If squeaky floors could share its tales, it would reveal a whole lot. Since it forms part of the fabric of your home’s character, it has witnessed every event inside your abode, whether it’s daily, mundane activities or special and unforgettable milestones.
Squeaky floors announce your children’s arrival. They snitch you out as you walk towards the refrigerator for a late night snack while you’re on your diet. They squeaked in raucous cheer when you got on your knees to propose to your soon-to-be wife.
However, given a choice, we’re quite sure you’d actually prefer to have a quiet floor. A squeaky floor means you’re in an older home with noisy spaces that need to be either repaired or worse, completely replaced.
Homebuyers often frown upon floor squeaks. And even the most rugged of homeowners soon discover that enough is just enough and decide to do something about it, even if the cost is just too much for their budget. Before you do, you’ll be happy to know that there are techniques that you can do to repair squeaky floors. These are simple methods that are way easier to pull off than tearing up the floor and re-installing it. But before we proceed with this nifty guide on how to fix squeaky floors, let’s first find out what actually causes a floor to make that annoying sound.
Click here to jump straight to our recommendations!
Table of Contents
- What Causes Floor Squeaks
- Listen Closely to What Your Floor is Saying
- Materials That are Needed to Fix Squeaky Floors
- How to Fix Squeaky Floors
What Causes Floor Squeaks
Before diving headfirst into repairs, it would do you well to understand what causes these floor squeaks. Movement and friction are the primary reasons. All floor squeaks can be traced to two flooring elements that are rubbing against each other, such as:
- Nails or staples that are not holding the floorboard tight and are now rubbing through the hole in the floorboard
- Two floorboards brushing up against each other
- Subfloor fasteners pulling in and out of the underlying joist
- Metal ductwork rubbing against the hole in the flooring that brings the duct up to floor level
- Uneven or bowed joists rubbing against the subfloor
Putting an end to the friction stops the squeaks. Most times, this means physically adjusting those two elements and avoiding at least one of those elements from coming loose.
It can also be caused by seasonal movement. In northern climates, when the outside climate turns very cold, homes heat the air inside the home. This heating cycle produces very dry conditions inside a home and more humidification is needed to maintain a comfortable humidity in the home.
If the home becomes very dry, the wood floors of the home will contract. This shrinking of the floors will result in tension in the fasteners, causing them to pull.
After the home returns to normal humidity level, the floors will then expand back but will be more loosely held in the subfloor. This loose hold, combined with friction in the flooring will result in squeaks; either between flooring boards or within the fastener and subfloor.
This process is reversed in homes where the humidity becomes very high, but the stress on the flooring and fasteners is the same, along with the ensuing squeaks.
Listen Closely to What Your Floor is Saying
Find out what your floors are telling you when they start squeaking.
1) “Something is definitely moving”
The easiest fix for a squeaky floor is to actually stop walking on it. I realize that it isn’t a realistic option but it does indicate that the root problem with this issue is something is definitely moving somewhere. Once you find out where the movement is and where it is coming from, you will be able to quiet down your floors again.
2) “Hey, look at me!”
The squeaks and creaks that you hear are a normal part of having hardwood flooring. But when you notice that squeak, perhaps it’s best that you take a few moments to listen to what your floor is saying.
You can begin by checking your RH levels. Gaps are also a symptom of decreased RH levels. Let me try and explain: wood is basically a sponge. When the environment around it is moist or wet, wood soaks up that moisture. When the environment around it is arid or dry, wood dries out. Aside from simply gaining or losing moisture, wood also expands or contracts based on this change in moisture.
In short, when your floor gets wet, it’ll get wider. When you dry it out, it will get narrower. And when you get it as dry as the Sahara desert? That’s when things start hitting the fan, including the fasteners. Here’s a rundown of what will happen when your floor is Sahara dry:
- The floor shrinks (gets more narrow).
- Suddenly there are openings between your boards (gaps).
- When the floors get more narrow and cause gaps they squeak.
3) “The weather has changed and I’m not feeling comfortable”
If you are observing the squeaking during the extreme points in summer or winter, then the movement is totally associated to the environment. In the peak of winter, floors will naturally be drier – your home can even be drier than the Sahara at times. And as mentioned above, dry air results in shrinking and gaps.
Once the weather turns, it will go away. The inverse is spot-on for summer when wood bulges. To keep this from being an issue, you should have a humidifier to add moisture back into the air and maintain the 35-55% RH that your floor needs to remain happy.
4) Board to Board
This occurs when two boards are chafing at the point where they meet. This kind of squeak is restricted to one area or to only two boards. You will also be able to see movement with this type of squeak.
If you can take a step away from one squeaky area to another, your issue may be with the subfloor. These squeaks will cover a bigger area than just two boards and if you were to notice some kind of movement, it will be through a larger section of the floor.
Something is not right
If you have a squeaky wood floor that is going on past a seasonal change, then it may be time to look into what else can be going on and call a professional.
Click here to jump straight to our “how to” section!
Materials That are Needed to Fix Squeaky Floors
I’m a firm believer in getting all tools and materials ready before actually starting on a project. This is just an efficient way to work that will help you save precious time and resources. You’ll also spare yourself the frustration of having to stop and go back to the store and start all over again. Here’s a list of the tools that you may need for this particular project.
