Methods and tools used to fix squeaking floors under carpeting, vinyl, and hardwood.
One of the most annoying problems a homeowner can experience is a squeaking floor. Floor squeaks are usually causeD by either improperly- nailed sub floors, plywood edges rubbing together, a missed nail rubbing against a joist (shiners), or the layers of plywood delaminating. A less common cause for a squeaking floor are improperly braced floor joists which spread out and flex, causing the wood to rub together. Unfortunately, iT is not always possible to discover every floor squeak during construction with exposed and damp framing and job site noises. The best bet is to thoroughly nail, screw and glue the sub flooring and inspect it from below to make sure that the nails and screws hit the joists.
The first step is determining how to fix a floor squeak is finding out exactly where the problem is located and the cause of the squeak. Sometimes you may walk on a spot of the floor and the sound will be a foot away.
A nailing miss is probably the most difficult to repair since you will have to find the exact nail or nails that are causing the problem. If the floor is carpeted, you may need to pull back the carpet to the location of the squeak and look for an area where there are either numerous nails or nails that appear loose. Since the nail did not penetrate the joists, it will be easy to pry out with a small flat bar and it may be sticking up slightly already. Tap the nails down with a hammer and listen for hollow spots; nail the sub floor with ring-shank or glue-coated nails. Even if you don’t find the nailing miss, additional nailing or screwing the plywood will prevent the floor from moving and will likely eliminate the problem.
Squeaks under Carpeted Areas
If your floor squeak is coming from under a carpeted room on the second floor of your home, all is not lost. There are several systems on the market to screw down the sub floor through the carpet itself. In the good old days, we used to nail finish nails down through the carpet pile and then set them flush. If that didn’t work, we would use finish head screws and screw them into the floor joists. You would need to separate the pile and place Scotch Tape over the threads to protect the carpeting. A few tools are on the market are Squeeeeek-No-More Kit, Squeak-Relief™, Squeak-Ender, and Counter-Snap.
The Squeeeeek-No-More Kit can be used on carpeting laid over a wood subfloor. The kit consists of a screwdriver bit, pilot screw to help you locate joists, depth-control fixture and specially designed breakaway screws. You need to locate the joist nearest the squeak, and set the depth-control fixture on the carpet directly over the joist; then drive the screw through the fixture. You should wrap transparent tape around the screws to prevent it from catching on the carpet strands. The screw head can then be broken off by inserting the screw head into the slot in the top of the fixture and rocking it back and forth.
Hardwood Floor Squeaks
A more difficult scenario is a squeak under a hardwood floor. The Counter-Snap Kit provides an effective way to correct squeaks in and under hardwood floors. The kit comes with a screwdriver bit, depth-control fixture and breakaway screws. Counter-Snap’s screw head automatically snaps off when you drive the screw into the depth-control fixture. You will need to drill a small pilot hole through the floorboard nearest the squeak. Place a screw through the depth-control fixture and into the pilot hole and drive in the screw until it snaps off below the surface of the wood. You will then need to fill the hole with wood putty that matches the color of your floor. Touch-up stain or a color stick may be needed to blend in the small hole.
Vinyl or Ceramic Tile
If your squeak is beneath vinyl flooring or ceramic tile above a finished floor, you will most likely need to cut a piece of the vinyl flooring out, screw the subfloor, and then replace or repair the floor with a patch. Make sure that the screws are countersunk and fill the depression with floor leveler. The same goes with ceramic tile; it will be necessary to remove a tile or tile and screw down the sub flooring and underlayment.
Basement Access beneath the Floor
If your floor squeak is above a crawl space or basement, your repair options have increased significantly. There are a few repair kits on the market that utilize a steel bracket or threaded rods that are screwed into the joists and the sub floor from underneath. These systems usually cost under $10.
The traditional way to fix squeaks from the basement involves either inserting glue-coated shims or screwing wood blocking into the joists and into the subfloor. Use construction adhesive which comes in a tube and applied with a caulk gun. Wood glue will not hold as well and is too thin in consistency.
Apply a bead of adhesive on the top and bottom of the shim and push it into the gap between the sub floor and joists. Don’t force it in or it will lift the plywood and create a bulge in the floor. In a few hours, or the next day, cut away the butt of the shim.
Wood blocking can be used to screw the sub flooring from below and also support the edge of plywood that is not on the joists. Cut a 2 x 2 to the appropriate length and pre-drill holes on two adjacent sides. Screw the 2 x 2 to the joist using 3 inch screws and screw the 2 x 2 to the subfloor with 2 inch screws. The 2 x 2 is actually 1 ½ inches square and the subfloor should be ¾ inch thick. Be careful not to screw through the subfloor.
Check to make sure that you have sufficient bracing or blocking between the joists. Sometimes they are two metal straps forming an “X” in a line across the floor, 1 x 4 pine cross-bracing, or solid blocking the same size as the floor joist. The bracing is usually spaced every 8 feet, but depends on the code requirements, joist size, and the type of bracing used. Sometimes squeaks will happen near walls due to the increased load on the floor flexing the joists.
You may not be able to repair every floor squeak completely, but with these methods and tools you should be able to make them less likely to bother you.