Home Improvement

How to Fix Squeaky Floors Before They Drive You Nuts

floor shushing

floor shushing  (LeszekCzerwonka)

If you've ever heard your floorboards creak as someone (hopefully someone you know) tried to tiptoe across them, then you've probably wondered how to fix squeaky floors. After all, who wants to feel like they're starring in a remake of a teen horror movie?

There's no need to panic. In real life, squeaky floors are no big deal -- that is, they don't signal structural damage, like termites, that could cause your floor to collapse. And they can be de-squeaked.

Although any floor can squeak, hardwood floors and staircases are the most common culprits. Squeaks happen when a house settles and wood dries and then expands. This causes the floorboards to rub against each other, or against the subflooring, or against the nail casings.

"Squeaks are more about driving you crazy than anything," says J.B. Sassano, president of Mr. Handyman, a franchised household fix-it service. "If the floor were bowing or bending, it would be a more serious issue."

So let's get to work on making your ground silent!

Fixing the squeak

Fixing a squeaky floor is a two-person job: One person walks around to make the floor creak, while the other person is under the house pinpointing where the sound is coming from. Fun, right?

If the floor is above unfinished or crawl space, the easiest fix is to smear some carpenter's glue 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.

To fix squeaky 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 parts.

Fix a squeaky floor from above

If you can't easily access the noisy floor or staircase, you'll 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. Or 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.

If the floorboards under the carpet squeak, drive a wallboard screw all the way through the carpet and pad into the floor joist, countersinking the screw head into the subfloor. The screw head 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.

Or, you can work from above by buying a floor-squeak kit which basically helps you eliminate space between flooring and floorboards. Squeeeeek No More ($20), for instance, provides long screws and a tool that breaks off their heads after they've been screwed through floorboards into the joists below.

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Watch: The Do's and Don'ts of Tearing Out Carpet