The advent of Halloween is no excuse for keeping those creepy, squeaky floors. If you’ve ever tried tiptoeing across the house and woken up a sleeping family member because of the creaking floorboards, perhaps it's time to address this problem. No one wants to feel like they’re starring in a remake of a teen horror movie.
Squeaks aren’t a sign of structural damage, and they don’t portend floors collapsing from termites. So take heart. Fixing them is fairly simple. While any floor can squeak, hardwood floors, staircases and upper story floors are the common culprits. “Squeaks happen when a house settles and wood flooring dries and then expands,” says Realtor’s Lis Kaplan Gordon. “This causes the floorboards to rub against each other, or against the subfloor, or against the nail casings.” Handyman’s J.B. Sassano says, “Squeaks are more about driving you crazy than anything. If the floor were bowing or bending, it would be a more serious issue.”
How to quell the squeaks? Locating them is the first step, and it’s usually a two-person job, says Gordon. “One person walks around to make the floor creak, while the other person is under the floor pinpointing where the squeaking is coming from.” She explains how, if the wood floor is above an unfinished basement or crawl space, fixing squeaky, creaky floors becomes simpler. “All you have to do is to smear some carpenter’s glue or construction adhesive on a thin wood shim and gently tap it between the joists and subfloor, or between two floorboards, taking care not to pound so hard that you raise or buckle the floor.”
For a more sizable gap (one that runs the length of a floor joist), grab your caulking gun and apply construction adhesive between the subfloor and the joist. Once that glue hardens, you shouldn’t hear a single squeak or creak. ”Squeak-Ender is a piece of hardware that effectively quiets those annoying squeaks by placing a steel mounting plate against the joist and screwing it to the plywood subfloor,” says Gordon.
If the cause of the squeaking is a result of hardwood floors rubbing against the plywood subfloor underneath, however, you can drive a short wood screw up through the bottom of the subfloor and into the base of the floor. “Go slowly and carefully, ensuring that the screw does not make its way through the top of the finished floor,” she adds.
For staircases, access the back through a closet and tap the shims into the joints between treads and risers. “If you can’t access the back, tap very thin shims between squeaking parts, then trim the exposed parts with a utility knife. You can also try applying glue to any rubbing floorboards” says Gordon.
Fixing a squeaky floor gets a little more complicated when you have to work from above. “Drive ring-shank flooring nails (covered with little rings that prevent the nail from backing out over time) or cement-covered flooring nails into the seams between rubbing parts” says Gordon. If separating floor from subfloor is causing the creak, drive two nails at opposite 45-degree angles into joists, which you can locate with a stud finder. Then, fill the holes with wood filler.
Floorboard squeaks mean driving a wallboard screw all the way through the carpet and pad into the floor joist, countersinking the screw head into the subfloor. “The head of the screw should not be seen or felt in the carpet, although you may have to comb the pile a little to disguise where you drove the screw in,” she says.