Everyone knows the frustration of squeaky floors. You wince when you walk around late at night, trying not to wake up the whole house. Maybe the kids have a little too much fun rocking back and forth on the loudest part of the living room floor. No matter where it is, a loud hardwood floor is a nuisance in your home. Fortunately, this is a problem that you can fix. Movement is the cause behind all squeaky floors. To fix the issue, you must first determine what is allowing your floor to move. This might be temperature fluctuations, an uneven subfloor, or joist issues. Once you locate the source of the movement, you can stabilize your floor and eliminate the noise. To help you along the way, here’s our guide to the common causes of squeaky hardwood floors and how to fix them.
When you hear a squeaky step for the first time, don’t panic. Instead, ask yourself what the weather is like. Engineered and solid hardwood floors consist of real, natural wood. This means that your floorboards will expand and contract with seasonal temperature changes. A little fluctuation in your floors is perfectly normal. If your floors start to squeak in the middle of winter, it simply means that dry winter air and the heater in your home have caused your wood floor to contract. This contraction gives your floorboards more room to move, which makes it more likely for your planks to rub against each other or the fasteners holding them in place. Seasonal squeaks are common and frequently fix themselves once temperatures and humidity levels rise again, causing your floor to expand. However, you can help avoid the problem by keeping your home—especially any rooms with hardwood flooring—at a stable humidity level of 40 to 60 percent.
Joists are a structure beneath your floor and subfloor. These horizontal bars help make up the framework of your floor. In a properly functioning room, the joists stabilize your subfloor and prevent movement from occurring. This means that any problems with your joists will likely result in loose flooring that creates unwanted noise. Issues with your joists can include loose or warped joists or gaps between your joists and your subfloor. If you suspect joists are the source of your squeaky floors, you will need access to the basement or room beneath the flooring to confirm. This will let you look up at the joists supporting your floor to identify any issues.
Sometimes the issue doesn’t stem from your top floor or your joists, but from the subfloor itself. Uneven subfloors are one of the most common issues that can cause a squeaky floor. When your subfloor isn’t level, it creates empty space between itself and the top floor. This space allows for movement of the top floor, which then creates noise. You might also have a misalignment or empty space between your subfloor and the joists. The quality of your subfloor can also cause issues. If your subfloor is old or has suffered water damage, it won’t be able to hold nails and other fasteners as well. This leads to a loose subfloor or top floor, both of which can shift and cause squeaks and creaks.
How To Fix Squeaky Wood Floors
Identifying the source of movement in your floors is the first step to solving the issue. Once you know where the issue comes from, you can then choose the best method of fixing it. Remember that you might not need to reach for the power drill right away. Seasonal fluctuations and other minor problems might right themselves once the humidity in your home is back to normal. However, if the problem persists, you can tackle the issue with one of the following methods.
Many squeaky floor solutions require access to the joists and subfloor. If you inspect the area beneath your floor and you find a gap between the joists and the subfloor, you can fix the noise by inserting a thin wooden shim. Pinpoint the exact source of the noise and the gap that exists there. Gently wedge the shim into place. You can also use a bit of carpenter glue to ensure the shim stays. Be careful when shimming your joists and subfloor, as wedging the piece in too hard can accidentally create an even larger gap between the two.
Use Construction Adhesive
Installing a shim can only fix a specific and isolated gap in your joists and subfloor. If you find a gap that is too long for this method, you can use adhesive instead. Construction-grade adhesive allows you to fill and secure longer gaps, cracks, and other empty spaces between your joists and subfloor. A caulking gun is the easiest way to install your adhesive directly into the gap. If you use this method, be sure to check both sides of your joist and fill any gaps you find.
Stabilize Warped or Noisy Joists
Like your hardwood floors, joists can also warp or twist over time. This creates an uneven frame for your subfloor, leading to gaps and unwanted noise. Fortunately, there are ways to stabilize your uneven joists. If warped boards are the issue, secure them by installing planks along the joist. Attach the plank to both the joist and the subfloor above to anchor them together. You can also install blocks of wood between two joists. These wood blocks will help stabilize your joists and the subfloor to prevent movement.
Screw from Underneath
If your joists are fine but your subfloor is loose, one of the best ways to solve the issue is to secure the subfloor to your top floor. You can do this by screwing from the underside of the subfloor into the bottom of your top floor. This will hold your subfloor and your top floor together and get rid of any gaps that cause shifting and creaking. If you use this method, take extra care not to drill too far through your finished top floor.
Screw from the Top
Not all homeowners can access the area beneath their squeaky floors. If this is the case, you can still fix the issue by screwing or nailing your top floor to the subfloor or the joists. However, this method makes it harder to disguise your repairs. If you screw your floors down from above, be sure to countersink the screws or nails to eliminate any sharp edges. You can also hide any leftover holes with wood filler or scratch concealer to make the repair look as neat as possible when you’re done.
With this handy information on the common causes of squeaky hardwood floors and how to fix them, you’re ready to tackle even the noisiest wood flooring issues. Visit From The Forest to explore different species and collections, including our cool and gorgeous white oak engineered hardwood flooring options. With a little care and maintenance—and the above information—you can keep your wood floors as elegant and gleaming as the day you installed them.