you call the Ghostbusters, let's take a look at some of the more earthly reasons behind that unexpected cold.

Air leaks: If you feel drafts near your windows or doors, especially on windy days, these openings may not be sealed properly, causing cold air to enter your home. The best solution for this is a seal replacement or weather stripping.

Poor insulation: If your energy bills are frighteningly high or your attic seems to be constantly damp, your home may need more insulation. Proper insulation can make a significant difference in maintaining a comfortable temperature throughout your home, so consider adding some to the attic to avoid getting cold chills down your spine.

HVAC issues: If your home remains cold even when your heating system is on, you may be experiencing HVAC issues. Make sure to check the thermostat settings first, and call a technician if you think it might need replacing. If you suspect a system malfunction, however, it might be worth scheduling an HVAC inspection to get your system up and running again before the weather gets any colder.

4. Doors eerily opening on their own

Although it might seem like a scene straight out of a ghost story, doors that open on their own usually have less spooky explanations. 

Loose hinges: Door hinges can become loose over time, causing the door to swing open by itself. A simple fix is to tighten the hinge screws, but door hinges usually last between 10 and 15 years, so it might be time to replace them entirely if they’re any older than that. 

Wood expanding and contracting: Changes in temperature and humidity can cause wooden doors to shrink or swell, so they may not fit into their frames properly making them swing open. Try opening the windows or investing in a dehumidifier to control the moisture levels in your home. You could also replace your doors with a different material less susceptible to temperature and humidity changes.

5. Spooky scratching and scurrying sounds

Late at night, when the world is quiet, the faintest of sounds can seem terrifying. The soft scratching or scurrying behind walls can easily evoke thoughts of ghostly apparitions or otherworldly entities roaming around your home, but consider these reasons first:

Termites: Although the thought of termites eating their way through the structure of your home may seem just as terrifying as something paranormal, this may be what’s causing those late-night noises. The most effective way of getting rid of termites is by calling in the professionals, but it can be done DIY using various chemicals and products.

Rodents: If you’re experiencing a combination of nocturnal sounds, droppings scattered around your home, and chewed wires and food packages, you may be dealing with some unwanted guests. Luckily, getting rid of rodents is more straightforward than getting ghosts to leave your home. Simply call in the professionals and make sure to prevent any future infestations by sealing any entry points and keeping your food stored securely. 

Tree branches: Hearing scratching noises in the exterior walls or in the attic on a windy night might simply indicate that some tree branches are too close to your home and scratching the siding or the roof. The solution to this is simply trimming any branches that are too long or hiring a tree trimming service to do it for you.

6. Possessed popping and cracking floors

When the house goes quiet, and you're left with your thoughts, the sudden popping or cracking of your floor can be enough to make anyone's imagination run wild. Here’s what could be causing your blood to run cold:

Old floors: As your floor ages it can be more susceptible to cracking and popping as the nails and fasteners securing the floorboards can become loose over time. If installing new flooring isn’t in your budget right now, try securing any loose boards or replacing the sections of the flooring that make the most noise. 

Temperature and humidity levels: Just like wooden doors, wood floors can also expand or shrink with changes in temperature and humidity. This natural movement of wood can lead to unsettling sounds, especially as the seasons change. Try maintaining a consistent temperature throughout your home, but if you start to notice visible cracks or separations in your flooring, it might be time to replace it

Who ya gonna call? A local contractor!

Your House Will Haunt You Down Until You Fix It

As shadows lengthen and nights grow colder, it’s easy for your mind to spin tales of haunted homes and paranormal activity as you settle in for the night. From flickering lights to mysterious sounds, our homes often communicate with us in unsettling ways. But as we've seen, many of these eerie occurrences usually have a rational explanation. 

While it's tempting to dismiss these so-called “haunted house” symptoms, it's crucial not to ignore them. Although they might provide a spooky story to share, addressing these problems head-on can help prevent more significant and costly issues in the future. So, this Halloween, as you enjoy the season's spookiness, take the time to call in a professional and make sure your home is in good shape for the winter to come. 


Irena Martincevic is an industry analyst at Fixr.com. She analyzes and looks for visual ways to simplify data. She has been researching and writing about home improvement and personal finance since 2018. At Fixr.com, she is constantly looking to give homeowners the best advice on how to invest in their homes.