- Caulk gun
- Circular saw
- Cordless drill
- Drill bit set
- Safety glasses
- Tape measure
- Utility knife
- A respirator.
You should also avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list:
- Construction adhesive
How to Fix Squeaky Floors
Fortunately, silencing squeaky floors is a pretty straightforward, relatively inexpensive task. Best of all, it can be completed in less than 10 minutes using one of these strategies.
1) Insert Shims Into Gaps
If you can access the underside of your flooring from either a crawlspace or basement, the repairs that you can do will be much easier and, in most cases, unseen.
If this is a finished space and there is a ceiling, you may want to carefully check whether the time and effort that is needed to remove and replace part of the ceiling to gain access to that area will be more advantageous than conducting the repair from above. Drywall removal can be a very messy exercise and replacement is just the same as well. On the other hand, the project is moderately low-cost, straightforward, and virtually guarantees that you will get to the core of the noisy floor problem.
Firstly, have someone from the above place a step on the squeaky spot, while you find its exact location from below. Take note of the exact spot with a square of removable painter’s tape.
Don’t hammer in the shim and don’t force it in too far. Doing so may create a hump in the floor above. The purpose of the shim is to fill the gap and keep the floor from moving either up and down, which most times, would work in silencing the squeak. Keep on repeating the process to insert shims into gaps at other problematic spots.
2) Fill Long Gaps With Construction Adhesive
While a shim is particularly effective at quieting an isolated squeak at a specific spot, if you find a long gap that is running the length of a floor joist, it wouldn’t make sense to put in a whole series of shims. Rather, what you should do is fill long gaps and cracks with a bead of construction adhesive like this Gorilla Heavy Duty Construction Adhesive. Use a caulking gun to force the adhesive straight into the space between the joist and subfloor.
Long gaps often appear on one side of a joist, but it would be best if you also check the other side to be doubly sure. If ever you do find a gap on the other side, fill that with adhesive as well. Once the adhesive solidifies, it will prevent movement in the floor and essentially put a stop to all that squeaking noise.
3) Install a Board Along a Warped Joist
Floor joists can sometimes get twisted or deteriorate. As a result, space opens up between the joist and the plywood subfloor, which results in a squeaking sound when someone walks across the floor. However, you can easily resolve the problem by fitting in a length of 2×4 or 2×6 alongside the problem joist. begin by applying a continuous bead of construction adhesive along the top edge of the wood block. Then keep the block flat against the joist and slide it up real tight against the underside of the subfloor. Fasten the block to the joist with nails or, better yet, 3-inch drywall screws, which you can find in this set.
4) Put Up Blocks to Noisy Joists
You can also install solid blocking between the floor joists. Fit the blocks from the same size dimensional lumber as the joists. Then, cut two or three blocks to fit tightly, but not too tightly, between the two joists. Spread a bead of construction adhesive along the top edge of each block before evenly spacing the blocks along the length of the joists. And then, slip each block up tight against the underside of the subfloor. Secure the blocking with 3-inch drywall screws
5) Knock in Short Screws Through the Bottom
Annoying squeaks that come from between the joists are most likely produced by wooden floorboards that are rubbing against the underlying plywood subfloor, or by scraping against the nails that are holding down the flooring. In either case, you can prevent those particular movements by striking in short screws up through the underside of the subfloor and straight into the bottom of the finished flooring.
But, you must be very wary that the screws are not long enough to go through the top of the finished flooring, which means you’ll now have to deal with a problem much worse than mere squeaking. To be safe, drive the first screw in a discreet area, like for example, inside a closet, just to make sure that it didn’t penetrate through the top surface.
6) Grease Up the Floorboards
Getting rid of floor or stair noises can be quite the issue when space beneath is already finished and you don’t have access to the floor joists or subfloor. When wooden floorboards are the ones that are actually causing the noise, you can try adding a dry lubricant to the problematic area.
Sprinkle powdered soapstone, talcum powder, or powdered graphite like this one into the joints between the floorboards. Then, place a cloth over the boards and walk back and forth to work in the powdery lubricant straight down into the cracks. This will diminish wood-on-wood friction between the planks and quiet small squeaks. Finish up by making use of a vacuum cleaner or damp cloth to eliminate any residue powder from the floor.
7) Prevent Noises From the Top
An ingeniously designed product called Squeeeeek No More provides you with a simple solution to getting rid of squeaks from the topside of the floor. The kit is comprised of a tripod tool, driver bit, stud finder, and screws. The screws are coated with wax to strike through carpet without getting caught up in strands and causing a run. You use the tripod and bit to drive the screw through the floor covering and subfloor and straight into a joist. The shaft of each screw is pre-scored 1 inch from the top, so that when you drive the screw through the tripod tool, the screw breaks off just right below the surface of the subfloor. The threaded portion of the screw keeps steady in place and tightly fastens the subfloor to the joist.
8) Add a Humidifier
Decreased humidity levels dry out wood flooring and accentuate squeaking. Adding a humidifier like this one from Victsing to slightly raise the room’s humidity may get rid of the squeaks.