As most homeowners know, squeaky floors come with the territory. Usually the older the house, the more squeaks you have to contend with. While they may come in handy for detecting intruders or midnight-snackers, they are mostly just annoying. If you’re looking to sell your home, they can be considered a negative.
The good news is, depending on the source of squeak and the type of floor covering, there are many viable solutions. Most squeaks are caused by the movement of one wood surface rubbing against another wood surface, piping or ductwork. Other squeaks are caused by loose nails rubbing against wood.
First, we’ll talk about non-carpeted floors. The quickest and easiest solution may be to simply sprinkle a little baby powder on the squeaky area. The powder will work its way into the cracks and reduce the friction enough to stop the sound. If that doesn’t work, there are more permanent solutions. If you have the access, go down into the basement and look at the floor from below and examine the joists in the affected area. Have a helper stand and shift their weight where the floor squeaks, while you examine closely with a shop light. Do you see movement? If you see a gap between the subfloor and the joists, you can fill that space with a wood shim. To do this, tap the shim into the gap and mark the depth with a pencil. Take the shim out and apply wood glue or construction adhesive to both sides of the shim, up to the line. Tap the shim back into the gap. Score the shim along the line and snap it off.
If that solution doesn’t work, you may need to reinforce the floor joist. This can be achieved by measuring and cutting a 2 x 4 to fit along the problem area of the floor joist. Snap off any nails or screws that may be poking out along the side of the floor joist or the underside of the subfloor with a pair of diagonal cutters. Apply a generous amount of the adhesive to the side and top of the 2 x 4 where it will make contact with the joist and subfloor. Holding the board snugly in place, drive screws in at an upward angle through the block and into the joist.
When your subfloor is the culprit, there is another way to reinforce joists. Cut a 2 x 8 block, measured to fit snugly between two joists. Be sure to apply adhesive to the top and sides of the block and tap it into place. Drive screws into both ends of the block through the adjoining joists.
You can also screw into hardwood flooring from below. The trick is to determine the thickness of the flooring so that you don’t penetrate the surface above. The best way to find this out is to lift up a floor register and measure the thickness of the flooring. If that’s not possible, find an out-of-the-way corner or closet and drill a 1/8 inch hole. You can measure the thickness of the floor with a finishing nail. Once you determine the floor’s thickness, purchase screws that are ¼ inch shorter than the thickness of the entire floor. Next, drill pilot holes from below that measure ½ inch less than the floor’s thickness. To ensure that you don’t drill too deep, place a piece of masking tape on the drill bit at the appropriate measurement and drill until the tape is flush with the opening of the hole. Next, have someone stand on the problem area or lay something heavy at the squeaky spot and drive the screws in. Be sure not to sink them or you will risk poking through, up above.
If you don’t have access below the floor, you can still fix the problem from above. For hardwood flooring, find your problem area and use a stud sensor to determine the location of the floor joists. Drive a long finishing nail through the floor so that it goes into the joists. Countersink the nail and fill the hole with the appropriate colored wood filler.
If your floor is carpeted, there is a fix for that too. The neatest and cleanest way would be to purchase a carpet repair kit. The repair kit contains an alignment and depth control device with snap off screws, which are designed to break off underneath the carpeting. For this fix, as with above, locate a floor joists over the problem area using a stud finder. For best results, find a joist on both sides of the area. Next, simply push the alignment and depth control device into the carpet directly over a joist and drive one of the specialized snap off screws down through the device until it reaches the stop guard. The screw will be sticking up above the height of the carpet. Next, lift up the device and use the slotted edge on the device’s side to slip over the head of the screw. Simply tilt the device downwards and the head of the screw will snap right off. Repeat the same process on the next joist.
Using these methods, you should be able to keep your squeaking floors down to a minimum. For those midnight trips to the bathroom or refrigerator, you’ll no longer have to tiptoe around the squeaky spots in fear of waking somebody up.