Fix a Squeaking Floor
Pete’s calling in with a squeaky floor. Tell us about it.
PETE: My floors – I bought the townhouse and the upstairs bedroom right above our master bedroom is very, very squeaky. And the previous owners told me they tried everything from drilling in crooked and sideways and using wood screws and anything you can think of to get these floors to stop squeaking. And they’re just not – there’s nothing I can do about it really, at this point. I was wondering if you had any advice about that.
TOM: What kind of floor covering do you have on it right now, Pete?
PETE: Well, it’s rug and under the rug it’s – the subfloor is – I don’t know how to explain it. It’s probably the cheapest subfloor you can get (Leslie chuckles) townhouse …
TOM: (chuckling) OK.
PETE: … so they cut all sorts of corners to probably build this thing. So …
TOM: Alright, well listen. The way to do this, if you’ve had such a severe problem, is to take up the wall-to-wall carpet. You’ve got to take it all up and then the next thing we hope that you can identify where the floor joists are under the subfloor. [But if it’s just] (ph) one layer of subfloor it’s going to be nailed to the floor joist. Then what I want you to do is to get some case hardened steel screws – about two-and-a-half inches long or so will do it – and you want to drill and screw into that subfloor. You want to attach the subfloor to the joist about every 12 inches across that whole room. That’s going to lock down the floor to the joist.
Because the reason you’re getting squeaks – there’s two reasons that this happens: number one – the boards move up and down on the nails where they’re attached to the joist; and secondly, if it’s tongue-and-groove plywood – which very often some subfloors are – the tongues and the grooves move together. But regardless of what’s causing it, the movement is what has to be stopped. That’s why you have to eliminate the nails and go totally with screws; because once that pulls down nice and tight it’s not going to move. And that’s the best thing you can do to try to quiet that up.
PETE: Hmm. Alright, now do you think – just to add to this – I was thinking about actually tiling up there and, you know, going with a wonderboard first; screwing that down and then laying tile. Do you think that would help clear it up or should I do this project first with (INAUDIBLE)?
TOM: No, even if you’re going to put tile down you definitely want to do this project first because if the …
LESLIE: Because once you put that tile down …
LESLIE: … you’re going to have to do the repair from the ceiling below.
LESLIE: And that’s going to be a huge mess.
TOM: This is the easiest time to address this problem. When you just have to deal with carpet – of course it’s a hassle to take the carpet up and put it back down, if you decide to go that route – but it’s clearly a lot easier than if you put tile over that. Tile’s not going to solve this. It will only make it worse unless you deal with the root cause which is the loose subfloor.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. And if you don’t deal with it and that subfloor becomes more loose and starts to move, you’re going to see those tiles start cracking.
PETE: That’s true. So two-and-a-half inch steel screws – case hardened – right through the floorboard into the joist? Is that right?
TOM: That’s correct. That’s correct.
PETE: I wrote it all down. I really appreciate your help.
TOM: You’re welcome, Pete. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT. 888-666-3974.