Wondering why your hardwood floors keep making that irritating squeaky noise? Here is a complete guide to understanding what causes the squeaking, how to prevent the squeaking and an easy guide on how to fix squeaky hardwood floors once and for all!
Regardless of whether your house is new or old, occasionally, you will have to deal with squeaky hardwood floors. Moreover, you will find the screeching sound freaking annoying.
Sometimes you just want to have a good afternoon nap, but due to unending squeaking, you are unable to. How about trying to concentrate on a project but the irritating noise will not just let you be?
Wait a moment. Does it mean you can't fix the squeaky hardwood floor? On the contrary, it is an easy task that you can carry out on your own without the assistance of a professional carpenter. However, you need to have adequate knowledge on how to go about it.
We got your back on this. Therefore, we have compiled the essential information you must know on how to fix squeaky hardwood floors—below and above the floor—in under 10 minutes. So, let's get started!
Reason for Squeaky Hardwood Floors
Hardwood floors can squeak due to several reasons. While some of the reasons are man-induced, others are due to natural circumstances. Below is a summary of the key factors that cause squeaking on hardwood floors.
Occasional changes in weather and climatic conditions have a major stake in contributing to squeaky hardwood floors. When external temperatures are super low, your first instinct will be to keep warm.
In doing so, you will use a heating system to warm the internal air within the house. However, as you continue with the heating, the air within the house becomes dry. Eventually, this artificial warmth affects your hardwood floor.
Therefore, the hardwood floor will begin to unevenly expand and contract. This effect causes shrinkage on the hardwood floor due to tension forces. When the weather comes back to normalcy, your hardwood floor shall have expanded and contracted in a way that loosens the subfloor.
2. Unlevelled Subfloor
More often than not, unlevelled subfloors lead to the creation of voids. Moreover, when the voids become unsustainable, squeaking is just an avoidable. This implies that voids result in possible movements on your hardwood floor which in turn causes squeaking.
3. The Detachment of Joists from the Subfloor
Whenever your hardwood floor is squeaky, chances are: there is space or spaces between the subfloor and the joists. A key apparent cause for voids between subfloors and joists is due to improper gluing or nailing or both.
When the connection is not solid enough, spaces form between your subfloor and the joists. Consequently, your hardwood floor will begin to squeak.
4. Inadequate Fasteners
Fasteners play a crucial role in connecting the subfloor to the joists. However, when the connection is loosely done, the subfloor and joists end up being loosely attached. Therefore, you want to ensure that you use adequate fasteners.
Also, remember to evenly spread the fasteners leaving equal sequence distance between one fastener to the next. Moreover, you need to check that fasteners are of the right size as wrong sizes contribute to poor fittings.
5. Seating Fastener in Excess
Well, the squeaking problem may sometimes be as a result of overdoing fasteners. You need to affirm that the fasteners are not just placed randomly in excess, but just what is necessary. When the fasteners are in excess, the wood floor, and the wood material automatically disconnect.
As a result, the hardwood floor generally rises, thereby resulting in a void. As you have seen earlier, voids are a leading cause of movement in parts of the hardwood floor. This, in turn, results in squeaking.
6. Substandard Subfloor
The quality of your hardwood floor depends on the quality of the subfloor beneath it. This implies that if the quality is poor, you shouldn't expect anything less than a squeaking hardwood floor. On the flip side, top-quality subfloor materials guarantee standard subfloors which are squeak-free.
How to Prevent New Hardwood Floor from Squeaking
So, you already know the possible reasons for squeaking hardwood floors. How about acquainting yourself with expert tips on how to prevent hardwood floors from squeaking in the future. As the adage goes, “prevention is better than cure.”
Also, you will attest that preventing hardwood floor squeaking will save you time and money when the time comes. Whether you are the one doing the installation or not, ensure the following standards are followed.
1. Use of Suitable Materials
The right choice of the correct materials saves a lot of pain in the future. Therefore, you want to ensure that wet lumber is avoided at all costs. Let me explain! As the wet lumber dries finally, its initial dimensions change.
Consequently, a change in dimensions due to expansion and contraction results in the popping of nails and rugged bump like features on the floor. Finally, if not attended to, these lead to hardwood floor squeaking.
2. Proper Spacing of Panels
Using an appropriate edges gap of ⅛ ensures that hardwood floor panels are properly spaced. This is necessary as it allows the panels to expand and contract with minimal friction. Moreover, leaving the right spacing serves to prevent bucking that can lead to squeaking.
3. Allow Subfloor to Dry Properly
Allowing panels to dry first is underrated. This is especially important when they were initially rained on or water came into contact with them. Moreover, for the hardwood floor to remain firmly attached to the subfloor panels, it needs a dry surface.
