Fixing a squeaky floor

Nothing makes me cringe like squeaky floors. I hate the sound. I hate how even though I’m incredibly agile, light on my feet, and can walk as silent as a ninja, somehow I still can’t avoid making the floor squeak. I hate how the squeaks condition me to walk through the house with precise steps to avoid them like landmines. I think we can all agree that squeaky floors suck.

So there are a few reasons why hardwood floors squeak. One is that after the house settles and the floorboards dry out there could be space between the joist and the subfloor and when you walk over them the floorboards rubs together. Another is that the subfloor could be sliding up and down on the nails that are supposed to hold it tight.

Since I have access to the floors from underneath, I went to the basement and had Emily walk around above me and make the floor squeak so I could mark the areas from below. I used some white spray paint.

A little shot with white spray paint is a good marker.

 

PRO-TIP: make sure your assistant is HEAVY ENOUGH to make the floor squeak. I really should have had her go in the basement and mark the spots because when I walk around the floors squeak more than a mattress at a no-tell motel. She, on the other hand, was jumping around like an orangutan and could barely get them to make a sound, though claimed that it was a good calf workout.

I had some shims lying around, but I needed to make some as well. Especially since I decided to fix these squeaks at 11pm and couldn’t go get more. You can buy shims at any hardware store. They come in big packs, like this.

To make my shims I just took some scrap wood (wood hoarder) and sliced off thin wedges in my sliding compound miter saw.

Let’s move on. Put a little wood glue on the shim and tap it in just enough to fill the space so the subfloor doesn’t move up and down anymore. Don’t whale the thing in there or you could raise parts to the floor and floorboards will start popping and grout might crack if it’s tile up there. Just tap it in, go test for squeaks, run back down, tap a little further, run back up, test for squeaks, etc.

For some reason some areas wouldn’t respond to the shim tapping method so I had to get serious. This is when you can rely on Gorilla Glue’s natural expansion to do the heavy lifting, no pun intended. I normally would do this with a 2×4 but I had no 2x4s so I went with some scrap cut to size.

Run a generous bead of gorilla glue along the edge that will be in contact with the subfloor, push it up against the subfloor and tight as you can get it, and screw it into the joist. now it’s flush and the glue will expand, adhere, and hold those floors still.

See the expanded glue? That's what I'm talking about.

I can’t really show a finish to this, but you gotta trust me, it worked. I’m VERY excited just to walk around the house. It’s silent, how a ninja likes it. And I’m finally deprogramming myself so I can walk normally through the house without avoiding the squeaky landmines.

One of these days I’ll fix the upstairs, non-accessible floors with counter-snap screws. Until then I’ll stay downstairs as much as possible.

Are you with me on this squeaky floor thing?

 

 

4 Comments

  • Andres

    This post is excellent. Your 11pm stand against squeaks is inspiring. The references to ninja movements and motivations are right on as far I can tell. But I would have like to have seen silence illustrated better.

    Reply

  • Reuben

    Good article. Question… is it ever the case that squeaks are a result of gaps between the hardwoods and the subfloor, rather than between the subfloor and the joists?

    Reply

    • Pete Fazio

      Yes, that could be the case and hopefully shimming from below would eat up that gap space as well by moving the subfloor closer to the hardwoods. If you don’t have access from below there’s always the Counter-snap kit that has break-away screws. You investigate and find the joists then using their screws you get to work. It’s called the Counter-Snap Hardwood Squeak Elimination Kit at Home Depot.

      Reply

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