Why does my floor squeak?

Usually this is due to a poor sub-floor like those found in many older homes. The old 3/8″ strip flooring reacts to the humidity changes by expanding and contracting, sometimes causing a cupping or crowning effect on the strips. When you walk on the floor the pieces might flatten out and cause a rubbing effect that gives a creaking sound. It is best to avoid using any solid 3/8″ flooring if possible. In newer floors it can sometimes be a result of shifting of your floor because of changing humidity. This can be avoided by maintaining an equal humidity level throughout the year.

Hardwood floors, all of them, will eventually developed some sort of squeak in them. The reason behind this is that they are nailed to a wooden structure called a sub floor made of wood underlayment and joists. The nails are an efficient and cost effective way of fastening but have the following drawback. When the wood expands and contracts with the various seasonal humidity changes, the holes around the nails also expand and contract. As we use and walk on the floors we continue to loosen them by jiggling them ever so slightly each time we use them. Your floors may squeak more in one season than another. For most homes, they squeak more during the heating season, which tends to dry out and shrink the hardwood strips.

Some solution thoughts:

  1. Humidify the house during the heating season and dehumidify during the summer, humid months.
  2. Shims can be driven between the sub floor and joists to create a swelling at the spot that the squeak occurs.
  3. In some cases we have shot 2-inch finish nails into the face of the finish flooring with a pneumatic nailer. These need to be shot in at a 15-degree angle (toe angle) to work effectively.
  4. Sanding and finishing will not solve a squeaky floor problem.

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