Failure to do so will cause fasteners to loosen up while ramps form on the surface of the hardwood floor when the panels finally dry off.
4. Correctly Nail the Panels
Correct nailing of panels serves in preventing unwanted voids or spaces underneath. The process of nailing is more science than art. What this implies is-- you should use the right nail sizes. Besides, you want to consider the right spacing by evenly placing the nails on the surface.
Also, check that there is a right penetration of the nails onto the joist and that they completely sink.
5. Use Glue and Nail in the Construction
One basic condition for a flat hardwood floor surface is the use of adequate glue and nail. Additionally, the hardwood floor will be stable and resistant to squeaks later in the future. Therefore, as you pick the right nails to use, you must acquire the right wood glue as well.
Next, you should ensure the glue is applied appropriately on the surface. In doing so, the manufacturer's guide is one savior you should not fail to consult. As you apply the glue on the panels, ensure you do it two panels at a time.
And before it completely dries off, carefully fasten the two panels until they are firmly attached.
6. Avoid Hammering Panel Edges
You should consider the right tools while installing your hardwood floor. More important than this is the workmanship involved. Therefore, you should only use the right amount of energy--not too much and not too little.
The danger of over hitting any of the surfaces is that it affects their wood fibers. Consequently, this can cause grave damage to the panels and the joints.
7. Monitor Work
Lastly, monitoring your project should be the most indispensable thing to do. Before completing the hardwood floor installation, you should check around to see that there are no squeaks.
Also, you should check that there is the proper spacing of nails and that the gluing has been done the right way. Furthermore, taking such simple actions can save you a lot of heartache in the future.
Tools and Materials Required
Now let's get into fixing the squeaky hardwood floor. Before you embark on this task, you need to avail of the right tools and materials. Here are the major tools and materials you cannot fail to have before starting the task.
- Safety glasses.
- Mask respirators.
- Tape measure.
- Construction adhesive.
- O’Berry squeak no more kit-- contains driver bits, stud finder, and screws)
- Scrap wood.
- Wood filler/putty.
- Nail set.
- 2*4 Blocking.
- 2*8 Blocking.
- Vacuum cleaner.
How to Fix Squeaky Hardwood Floors From Above or Below the Subfloor
Due to the different causes of hardwood floor squeaking, there are multiple ways of fixing the squeaky hardwood floors. Therefore, you will need to assess the nature of the problem then respond appropriately.Below is a step by step guide to assist you to fix the squeaking either from above or below.
Fixing Squeaky Hardwood Floors From Above
Depending on convenience, fixing your hardwood floor from above may be the perfect choice for you. If you decide to go this way, here are the specific options you can choose from.
1. Defining the Source of the Squeaking
You have to locate where the squeak is coming from. Therefore, you can walk around noting which parts of the hardwood floor produce the squeaky noise. While doing so, check for loose nails and spacing between the hardwood floorboards, joists, and the subfloor.
Once you're clear on where the voids and spaces causing the squeaking comes from, you can earmark them.
2. Working on a Carpeted Hardwood Floor Surface
If the squeak is from an area that is covered with a floor carpet, then you need to proceed with caution. First, mark that area, then using a utility knife, carefully drill a hole on the carpet.
Secondly, pull the carpet away, then drill screw down the hole until the hardwood floor and the subfloor are properly joined together. Also, ensure the head of the screw goes right into the hole until it’s completely submerged.
When done, pull back the carpet and enjoy your squeak-free hardwood floor.
3. Working on a Bare Hardwood Floor Surface
First, you'll need to check for gaps between the hardwood floorboards. Sometimes when there is spacing between the floorboards, they’ll rub against each other. This, in turn, leads to the squeaky noise.
Secondly, sprinkle some powder on the surface of the hardwood especially where the squeaking is coming from. Using a rag, rub the powder into the floorboard joints until completely filled.
Lastly, use a vacuum cleaner to clear the excess powder from the surface.
Also, during the dry seasons, your hardwood floor tends to dry more often. Consequently, drying increases squeaking. To quieten the noise, you need to use a humidifier to increase the humidity in your house.
When the squeaking is due to a gap between the subfloor and the joist, or the hardwood floor and the subfloor, or the hardwood floor, the subfloor, and the joist, then, you;
- Locate the source of the squeaking.
- Drive in screws from the hardwood floor right to the subfloor, or the joist. Before deciding on the length of the screw to use, first determine the width between the joist and the hardwood floor.
- Ensure you have completely driven the head of the screw into the hardwood floor.
- Lastly, use putty or wood filler to fill the tiny hole left behind.
Fixing Squeaky Hardwood Floors From Below
If you need more working space, then working from below the hardwood floor is the best option. Moreover, your efficiency will increase since you can clearly see the source (s) of the problem.
