How to fix squeaky floors is a question many homeowners find themselves asking, especially if they’ve tried tiptoeing across the house and woken up a sleeping family member because of the creaking floorboards. Creaky floors are annoying, and no one wants to feel like they’re starring in a remake of a teen horror movie. Here’s everything you need to know about squeaky floorboards, including who to hire to fix squeaky floors.
Are squeaky floors a structural problem?
There’s no need to panic. In real life, a creak or squeak is no big deal—that is, they don’t signal structural damage, like termites, that could cause your floor or joist to collapse. And fixing creaky floors is fairly simple.
Although any floor can squeak, hardwood floors and staircases are the common culprits. Squeaks happen when a house settles and wood flooring dries and then expands. This causes the floorboards to rub against each other, or against the subfloor, or against the nail casings.
“Squeaks are more about driving you crazy than anything,” says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman, a franchised household fix-it service. “If the floor were bowing or bending, it would be a more serious issue.”
So let’s get to work on quieting those squeaks making your ground silent! (Not to worry, the solution isn’t switching to all carpeted floors or a total tile takeover.)
Why do floors creak? Plus, how to fix creaky floorboards
Locating the source of the squeak is a two-person job: One person walks around to make the floor creak, while the other person is under the floor pinpointing where the squeaking is coming from. Fun, right?
If the wood floor is above an unfinished basement or crawl space, fixing squeaky, creaky floors becomes simpler. All you have to do is to smear some carpenter’s glue or construction adhesive on a thin wood shim and gently tap it between the joists and subfloor, or between two floorboards, taking care not to pound so hard that you raise or buckle the floor.
Should you encounter a more sizable gap, say one that runs the length of a floor joist, grab your caulking gun and apply construction adhesive between the subfloor and the joist. Once that glue hardens, you shouldn’t hear a single squeak or creak.
Squeak-Ender is a piece of hardware that effectively quiets those annoying squeaks by placing a steel mounting plate against the joist and screwing it to the plywood subfloor.
If the cause of the squeaking is a result of hardwood floors rubbing against the plywood subfloor underneath, you can drive a short wood screw up through the bottom of the subfloor and into the base of the floor. Go slowly and carefully, ensuring that the screw does not make its way through the top of the finished floor.
To fix squeaky staircases, access the back through a closet and tap the shims into the joints between treads and risers. If you can’t access the back, tap very thin shims between squeaking parts, then trim the exposed parts with a utility knife. You can also try applying glue to any rubbing floorboards.
Fixing creaky floors from above
If you can’t easily access the noisy floor or staircase, fixing a creaky floorboard gets a little more complicated. You’ll have to work from above. Drive ring-shank flooring nails (covered with little rings that prevent the nail from backing out over time) or cement-covered flooring nails into the seams between rubbing parts. Or if separating floor from subfloor is causing the creak, drive two nails at opposite 45-degree angles into joists, which you can locate with a stud finder. Then, fill the holes with wood filler.
If the floorboards under the carpet squeak, drive a wallboard screw all the way through the carpet and pad into the floor joist, countersinking the screw head into the subfloor. The head of the screw should not be seen or felt in the carpet, although you may have to comb the pile a little to disguise where you drove the screw in.
Fixing creaky wood floor can also be done from above by buying a floor repair kit, which basically helps you eliminate space between flooring and floorboards. Generally, a kid provides joist finders, long screws, and a tool that breaks off their heads after they’ve been screwed through floorboards into the joists below. This can be used on carpeting laid above a wood subfloor.
Another simple fix is to sprinkle talcum powder into the cracks. Sounds slippery, right? Next you place a towel or cloth over the area and slowly walk over the spot to ease it in. The powder works as a lubricant that stops the rubbing that causes the noise.
Wherever your problem, once you know how to fix creaky floors, you can go back to sneaking to the fridge at night without waking the family.
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