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What Causes Squeaky Floors?

Squeaky floors often arise from the natural movement of wood or the friction between floorboards and subfloor nails. Over time, wood dries out and shrinks, creating gaps that lead to those telltale creaks. Humidity changes, foundation settling, and wear can exacerbate the issue. Curious about how to silence your squeaky floors for good? Keep reading to uncover the secrets.
Angie Pollock
Angie Pollock

The primary causes of squeaky floors are subflooring that is moving and environmental changes with the main floor or subfloor. When walking on a wood floor, the up and down movement can cause squeaky flooring. Another common cause of a squeaky floor is inadequately-secured subflooring to the floor joists, the gaps between adjacent subfloor planks. Loose space between subfloor planks and the joists can lead to squeaky floors. There are ways to repair this problem if the problem can be located.

Subflooring is the fundamental layer of planks or plywood that lies between a home’s interior flooring and the floor joists. The interior or primary flooring may be wood, laminate, or carpet, but the subfloor is most often made of wood and is attached to floor joists beneath. If a gap occurs between the subfloor and the primary floor or the subfloor and floor joists, the floor will squeak when walked upon from the up and down movement.

A squeaky wood floor.
A squeaky wood floor.

Environmental changes occur from weather changes and humidity. During the summer months, wood tends to expand when exposed to high levels of humidity. The opposite occurs in colder weather or winter, when the wood shrinks. This constant change from the seasons or indoor humidity can shift the wood, leading to subfloors coming loose where it attaches to the floor joists. Environmental factors and standing water can also lead to subfloors becoming warped which may also cause a space between the subfloor and the main floor or floor joists, creating the squeak when moving against each other.

Squeaky floors can be caused by a loose subfloor.
Squeaky floors can be caused by a loose subfloor.

Repairing the problem first requires finding the cause of the squeaky floors. When the cause is a loose subfloor, the repair requires re-securing the subfloor to the floor joists, a simple task if the floor joists are easily accessible. If the squeak is caused from a loose area near a pre-existing nail, the subfloor can be secured with a new nail or screw; use caution to not screw all the way through the main floor. However, if a gap has occurred between the subfloor and main floor, a wedge may need to be placed in the gap before re-securing.

If the floor joists are not accessible, the job will need to be attacked from the main floor level. This involves getting access to the subfloor from above, which may require lifting carpet or whatever type of flooring is in the home. Once the area of the squeaky floor has been located, the main floor covering must be lifted in order to expose the subfloor. The nearest floor joist near the squeaking floors should then be located and the subflooring secured to the joist with flooring nails.

With some types of main floors like wood, the squeaky floors can be repaired without exposing the subfloor. In these cases, a pre-drilled hole can be made through the main floor, but not through the subfloor. A floor nail is inserted into the pre-drilled hole and drilled into the subfloor attaching the two floors securely. Countersinking the floor nail so that it is below the primary floor’s surface is essential in this process. The small indenture and floor nail can then be covered with matching color wood filler or a plug, which is then stained a matching color.

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    • A squeaky wood floor.
      A squeaky wood floor.
    • Squeaky floors can be caused by a loose subfloor.
      By: Iriana Shiyan
      Squeaky floors can be caused by a loose subfloor.