Floor Creaks and Squeeks: How to Fix
LESLIE: Mike in Virginia, what can we do for you?
MIKE: Yes, I have some hardwood floors that I’m interested in refinishing but they squeak like crazy. Is there a way to get a squeak out of the floor before I refinish them?
TOM: Absolutely. How old is the house, Mike?
MIKE: About 45 years old.
TOM: Alright. So you have original hardwood. These weren’t added subsequently. These were part of the original construction.
TOM: What you want to do is identify where they’re the loudest. And you need to resecure those to the floor joist below. Because the reason the floors are squeaking is because they’re loosening up and we need to secure them down. Now there’s two ways …
LESLIE: And the squeaking is actually the dried out wood sort of just rubbing against each other, correct?
TOM: Yeah, exactly. It’s not a structural concern. It’s more of an annoyance than anything else.
LESLIE: Or charm; however you like to put it.
TOM: That’s right. It could be defined as charm.
There’s a couple of ways to do this. First of all, an easy way to do this is to locate those areas where the floor joists are below and you can do that with a stud finder – one of these electronic stud finders – so you make sure you’re right on top of the floor joist. And then you can take some finish nails and you need to predrill the hardwood floor. And you could actually do this by cutting off the head of the nail and stick it in the end of the drill or you could use a twist drill bit. You want to drill into the hardwood floor at a slight angle; maybe like a 15 to 20-degree angle so the nail’s not going in straight. And you’re going to renail that seam right on top of the floor joist maybe one in every board for, you know, the couple of feet it is that they’re squeaking. Set the nail below the surface, fill it with a wood putty and then, after the refinish, it’ll be absolutely invisible.
Now, the only downside of doing it with nails is they can eventually pull back up again. If you want a totally permanent repair then you do the same thing, except you use screws. But to use a screw you have to counterbore below the surface of the wood and then put a wood plug in.
LESLIE: Which could be a stylistic choice if it works with your architecture and the period of the home. But that – you know, you then would want to repeat it to make it look like a pattern and make it look pretty and not just in the individual place.
TOM: And if you only have to do it in a few places, you could probably get away with it and your eye wouldn’t pick it up. Just make sure that the wood plugs you put in are the same material as the wood that you took out. So if it’s oak …
LESLIE: So they finish the same.
TOM: Yeah, if it’s an oak floor use an oak plug. And align the grain with the grain of the floor. So in other words, don’t – make sure the plug doesn’t go like 90-degrees opposed. You line the grain up. And then the wood fillers today that can go and sort of fill the pores of the wood across the plug and across the old board as well will do a really nice job when it’s sanded up and it’ll be almost invisible. So those are the two ways. But basically, this is a project where you’re securing the floors to the floor joist below and that’s going to quiet them down.