Squeaking floors are caused loose floors that move as you walk over them. While a squeaking floor can be one of life’s little annoyances, it rarely signals a structural problem below. The actual sound stems from one or a combination of two sources: either loose floor-boards are rubbing together or the nails that hold down the floor are squeaking as they move in and out of their holes.
Fortunately, noisy floor squeaks can be about as easy to fix as they are to find. The solution is to re-secure the floor to the floor joists (a.k.a. the beams underfoot that floors are nailed to). Here’s what to do:
Fixing a Squeaking Floor Under Carpet
If the squeaking floor is coming from under a carpeted surface, it’s best to remove the carpet and drive hardened drywall screws next to every nail in the floor. Screws never pull out, so they’re a great solution against future squeaks.
If removing wall-to-wall carpet is too much for you to tackle, there’s another method that may allow yo to fix the squeaks from above, without removing the carpet. Using a stud finder, locate the floor joist beneath the carpet in the area of the squeak. Joists usually run perpendicular to the front and rear walls of a home so check that direction first.
Once you’ve located the joist under the squeak, drive a 10d or 12d galvanized finish nail through the carpet and subfloor and into the floor joist. Make sure to drive the nail in at an angle to prevent future loosening, and drive in nails in two or three positions at the source of the squeak. Finish by grabbing the carpet by the nap or pile, and pull it up until the head of the finish nail passes through it. As the nails disappear through the carpet, so should the squeak.
How to Stop Squeaks in Hardwood Floors
If you’ve got a squeaky hardwood floor, the same procedure applies as carpet, it’s just a little trickier because you’ll have to blend repairs into the existing surface. Once again, use a stud finder to locate the joists in the neighborhood of the squeaking floor (they’ll be sitting 1 to 1 ½ inches under a hardwood floor, so a “deep scan” stud finder will work best). Either screw down or re-nail the area as suggested above for carpeted flooring, pre-drilling the holes.
If screws will be used: look for hardened “trim screws” as these have a very small head and are easily concealed with wood putty. In the alternative, you can use a drill bit that includes a counter-sink is ideal because it’ll leave a hole that’s exactly 3/8″ in diameter and perfectly sized for filling with an oak plug.
And if you’ll be nailing the floor, be sure to use a drill bit that’s slightly smaller in diameter than that of your finish nails. Another trick is the cut the head off the finish nail you’d like to use to nail the floor and use the nail as the drill bit. This tends to “spread” the wood fibers allowing the nail to pass without benind, yet keeping the hole as tight as possible.
How to Stop a Squeaking Floor under Vinyl or Tile Floors
Vinyl or tile floors are among the most difficult noisy floors to fix squeaks in because you cannot work on them from the top. Since its not possible to drill or nail through finished vinyl or tile floors, they need to be repaired from below.
The first part of the repair is the same, you’ll need to locate the floor joists under the squeak using a stud finder as explained above. But from there, you’ll need to note the physical location of the squeak, perhaps by measuring the distance from an exterior wall, or the squeaks proximity to something that goes through the floor, like plumbing pipes.
With this in mind, head to the basement or crawlspace under the squeak, and with a partner above helping by making the floor squeak, find the area of the floor that’s moving and causing the noise. Your goal at this point is to stop that movement. There’s no guaranteed way to accomplish this but I’ve found the following three methods (or a combination) usually effective:
- If there is a gap between the subfloor and the joist, you can use a wood shim coated with construction adhesive to fill that space. Once the space is filled, the floor won’t be able to move and squeaky should disappear;
- Similarly, you can cut a piece of wood like a 24″ piece of 2×4, and glue and screw it to the side of the floor joist and up against where the floor is loose. You may need to also brace this in place until the glue dries, but this can be a very effective and pretty easy way to stop that movement.
- Lastly, using a piece of wood the same dimension as the floor joist (usually 2×10 or 2×12) Add additional blocking to the floor perpendicular to the floor joists where the squeaks are occurring. Be sure to secure this by screwing the blocking into the adjoining joints and make sure its pressed up under the area of the floor that is moving.
How to Stop Squeaking Floors Before they Happen
Given the hassles of fixing noisy floors under carpet, hardwood, vinyl or tile – there is one thing you can do to stop squeaks before they happen: screw down subfloors! If you are building a new home, or when replacing flooring in an old home, make sure to screw down the entire subfloor using 2 1/2″ to 3″ case hardened drywall screws. These can be easily driven by a power drill with the right attachment. By driving a screw about every 16″ through the subfloor to the joists below, you’ll secure loose floors before they can happen and very likely never, ever have to fix a squeaking floor again.
Although a squeaking floor is a very common issue and rarely points to a structural problem, it can certainly drive you crazy. Luckily, the solution is simple, and you can restore peace and quiet to your home in fairly short order.
This is great, thanks! If repairing from above, how long should my screws or nails be?
If the squeaky subfloor has a room under it with a drywall ceiling, can I drive the screws up through the ceiling below?
The length of the screw should be about 2 and a 1/2 inches. You cannot drill up through a drywall ceiling but if the drywall is removed, another option is to glue and screw blocks of wood between the joist and the subfloor to reduce the deflection and squeak.