No matter where you have been, be it at a friend’s house or a theater, you have probably stepped on a part of the floor that immediately decided to sing a little song to you.
That could happen in your own home as well, and with time, it could easily drive you crazy. Nobody wants to hear a sound effect with each step, or even worse — wake up a family member during a midnight trip to the fridge.
Most of the time, you would blame it on age or the poor work of whoever labored on that floor. But you’re probably wondering how grave this issue could be.
Are squeaky floors a fundamental structural problem of the building in question? Or is it something as simple as two floorboards rubbing against each other? And, most importantly, how easy is it to fix?
Are Squeaky Floors a Structural Problem?
Rest assured, there is no need to worry. Usually, this problem arises when the floorboards dry out with time (due to dry climate, found especially in northern regions where heating is on for a good chunk of the year). Once the humidity inside the building restores, the floorboards get rehydrated. As a result, they expand and rub against each other, the subfloor, or the nail casings.
So, no — it is not a structural problem caused by poor craftsmanship or insects like termites that eat into the wood. But what should you know before the repair itself?
How Your Floor May Be Structured
First and foremost, you need to understand how floors are built. A floor contains three elements: the floorboards themselves, a subfloor, and a joist system.
The joist system runs perpendicular to the direction of the floorboards, and it sits below the floor and the subfloor. All these elements are nailed together.
With time and the expansion/shrinkage of the wood, the nails may become loose and squeak as you step on the floor. Alternatively, the floorboards may rub against each other and produce the same sound.
Another possibility is that you have a sleeper floor system. What’s that, you may ask?
Well, this system adds another element to the structure. It consists of smaller, narrower pieces of wood that are placed parallel to the joist system, above the subfloor.
That kind of system helps with sound dampening and is usually used at higher floors to lower the volume of the sound that reaches the floors beneath. However, it also creates pockets of air between the floor itself and the subfloor, aka the empty space the floorboards can sink into. So, they have more space to rub against each other.
How to Fix a Squeaky Floor
What steps can you take to fix a squeaky floor? Well, you should:
- Identify the exact spot where the sound comes from.
- Pick one of the repair methods that I will provide below.
There are also tools you can use, such as the floor squeak eliminator kit from E&E. Additionally, you can find video guides that will make the whole process easier, as they serve as visual aids.
1. Exposed Hardwood
If you have exposed hardwood floors, you are in luck! There’s a super-quick fix you can use: sprinkle some talcum powder over the boards that produce the sound. Then, sweep the powder back and forth to get it between the cracks.
That way, you will provide lubrication, and the noise will be gone.
2. Fix the Squeaky Floor From Below
If the problematic floor in question has space underneath (such as a basement, another floor, or some crawl space), go there, get a friend to walk around the room, and follow these steps:
- Pay close attention to the subfloor.
- If there is movement, mark the location down with tape or another tool that you have at your disposal.
- Look at the closest joists of the marked area, and try to find gaps.
- Insert a thin wedge (preferably made of some strong material, like metal or wood) into the gap that allows movement.
In case you do not find any issues with the joists, look for a gap between the floor and the subfloor instead. Insert wood screws where the squeaky area is to pull the two structures together.
You should pay attention to the length of the screws, as they must be long enough to go into the floor, but not pop out on the other side. You don’t want to step on screw tips afterward, do you?
3. Fix the Squeaky Floor From Above
In case you cannot work from underneath, I recommend using spiral flooring nails and following these steps:
- (Optional) Are you a proud owner of a tiled or carpeted floor? Sorry, but you will have to remove whatever is covering the floor, unfortunately.
- Find the source of the squeaking and figure out if it’s coming from a joist or between joists.
- Insert two of the aforementioned screws in a V pattern, right through the floor and subfloor levels.
And that’s it! You can now enjoy walking around without a soundtrack in the background. As you can see, squeaky floors are not such a serious issue after all, and luckily, they do not require an engineering degree to fix.
If you have other squeaky objects in your house, like a squeaky door handle, check this article to find ways to solve the problem.
I hope my guide has been of help to you and that I have managed to make your day a little better. Now you can say goodbye to squeaky floors for good!