Are Squeaky Floors a Structural Problem?


Squeaky floors aren’t serious structural problems. but they can be very annoying.

Squeaky Floors – A Quick Fix

If your floors are exposed hardwood, you might be able to stop a squeak by sprinkling talcum powder over the noisy boards and sweeping it back and forth to force it down into the cracks.

The powder will lubricate the edges of the boards, eliminating the noise.

More Permanent Squeaky Floor Repairs

For a more permanent repair, tackle the squeak with the procedure explained here.

If there’s a basement or crawl space under the noisy floor, work from this area to locate the problem.

You’ll need a helper upstairs to walk on the squeaky spot while you work.

Squeaky Floor Repair Video

Here’s a video from “This Old House” on How to Fix Squeaky Wood Floors:

Watch the subfloor under the noisy boards.

If the subfloor moves visibly, or if you can pinpoint the noise, outline the affected areas with chalk.

At the joints closest to your outlines, look for gaps between the joist and the subfloor.

Wherever there’s a gap, the floorboards can move.

To stop squeaks here, pound thin wedges into the gaps to stop the movement.

Shingles or wood shims make good wedges.

Are Squeaky Floors a Structural Problem?

Working under the Moon, look for gaps between the joists and the subfloor.

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Drive wedges into the gaps to keep the floor from mowing, and to stop the squeaks.

If there are no gaps along the joists, or if the squeaks are coming from an area between the joists, there’s probably a gap between the floorboards and the subfloor.

To pull the two layers together, drive wood screws up into the squeaky areas: drill pilot holes before inserting the screws.

The wood screws must be long enough to penetrate into the floor above you, but make sure they aren’t so long that they go all the way through the boards

If this happens, you’ll end up with sharp screw points sticking up from your floor

If You Can’t Access The Floor From Underneath

If you can’t get at the floor from underneath, you’ll have to work from the top, with spiral flooring nails.

Locate the squeak and try to determine whether it’s at a joist or between joists.

To eliminate the squeak, drive two spiral flooring nails, angled toward each other in a V, through the floorboards and the subfloor at a joist.

Use longer spiral flooring nails, and drive them through the floorboards and subfloor and into the joist.

Drill pilot holes before driving the nails; countersink the nail heads with a nail set, and cover them with wood filler.

Are Squeaky Floors a Structural Problem?

To eliminate squeaks between joists, drill pilot holes and drive wood screws up through the subfloor and the floor boards to pull the layers together.

If the floor is tiled or carpeted, and you can’t get at the floor boards from above or below, you probably won’t be able to eliminate the squeak without removing the floor covering.

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Before you do this, try to reset the loose boards by pounding.

Using a hammer and a block of scrap wood as a buffer, pound the floor firmly over the squeaky boards, in an area about two or three feet square.

The pressure of the pounding may force loose nails back into place.

How to Fix Squeaky Stairs

Squeaky stairs can be eliminated with graphite powder sprinkled from the top, or with wedges or wood blocks secured with glue and finishing nails to the stairs’ underside.

Are Squeaky Floors a Structural Problem?

If stair joints are too small to admit wedges, cut wood blocks to hit into the joints under the stairs.

Apply wood glue to the sides of the blocks that will contact the stairs secure the blocks with finishing nails.

Here’s a video on why stairs squeak:

Finding the Source of A Floor Squeak

To pinpoint the source of a squeak, have someone walk around upstairs while you’re below the floor (on the lower level).

Make a pencil mark on the unfinished ceiling where you hear the offending chirp or squawk.

The subfloor may even visually move away from the joists when you hear the squeak.

If you don’t see any movement, the finished flooring has buckled up away from the subfloor.

If this is the case, have the person upstairs place a heavy weight, such as a couch leg or cinder block, on the spot that squeaks.

If the squeak is immediately over a joist and subfloor, use a hammer to tap a wood shim in between the joist and subfloor.

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Squeaky Floor Terms to Know

SUBFLOOR – The base layer of wood or plywood that supports the underlayment and surface flooring.

UNDERLAYMENT – The immediate layer between the surface flooring material and the subfloor.

The underlayment for laminate flooring combines a poly-water barrier and a foam cushion sound barrier in a rollout or rigid-plank form.

JOISTS – Supporting beams set parallel from wall to wall to support the subfloor.

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