Squeaking floors can drive you nuts
By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Sep. 12, 2013
One of my older brothers used to try to sneak into our house after staying out too late. But he could never circumnavigate the floorboards outside my parents' room, no matter how lightly he trod, and even if he took off his shoes. He would inevitably hear my mother say quietly, "Paul, is that you?" Mom would then rest easy, but my brother was flummoxed.
Getting the squeaks out of floors can be baffling. But with a good, multi-pronged attack, you can conquer the annoying moan of an ailing floor. It only takes some patience and a few tools. A project helper can also be quite beneficial.
There are several common causes of squeaks in flooring, including loose floorboards, inadequate or aging sub-floor and aging nails. Other factors such as modified or sagging floor joists sometimes play a role. Squeaking may also come from seams in the sub-floor between joists.
If your floors are finished hardwood laid over a sub-floor, the challenge becomes a bit more complex. A carpeted floor laid over a good plywood sub-floor is much easier to deal with.
Where the joists of the room with the squeaky floor are open to view, you have an excellent chance of fixing the problem, and with less effort. Exposed joists allow you and your helper to pinpoint the suspect area. One person exercises the squeak while the other listens underneath and marks the spot(s). Remedial action is taken, and the problem is quickly addressed.
Here are the fundamental techniques. With the offending spot located in an open joist area, sliding shims between the joist and the sub-floor can solve most problems. Forcing in some construction adhesive seals the opening and hardens to stop the movement. Wherever you use construction adhesive, set a piece of furniture over the area for 24 hours to allow the adhesive to harden.
For carpet that is laid over sub-floor, employ the shimming technique with construction adhesive. Where that does not work completely, you might try driving flooring nails right through the carpet to secure the sub-floor to the joists more tightly.
Where hardwood is laid over sub-floor, you may find that the squeaks emanate from the finished hardwood. In this case, drill pilot holes (smaller than the diameter of the screw) up through the sub-floor and into the hardwood, stopping at least 1/4 inch short of the finished surface above. Have your helper stand still on the area while you secure it with several screws, at intervals of 5 or 6 inches. Draw the screws even with the sub-flooring.
Squeaking in a hardwood floor that permits no open view of its supporting joists allow only one solution. You will have to address the problem by going down through the finished floor. To do this, identify the problem area, and drill countersink holes in the boards that surround the squeaking. Sink your screws in the middle of the countersink holes, cover them with hardwood plugs and refinish to match the floor.
Vinyl covered floors with an open view of the joists beneath can be silenced using shims and construction adhesive. But without open view of the joists, securing the sub-floor below might be difficult. If you can remove and replace vinyl tile, then you should be able to sink screws that will secure the sub-floor to the joists. However, if you do this, be sure to sink the screw heads slightly, and cover the depression with filler. You don't want your repair to show up on the tile later on.
If the squeaks in your floors don't bother you, I hope reading this information doesn't change that. If you have squeaks and don’t want the bother of fixing them, just keep telling yourself they are a security measure - there to tell you when anyone is moving about the house.