Below, are the various alternatives for fixing squeaking hardwood floors from below the surface.
1. Defining the Source of the Squeaking
You have to locate where the squeak is coming from. Therefore, have somebody walk on the flow as you check from beneath. Also, you can check for loose nails and spacing between the floor joist and the subfloor.
Once you're clear on where the voids and spaces causing the squeaking comes from, you can earmark them from below.
2. Fixing Gaps Between the Subfloor and Joists
For minor gaps, slide shim cutting into the gap from both ends. Make sure you do this with gentleness as too much energy might cause the gap to widen. Carefully cut out shim endings on the rear for both shims.
Pull them from the gap and apply construction adhesive to them. When the glue is evenly spread on the shims, slide them back into the gap. At this point, the gap between the subfloor and the joist should already be filled.
Next, you want to trim the outside edges of the shims to match with the width size of the joists.
And if the gap is extensive and running from one end of the joist to another on the subfloor, then you need to apply a lot of construction adhesive along the edges until there is no more gap.
3. Fixing Gaps Between the Subfloor and the Hardwood Floor
What if the source of the problem is due to a disconnection between the subfloor and the hardwood floor? Here’s how to go about it.
Using masking tape, mark your preferred length on the drilling machine--⅛ of the drilling bit from below is recommended. The purpose of marking is to help you establish the limit beyond which the drill bit should go.
Next, you need to drill ¼ inch screw into the hole. This is necessary as a screw that is longer than the subfloor and hardwood floor thickness will over-penetrate to the surface. Therefore, you want to avoid this by all costs.
Remember to space the screws evenly around the affected area by at least a distance difference of 6 inches.
4. Fixing Squeaks Due to Support Provided by Damaged Joists
Sometimes, it is the subfloor that is loosely supported by the joist due to damages on the joint. First, using a tape measure, you need to measure the length of the affected area. Secondly, you need to check out if there is any nail (s) that are protruding outside.
If there are any, you should trim them out with a cutter. Thirdly, apply construction adhesive on a 2*4 blocking and place it in the area that the damaged joist attaches to the subfloor.
When the 2*4 blocking is firmly attached to the damaged joists, drill holes of 12 inches spacing from each other on the surface of the block. Also, remember to incline the drilling at an upward angle.
The purpose of this is to prevent possible sliding when you finally drill the screws inside the 2*4 blocking.
5. Fixing Loosely Attached Subfloor Floorboards
For squeaky joints on the floorboards of the subfloor, you need a 2*8 blocking to fix the movement between the joints. By doing so, you will be enhancing support on the subfloor using the 2*8 blocking.
Ensure the 2*8 blocking fits properly between joists on the surface of the subfloor. Next, add construction adhesive on the edge of the blocking and push it to stick on the subfloor.
Lastly, drill screws in an inclined angle to strongly attach the blocking to the joists.
And voila! There you go with the step by step guide to fixing squeaky hardwood floors. The procedure is simple and should take you less than 10 minutes to complete successfully.
Tips to Remember
Sometimes in the structural set up of the house, there are utility pipes that are made to pass under the hardwood floor. Therefore, you should be careful not to cause damage to any of them.
This implies that you need to be aware of these utility pipes. Here are a few that you should add to your watch list.
- Gas pipes.
- Water pipes.
- Radiator pipes for heating.
- Power cables.
- Drainage pipes.
Moreover, you need to wear the right protective gear when fixing the squeaks. A half-face mask and safety glasses are a must-have. A better solution to this would be to purchase a metal detector that can tell where metal objects are beneath the surface.
Squeaky hardwood floors are so irritating. However, it's not a lost course since there lie a plethora of solutions to this problem. Firstly, you will need to assess the problem to determine its source.
Secondly, based on what you can see, determine the nature of what is causing the movement and the subsequent squeaking. Lastly, use either of the solution provided in this guide to fix the squeaking.
Moreover, you have the option of choosing how you’d want to do the fixing-- either from above or below. Furthermore, ensure you avail the right tools and materials for fixing the squeaky hardwood floor.
Fixing a squeaky hardwood floor carries multiple benefits. What's more amazing is that the procedure is so simple and you can finish it in under 10 minutes. Therefore, you only need to have the right mindset and silence the squeaking floor once and for all.
Jessica is a Acoustical Engineer, currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area in California. After graduating from her degree in Master of Engineering degree in Acoustics from Solent University in 2014, Jessica worked for a few companies before She will be blogging about her past and current experiences in the studio and sharing her journey as she pursues her career goals. She enjoy the balance of work inside and out of the office, solving practical problems on a daily basis as every project is different and requires a different solution, the variety of work (sound insulation testing, background noise survey, mechanical plant commissioning, external plant assessment, plant room breakout assessments) and the mix of independent and team work.
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