It’s 3 AM, and you are tiptoeing around the creaky areas of your house to get that midnight snack — a situation we are all a little too familiar with living with squeaky floors.
Your floor can be squeaky for a number of reasons, including seasonal humidity fluctuations, joist and subfloor problems, and even poor installation. But the good news is you can easily fix squeaky floors, mostly by yourself.
So, what is causing your floor to squeak? How to fix squeaky floors? Let’s discuss.
Reasons You Have Squeaky Floors
There is no doubt squeaky floors are irritating for everyone. But before we get into how to fix squeaky floors, we need to take a deep dive into what is actually causing your flooring to squeak.
Here are four probable reasons your floor is squeaking –
Seasonal humidity fluctuations
Wood is hygroscopic — meaning it will retain moisture from its surroundings, causing it to expand and contract with seasonal humidity fluctuations. Your wooden floor can squeak from both very dry and humid weather. Dry weather and heaters running in the winter can cause your floor to contract and allow more room for movements. In contrast, humid weather can expand the planks to the point they rub against each other.
Click here to learn more about the best humidity level for hardwood floors.
Joists are structural components that lie under the floor covering and subfloor to support and prevent movement. Any issues with joists, be it loose joists or gaps between joists and subfloor, means there will be movements and noise when you step on that area. You can identify joist issues by accessing the basement or the room underneath and inspecting the section of the floor making noise.
Poor installation of subfloor
Uneven subfloors are one of the most common culprits behind creaky floors. The floor covering sits directly on the subfloor (if there is no underlayment), and any gaps mean it will make noise when you step on it. You can also have misalignment or gaps between the subfloor and joists. Damaged or old subflooring can also make your flooring squeak.
Underlayment lies between the floor covering and the subflooring. Although not all flooring materials require this layer, insufficient underlayment can cause the floor covering to rub against the subflooring and create noise. Underlayment is especially helpful for floating floors, hardwood, and engineered hardwood floors.
Find the Source of Squeaky Floors
Floor squeaks usually come from the top flooring rubbing against a nail, bottom layers, ductwork, or even piping. Before moving on to how to fix squeaky floors, you need to find the sources first. If you have access to the squeak from underneath, you are in luck because you can identify the source quickly and have the option to fix the squeak from the bottom.
If you have a partner, have them spring up and down on the creaky area as you observe the subfloor movement from below. Look for nails or subfloor seams rubbing against each other. Identify any gaps between the subfloor and joists as well.
In case you don’t have a partner, mark the squeak’s location in relation to a wall or other fixtures and locate the spot from underneath. If you have carpeting, you can use an 8d finish nail to mark the squeak’s spot.
How to Fix Squeaky Floors: From the Bottom
Fill gaps with shims
Sometimes the source of the squeak is a simple gap either between the floorboards and the subflooring or between the subflooring and the joists. If you identify any visible gap around the squeaky spot, insert shims to close the gap.
Spread some carpenter’s glue on a thin wood shim and slide it into the gap. You might need to repeat the process and stack up wood shims for a larger gap. Don’t hammer the shim or push it too far in, as it can raise the subfloor and make it unlevel.
Once the shim has set in place, trim the excess using either a utility knife or oscillating multi-tool. Also, remember to check both adjoining joists of the squeaky spot for gaps.
Fill gaps with construction adhesive
If you identify a long gap that will need multiple wooden shims, it is better to seal off the opening with fast-set construction adhesive. Put a generous amount of glue in the gap between the top part of the joists and the underside of the subfloor. Use a caulking gun for a precise and even application. Also, check the opposite side of the joist, and seal off with adhesive if needed.
Reinforce joists with a 2×4
Floor joists can twist, warp, bow, or shrink for a magnitude of reasons. It can leave open space between the joist and plywood subfloor — which eventually causes squeaking noise. If you notice any damage to the joists, you need to reinforce it. One way to reinforce the joist is by adding a 2×4.
