How to Stop Hardwood Floors from Squeaking
LESLIE: Maybe you’ve got a flooring question on your mind like our friend Rick in Atlanta has.
Rick, what’s going on?
RICK: When you walk down the halls and into the bedrooms on my hardwood floors, it squeaks enough to wake you up at night.
TOM: (chuckles) OK.
RICK: And they’re 3-inch slats and I know I could take and screw down each individual board and stop it but that’s not a good idea. It’s going to make it look terrible. And I’m looking for maybe a suggestion on an alternate solution to stop my floors from squeaking.
TOM: The basement’s completely finished?
RICK: Correct. It’s got sheetrock ceiling. I’d have to rip out the ceiling to get to the floor.
TOM: OK. How old is your house?
RICK: Thirty-six years old.
TOM: So the hardwood floor is not prefinished? It was installed originally as raw hardwood and then finished in place?
RICK: And I have been told that one of the problems I’ve got is they didn’t put a barrier between the subfloor and the hardwood.
TOM: That actually could contribute to it. Usually you saw rosin paper or something like that. But it all comes down to looseness of floorboards. Now you could screw the floorboards down and that is the best way to do that. And by the way, I don’t know if you realize this but there’s a way to do that with oak plugs where it becomes invisible. Are you familiar with that?
RICK: Yes, I’ve done a few of the plugs. But I’m talking about a 30-something-foot hallway and two big bedrooms and you’re talking about a lot of screws and a lot …
LESLIE: Yeah, but do you have to screw down every, single plank?
TOM: Yeah. I don’t think that you do. I think what you want to do is find the loudest areas and you probably are going to want to do a combination of screwing down some of those boards – and to do this, of course, what you need to do is you need to identify where the floor joist is underneath and you can do that with one of the high-tech stud sensors that’s out there today. Black&Decker has one, Zircon has one. They all have deep scanning capabilities where they’ll actually go an inch or two into the floor. Locate that floor joist because you’ve got to hit that correctly.
And then what you want to do is you can use a drill bit that actually will put the pilot hole for the screw, the clearance hole for the shank of the screw and counter-bore it, leaving about a 3/8-inch, perfectly-shaped hole up top into which you can insert an oak plug. And when I say oak plugs, I’m not talking about the buttons like you used to see on the old furniture where it sticks up. I’m talking about …
LESLIE: No, no. These are tapered. They’ll go flush to the floor.
TOM: Right. Flush to the floor. Usually you leave them sticking out a little bit and then you chisel them til they’re perfectly flat. And when you do that, it becomes almost invisible. Trust me. I used to build oak (inaudible) and oak floors and I made plenty of mistakes that needed to be fixed and I was pretty good at fixing it with these plugs and you really couldn’t see. So I think using a combination of that.
And the other thing that you can do is you can simply nail down some of these loose boards using a #10 or a #12 finish nail. And I prefer, when I’m trying to fix a squeaky floor, to use one, Rick, that is rough galvanized – it has the rough-coated, galvanized surface – because it has more friction to it. And again, you need to find the floor joist and you want to drill a pilot hole that’s just a little bit smaller than the nail and you want to drill that hole at a slight angle. You don’t want to put it straight in. When you put the nail in at an angle, it will have better holding power. And you countersink it below the wood surface.
And here’s one more trick. When you set that below the wood surface, you want to use one of the wax sticks I found are very good for this. Minwax has a set of wax fill pencils that you can actually – I’ve taken a lighter and heated the tip a little bit to soften it up where you can actually push the wax into the hole and it really becomes almost invisible with the floor. You choose one that’s closest in color to the floor. And even if you have one that you can’t get exactly right, you go one shade above and one shade below and mix the wax together just by dripping it over that little nail hole you’re trying to fill. And I’m telling you, it’s going to be a lot more work than if you had a full basement or could access it from below but that’s probably your best option; to use a combination of renailing it with hot-dipped, galvanized finish nails and then screwing it every so many feet, maybe every foot or two, down along one of the floor joists. That’s going to be the best thing to do to try to quiet that floor at this point.
RICK: Well, that’s a lot better idea than I had, so I sincerely appreciate the input. And y’all have got a great show and I enjoy listening to you.
TOM: Thank you very much, Rich. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT, 888-666-3974.