Fix a Squeaking Floor Under Carpet
LESLIE: Joe in Michigan, you’ve got The Money Pit. What can we do for you?
JOE: Hi, I’ve been in my house for – it’s a 10-year-old house and I have squeaky floors and I have no clue how to go about fixing them.
TOM: Well, a 10-year-old house is probably going to have plywood as the floor sheathing. Is that correct?
JOE: That’s correct.
TOM: And I can also tell you that the nails that would have been used to affix that plywood to the floor joist was a seven-penny nail called a cooler in the business and the reason it’s called a cooler is because as this nail is driven through the plywood the friction melts a glue that’s on the outside. It’s actually a rosin-coated nail …
TOM: … and the friction melts this glue and then the nail is supposed to just sort of stick in place as well as being, you know, driven into the wood.
TOM: But in truth, what happens is you get this expansion and contraction. Imagine – you know, the violinists put rosins on their bows to give them more friction.
TOM: Well this rosin on the nails gives it plenty of friction but it doesn’t sound anything like a violin. (Leslie chuckles)
JOE: Yeah, yeah.
TOM: Unless you’re a really, really bad violin player. (chuckles) And as the nail pulls in and out of the floor it makes a horrible squeak. So the solution here, Joe, is to secure the floors better down – the plywood subfloor down to the joist. And the best way to do that is to use case hardened screws and to screw the floor down.
Now, do you have carpet in the areas where the squeaks are the loudest? What kind of floor covering do you have?
JOE: The majority of the house is carpeted and, ironically, that’s where all the squeaks are; is …
TOM: Of course.
JOE: … the carpeted areas. Not the tile area, of course.
TOM: Well listen, if you really want to fix this once and for all you’ve got to pull the carpet up and you’ve got to screw the floor down. Because that’s the only thing that’s going to fix it. If you have one area that’s particularly bad I can give you a trick of the trade. You can take some finish nails; some #12 or #14 galvanized finish nails. You can identify where the floor joist is underneath the carpet by using a stud finder.
TOM: You can drive the nail through the carpet and into the floor joists and then the last thing you do is sort of pull the carpet up through that and sort of brush (INAUDIBLE).
LESLIE: It hides it.
TOM: It’ll disappear and that’ll solve the problem.
JOE: (overlapping voices) Right. Give it a quick yank?
TOM: Yeah, exactly. Quick yank.
TOM: And that will tighten up the floor. Now, I will tell you, it’s not going to last as long as pulling the carpet up and screwing it down but if it’s one that’s really bugging you that’s a way to fix it.
JOE: That’s cool. Somebody was saying there was some hardware that you actually attach. It’s like a U-shaped clamp; you attach it to the …
TOM: Yeah, there’s all sorts of brackets and gadgets and stuff like that out there but it’s not really all that necessary. You know, a good drywall screw will do the better job.
JOE: OK, good.
Well, what happens if you don’t fix the squeak. Do they get worse or they just stay the same and then irritates you?
LESLIE: You hear them far less.
TOM: That’s right. You get used to them. Ambient noise.
JOE: (chuckling) This is true. OK. Very good.
TOM: Joe, thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.
JOE: Thanks for the advice.