Our house shakes and sways for an instant almost every day (it feels like a car just ran into it) and we're worried it may one day collapse. Any suggestions as to what it could be? How to get it to stop? or how to find out what it is?


Our house shakes/trembles quite drastically almost every day accompanied by rattling windows, and what sounds like a loud thud on the walls. On the second floor, you can feel a brief (and notable) sway. It honestly feels like a car just hit the house; and then nothing.

It is an instantaneous, one-time thud/shift/tremor that is the closest thing I've felt to the minor earthquakes we used to get in Texas (but we live in Northern Maryland and don't get them here).

We live in a somewhat rural neighborhood on 1 acre with neighbors reporting similar (but possibly less extreme) shaking. There are no mines nearby (probably not blasting) or fracking and you cannot hear it from outside the home as far as we know.

Does anyone have any suggestions as to what this might be and how to stop it? We've lived here for 5 years and it has always occurred. We are worried our house may one day collapse. There are lots of new paint cracks on adjacent wood pieces from the original remodel 5 years ago, likely from the shifting.

House info:

We have a finished basement and the foundation (I believe) is poured concrete. The house is a 2 story + attic 1996.

Update 9-25-21

We had a structural engineer out who thought that the shaking is likely caused by a nearby metal recycling plant. The engineer also assessed our home. He found numerous cracks in our foundation, but said that these were standard and not problematic. He also thought that the swaying I described was nothing to be concerned about. I would strongly suggest that anyone who is concerned about a similar situation hire a local structural engineer to assess the safety of the home. It was a very reasonable rate and I learned a lot about home foundations and structures and things to watch for.

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    @ChrisCudmore according to maps.fractracker.org, none within 50 miles, and most are 100+ away. Commented Jan 15, 2021 at 16:01
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    Is it always around the same time? Any military bases nearby? Commented Jan 15, 2021 at 16:04
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    Keep track of the times when it happens, ask your neighbors to do the same. Compile a worksheet of the times, then go to the local metal recycler and ask them if they've got something happening at these times. They may not be able to adjust their process, but at least you'd have an explanation. If they don't go to the local building commission and ask them for assistance in tracking it down.
    – FreeMan
    Commented Jan 15, 2021 at 16:21
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    @FreeMan thanks for the suggestion. We will do this. We didn't know who to go to, so the local building commission is a great suggestion. Commented Jan 15, 2021 at 16:40
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    In addition to your efforts to find the source, it would probably be very much worth it to get a structural engineer in to look at your house, and make sure that the repeated shaking hasn't damaged anything critical. They might also suggest ways to reinforce things, to bring your house up to the standards used in earthquake-prone areas, which is effectively what you live in, weirdly enough.
    – Nate S.
    Commented Jan 19, 2021 at 18:09

4 Answers 4


The Maryland Geological Survey, a division of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, operates the Maryland Seismic Network in cooperation with several colleges or universities. The tremors you're feeling are unlikely to be natural earthquakes. However, if they're strong enough to be detected by seismology stations, there's a good chance the operators of the network may have already identified the origin of the tremors so that they can remove or ignore that data in their sensor readings. Try calling the Survey or the seismology department at the schools and find out what they know. If they haven't already identified the origin or didn't know about the tremors you might pique their interest or at least get some semi-local tips to assist your sleuthing.

  • This is an outstanding suggestion - thank you. We will update with any additional info here. Commented Jan 19, 2021 at 15:18

I live in northern maryland and I am assuming you live near APG or harford county. The house shaking is most likely the military base bombs/testing going off. My house shakes all the time from it. The closer you are the worse it is.

  • thanks for the great info - we're actually more western in washington county, so I suspect it wouldn't be APG. Commented Jan 19, 2021 at 15:19

Could be:

-heavy machinery/trucks moving earth or dumping boulders. Sound waves are capable of transmitting great distances and if large enough can vibrate large obstacles.

-Thunder will do the same as above.

-The east coast although not as active as it's west counterpart do experience occasional seismic activity.

-other possibilities: house foundation/framing settling/ shifting, water supply pipe pulsing from pressure surges, HVAC system turning on and off, wind gusts colliding with the exterior walls,and jet airliners flying low above your house.

  • thanks for the great suggestions. We haven't noticed any noise with the shaking, but we'll be listening more just in case. Commented Jan 19, 2021 at 15:23

I was just reading sinkholes can cause cracks where walls and ceiling meet, make cupboard doors swing open, and make doors and windows not close properly. If you suspect a sinkhole, call emergency services to check it out. Although it seems odd that your neighbors would also be on the sinkhole.

  • Thank you. This is a great suggestion as sinkholes can be quite dangerous. I'll double check to ensure there are none in our area. Commented Sep 26, 2021 at 2:57

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