Measure the length of the subfloor gap and extend it by 1 ft on each end (2 ft in total) to determine the length of the 2×4. Pre-drill 3/16-inch holes every 2 ft along the 2×4 at a slightly upward angle. Apply construction adhesive to the sides of the blocking that will touch the subfloor before installation to add strength. If you have applied the appropriate amount of glue, it should squish out when you screw the 2×4 in place. Push the block tightly to the subfloor and drive 2-1/2 inches wood screws into the joist.
Install a block between floor joists
Sometimes movements in subfloor joints cause the floor to squeak. You can prevent subfloor joint movement by installing a solid wooden block between the joists. Most homes have 2×8 joists — for which you can use 2×8 solid blocking.
The blocks should fit snugly between the joists, not too tightly. Otherwise, they can push against the joists. Evenly space out the blocks along the length of the joists for uniform support. Apply construction adhesive on top of the blocks and slide them up tight against the underside of the subfloor. Secure the blocks with 3-inch drywall screws driven through the sides of the joists to the ends of the blocking.
Screw flooring from below
Squeaks originate from the movement of flooring layers rubbing against each other or chafing against a nail. You can stop these movements by driving short screws up through the subfloor’s underside and into the finished flooring’s bottom.
However, you have to be precise and careful so that the screws do not penetrate the floor covering. To stay on the safe side, test out the screws in an inconspicuous area first. Then check to make sure the screw is not visible or noticeable from the surface of the floorboard.
How to Fix Squeaky Floors: From the Top
Lubricate the floorboards
Fixing squeaky floors from the bottom might not be an option if you cannot access it from below. Applying lubricants is a simple and easy fix for creaky floors.
Locate the squeaky spot and apply a small amount of Finish Line Bike Chain Liquid Wax on the surface. Leave it for a few seconds to absorb and wipe it off. Step on the spot to check for noise. Repeat the process if the noise persists until the squeak is gone.
Apply powder lubricants
Sprinkle some powdered graphite on the squeaky surface and work the powder down the cracks. You can also use talcum powder or lock lubricant. For a more severe case, you can benefit from using dry silicone lubricant. The powder lubricants minimize the wood-on-wood friction, creating noise when you step on the area. Finish off vacuuming or mopping up the excess powder from the floor.
Use a humidifier or dehumidifier
Excessive humidity or dry weather is a common cause of squeaky floors. It is also essential to regulate and maintain a relatively moderate humidity level to keep your wooden floors healthy.
Use a dehumidifier to lower the humidity level if you live in a humid climate or have wooden floors in the laundry room, basement, or other moisture-prone areas. Similarly, if you live in a dry climate or use air conditioners and indoor heaters, use a humidifier to add some humidity to the indoor air.
Screw flooring from top
If you have carpet flooring, you can secure your floor and prevent movements by screwing it from the top. It is also a viable option for inconspicuous areas, such as areas covered by rugs or furniture. However, ordinary screws might not work with carpets as they will catch strands and cause a run.
Squeeeeek No More is a cleverly designed product to reinforce floor gaps from the top. The kit includes special counter-snap screws coated with wax, a tripod tool, a driver bit, and a stud finder. Use the tripod and driver bit to drive the screw through the floor covering, subfloor, and joist. The shaft of each screw is pre-scored 1 inch from the top that snaps off just below the subfloor’s surface when you drive the screw through the tripod tool. The threaded portion of the screw remains in place and securely fastens the subfloor to the joist.
The Squeeeeek No More system works on various flooring products, including carpeting, hardwood planks, vinyl sheet and tiles, and linoleum tiles. It works best with carpeting as it will hide the resulting screw hole. Using a wood filler, you can fill any holes left behind in hardwood floors. Linoleum and vinyl will expand slightly to cover the hole partially, but they won’t hide it completely. You could try concealing the spots with caulk. Also, you can strategically place area rugs or furniture to hide the puncture hole from the screw.