Fast Fixes for Floor Squeaks
Remember the scene in the movie Physco where Anthony Perkins quietly tiptoed across the bathroom – much to the surprise of an unsuspecting Janet Leigh? Can you do that in your house? Probably not if the floor squeaks.
Except for the shriek that results when a fingernail is wiped across the surface of a chalkboard, we can’t think of a more irritating sound than a floor squeak.
You know, you’ve paced that room hundreds of times; the one where the glasses in the cabinets chime and where the furniture wobbles. That special room where the builder left a built-in shrill that announces its presence every time you walk by.
Boy have we got good news for you. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Floor squeaks aren’t difficult or expensive to repair, but without an extra measure of patience the task can be frustrating. Yes, the key is patience and the rest is easy.
First, a bit of background about why squeaks exist. An old-wives-tale explains that wood sings when it flexes. Not so! Usually the squeak is a loose nail rubbing inside the hole it was originally driven into. This is because the hole has become larger than it was when the nail created it or because the nail was driven improperly or hit a knot as it was driven and curled out the side of the wood, resulting in a poor connection.
Lumber that is used to build a home contains a certain degree of natural moisture. This makes the wood easy to cut and minimizes splitting when it is being nailed together.
Unfortunately, as the wood dries it shrinks – a natural process that can take years. When the wood shrinks enough, once tightly seated nails can loosen and rub when the wood flexes below the pitter-patter of foot traffic. Kind of instrument like – move the wood, move the nail and create an irritating sound.
Yes, sometimes wood rubbing wood will also create a shriek, but in either case the culprit is a bad connection between the sub floor and the floor framing members below it or a bad connection between one or more of the framing members themselves.
Diagnosis is first. Use a short length of garden hose as a stethoscope. One end to your ear and the other end on the floor while someone else walks across it in an attempt to make it squawk. This can be done from above the floor, but if a basement or sub-area exists working with the makeshift stethoscope from below will lend more accurate results.
Once the culprit nail is located, the next step is to create a better connection. Don’t use nails to make the repair – use screws. We recommend Grabbers. They have wide grooves that make them easy to drive and they grip like crazy. Drilling a small pilot hole will make the job easier.
If the noisy joint is in a framing member connection below the floor there shouldn’t be any complications. However, if the problem is a loose sub floor the repair can get sticky depending upon the type of finish flooring. Here are the rules of thumb.
Norm: will send Stan a picture of a squeak-minder on Monday.
If the squeak persists it may mean that settlement has occurred in the foundation and pier post shimming may be required – but that’s a future column. Since this is a more expensive repair, you may want to consider the positive aspects of owning your own floor squeak. Think about how different the movie Phsyco would have been if Janet Leigh had heard Anthony Perkins coming.
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