How to Fix Squeaky Wood Floors
By Steve Gillman
Wood products expand and shrink when temperature and humidity
levels change. When that happens, and when two floor planks become
tightly pressed together and you step on them, you get the not-so-pleasant
sound of wood rubbing on wood. There are also squeaks that come
from the interaction of the surface flooring and the subfloor.
With those two common causes in mind, lets look at how to fix
those squeaky wood floors.
For the common problem of side-to-side rubbing of planks,
buy some graphite powder at a hardware or home supply store.
Located the tight spot in the planks by sound--just keep stepping
on the floor till you hear that squeaking. Pour some of the powdered
graphite over the crack between the planks there, cover it with
a cloth (so it doesn't stick to your feet or shoes), and step
on it over and over to work the powder in.
If you got the spot right, the graphite should slip in between
the boards and lubricate them. The squeak should become less
noticeable and even stop as you move the boards up and down.
It may require a few applications, and you might also have to
reapply the powder at some point in the future. Clean up any
excess graphite or it it will stick to feet and stain carpeted
Fixing squeaky wood floors that involve the subfloor may require
more work. These squeaks are common if the flooring was installed
without a good quality underlayment material. You may have to
screw the planks down to stop these squeaks. Nailing can work
as well, but nails tend to work loose and you don't want a nail
head sticking up where it can injure someone's foot.
To screw a plank down more tightly, pre-drill the hole. This
is important. If you don't properly drill first, the plank is
likely to split. The hole should be almost as wide as the screw
you are using, and should penetrate slightly into the subfloor.
You want the screw to go into the subfloor by at east one-half
inch, so choose the length accordingly. Drill out a bit of space
for the screw head as well, so it can sit below the surface.
Apply a bit of soap to the screw so it goes in easily. Put
your weight on the plank to hold it down as you put the screw(s)
in; this will assure the tightest fit and avoid "popping"
the screw head. Sink the screw below the surface by about an
eight of an inch. Then you can fill the remaining space with
wood filler. Match the color of the filler to the flooring and
your repair job will never be noticed.
If this doesn't stop the sound, it may be a problem of the
subfloor moving. This might be fixed from below if you have access
to the floor from a basement or crawl space. Shims and/or wood
glue will sometimes stop the movement that produces the noise.
You may not need to know how to fix squeaky wood floors if
you install those floors properly in the first place. To start
with, a quality underlayment material is always a good idea.
The manufacturer of your flooring should have a recommendation
for what to use.
You also should have a quarter of an inch between the the
first planks laid and the wall. This is to allow the normal expansion
of the wood. Any decorative molding you install afterward will
cover the gap.
Of course a good wood flooring installer will know all of
this. To find one, you might want to look at the craftsmanship
of any wooden floors you walk on, and listen carefully. If it
looks good and isn't squeaky, ask the owner of the home who did
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