Fix a Neighbor’s Squeaky Floor from Above
LESLIE: Alright, Mary in New Jersey, you’ve got The Money Pit. What’s going on with your squeaky floors?
MARY: Alright, I live in a condo complex and the unit above me has this very, very, very loud squeaky floor.
LESLIE: Oh, so they’re not even your squeaky floors. (Tom chuckles)
MARY: No, they’re not mine. They’re in the unit above mine.
TOM: Do you get along with your neighbor otherwise?
MARY: Well, I really don’t know the owner.
TOM: Oh, OK. This is a problem.
TOM: Because all of the repair advice that we can give you, Mary, requires entry into the unit above …
TOM: … and work on those floors. Do you happen to know what kind of floors they have? Are they carpeted floors?
MARY: Hardwood floors, yes.
TOM: Hardwood floors. OK. Well, you know, when you have hardwood floors and they’re squeaky, the way you repair them is by making them a little tighter because typically they get loose.
TOM: And so, with a hardwood floor, if I could identify the squeak area, there’s two ways to fix it. Number one is you could take a hot dipped, galvanized finish nail and the reason I say hot-dipped is because it’s a fairly rough surface.
TOM: You first have to pilot drill out a hole in the floor and then you drive that nail through and you have to make sure you’re directly on top of a floor joist.
TOM: That tightens that up. A better way to do it if you’re a little more handy when it comes to woodworking is to drill a hole in the floor, countersunk for a wood plug, and then you simply screw the floor down then plug it and then refinish that little spot.
But those are the types of invasive procedures that you really have to own the house to do. In your case, it’s really going to require access. So, what you might want to do is talk to the condo association and see if between you, the condo association and the neighbor upstairs you can kind of have a bit of a truce and let one of the condo maintenance people get in there and do a bit of work on the floors and perhaps quiet it down for you. I will tell you that it’s kind of difficult because you’re sort of always chasing that squeak around the floor a bit; especially with hardwood. It’s actually easier to get rid of the squeaks if it’s simply carpet over a subfloor. But that’s probably the best situation. So this is a little home repair and a lot of negotiation, in this case, Mary. OK?
MARY: Alright. Well, I just wanted to ask you one more question. I understand there are three different levels, from the engineer’s report that was taken here. One was that it could be above my ceiling, which I would be responsible for; if it’s above my ceiling. The other would be at the level above that and then there would be the level of the unit owner above me. So there are three different …
TOM: OK, well listen. What you’re talking about is the property line and when you own a condominium …
TOM: … there’s a line that defines what’s your responsibility and what’s not your responsibility to fix.
LESLIE: But I can’t imagine something above your ceiling, meaning subfloor and flooring of the above apartment, would be Mary’s responsibility.
TOM: Well, it’s interesting, Leslie, because it really depends. In some cases – like I had a condo once where my owned property was like inside sheetrock to inside sheetrock. Basically, I own the space inside the walls. The frame of the building was owned by the condominium association and then the guy above would obviously own from inside sheetrock like to his floor. And with that type of ownership the association was kind of ensuring for all the structure …
TOM: … instead of a normal homeowner’s policy and you were essentially ensuring for contents as well as appliances and kitchen cabinets and things like that. But all of these associations have different levels of ownership and that line and understanding where that line is in terms of where your ownership stops and the association starts or the next owner starts after that, that’s what makes the difference. And when it comes to this very practical problem of a squeaky floor, you know, it can become pretty super-complicated. That’s why I say this is a little bit home repair and a lot of negotiation and fortunately it’s not a hard thing to fix. You’re just going to have to try to get all of the parties together and see if you can get them to cooperate on getting it fixed.
Mary, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.