Fixing Floor Squeaks Under Carpet
LESLIE: Nick in Illinois has a noisy problem. The floors are making some noise. What kind of floors do you have now, Nick?
NICK: (clearing throat) Excuse me. On the first floor of my home I have hardwood floors – cherry wood. And … but on the second floor, there – which is where the problem is – there is plywood; unfinished plywood.
LESLIE: So there’s …
TOM: Do you have carpet down on top of that, Nick?
NICK: Yeah, and unfortunately I pulled all the old carpeting up and had new carpeting put down.
NICK: And I tried to eliminate the problem myself by like pounding nails into the plywood; into the rafters or whatever you call those.
TOM: Right. Into the joists.
NICK: Joists, right.
TOM: Yeah. How would you feel about relaying that carpet upstairs? I mean you wouldn’t ruin it; you just have to relay it.
NICK: That’s … in other words, you really do have to pull the carpeting up, right?
TOM: Well, yeah. I mean if you have a major squeak problem, the best way to do it is to pull the carpet up and – you were close – don’t renail the floors, but use screws …
TOM: … (inaudible) screws. And the deck screws work right … work great for that with the square heads.
LESLIE: Because the screw will really secure the plywood subfloor to the joist; whereas the nail will be a temporary hold but, over time, you’ll end up with the same situation by … through movement.
TOM: Yeah. And if you could go through those rooms and screw the floor down, as opposed to nail it, you would definitely quiet them down. Because there’s really two kinds of squeaks in floors. They’re caused either by the nails pulling in and out of the wood. Because a lot of the flooring nails are coated with glue; it’s called rosin. The name of the nail – the sort of nickname for it – is called a cooler. And the reason they call it a cooler is because it’s a rosin-coated nail – it’s like a glue-coated nail – and as the … as the carpenters drive the nail through the wood, the friction melts …
LESLIE: Heats up.
TOM: … the glue. And it’s supposed to make it sort of stick in place. But when it doesn’t and it pulls out with all that glue on it, it has all this extra friction and it just makes a really terrible noise as the nail pulls in and out. So that’s one reason. And the other reason they squeak is because a lot of the plywood today is tongue-and-grooved. And so those tongue-and-grooves on the loose boards actually rub together and make that noise.
LESLIE: And make noise.
TOM: Yeah. So for all of those reasons, the best way to do this is to pull your carpet up and to rescrew the floor and put it down. Now, for those of you that are listening and are thinking, “Oh, man, I have squeaks but I don’t want to go through that major hassle. There’s one other trick of the trade that we can give you and this is for small areas only. And that is if you can locate the floor joist under the carpet – and you might do that, for example, with one of these electronic stud finders.
LESLIE: Yeah, a deep scan one.
TOM: Deep scan stud sensors, right. Then what you can do is you can take a number 10 or number 12 finish nail – and I prefer the galvanized ones because they’re a little rougher and they have better holding power – drive it through the carpet, through the plywood, and into the floor joist at a slight angle – about a 15-degree angle. Now when you’re done driving it down, you’ll notice that you’ve sorted your carpet down into like a … like a bullet, where it’s like a dimple. What you’ll …
LESLIE: Grab that carpet.
TOM: Yeah, grab it by the nap and pull it up through the head of the nail and you might brush it with your hand and it’ll go away. And so there is a way to nail through carpet and sort of conceal what you’ve done. And … but again, that’s only in narrow areas, you know? You can’t do that for a whole room.
NICK: And if the problem is with the wood itself – like that it has separated, as you were explaining –
NICK: – then, really, all you can do is replace it then, right? The wood …
TOM: No, not really. I mean you can just secure it down. Once you tighten it down it’s not going to move anymore.
NICK: I see.
NICK: Okay. Boy, I hope it works.
TOM: I’m sure it will. Nick, it’ll be much quieter in your house when you listen to us, okay?
NICK: Great. Hey, thanks.
TOM: You’re welcome. Thanks again for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.