Creaky floors point to in­stal­la­tion is­sues

The Observer (Sarnia) - - HOMES - MIKE HOLMES

Have you ever tried sneak­ing down to the kitchen for a mid­night snack, only to be foiled by the tell­tale squeak of your floors, alert­ing the rest of the house to your pres­ence? Creak­ing and bounc­ing floors could be a sign that your floor­ing wasn’t in­stalled prop­erly.

How do you di­ag­nose the source of your creak­ing floors? And more im­por­tantly, how do you fix it?

Squeaks com­ing from in­side the house

Squeaky and creaky floors are usu­ally re­lated to one of two things: your floor joists or your choice of sub­floor. While some­times old hard­wood floors can start to squeak (they ex­pand and con­tract de­pend­ing on hu­mid­ity lev­els), you may be able to eye­ball if your squeaky floors are due to your hard­wood. In the win­ter, it might shrink and leave gaps, and in the sum­mer it might look wavy as the hard­wood swells with mois­ture.

If the prob­lem is re­lated to your floor joists, it’s likely that they’ve been spaced too far apart, or they haven’t been prop­erly blocked. Block­ing be­tween your joists add a stiff­ness, pre­vent­ing them from mov­ing, which means less squeaks. If you have ac­cess to the joists from be­low (like in an un­fin­ished base­ment), you can add more block­ing — as­sum­ing there aren’t any ducts or wiring in the way.

The sub­floor may be the cul­prit. Do you know what your sub­floor ma­te­rial is? Ply­wood is my pre­ferred ma­te­rial, but even ply­wood, if not prop­erly se­cured, can still end up squeak­ing.

Of­ten, when in­stalling new sub­floors, builders will opt to use a nail gun be­cause it’s faster. They say time is money, but opt­ing for speed isn’t al­ways the best choice. Quickly fir­ing a few nails into your sub­floor, you’ll likely miss the floor joists. For base­ments with un­fin­ished ceil­ings, you could even go down­stairs and be able to see just how many nails didn’t hit the joists. With­out a strong enough con­nec­tion, the sub­floor can pull away from the joists and squeak when you walk over it.

This is why I al­ways go for the “glue it and screw it” method. Whether you go with ply­wood or ori­ented strand board (OSB), you glue the sub­floor down to the floor joists to make the nec­es­sary con­nec­tion, and then add screws to hold the sub­floor in place.

Nails can start to pull away, lead­ing to those tell-tale creaks you hear. In­stead, glue the sub­floor down to make the nec­es­sary con­nec­tion, and add screws to hold the ma­te­rial in place. Un­like nails, the screws will keep from com­ing loose over time.

If you don’t have ac­cess to the area un­der­neath the floor, your best bet is to pull up the ex­ist­ing floor, prop­erly glue and screw the sub­floor against the joists (and be sure it’s ply­wood). Un­for­tu­nately it’s not a cheap so­lu­tion, but it will solve the prob­lem.

Base­ment sub­floors and wa­ter

Now, your base­ment is a spe­cific case that needs ex­tra con­cern. Why? It needs to be equipped to deal with wa­ter. Con­crete is por­ous, so it can ab­sorb wa­ter like a sponge, and on your base­ment slab, you will even­tu­ally have mois­ture seep through. Know­ing that, you need to take steps to take care of that wa­ter.

Some con­trac­tors will rec­om­mend putting down a layer of plas­tic to act as a mois­ture bar­rier. This will keep wa­ter from com­ing in con­tact with your floor­ing, but with­out a way for that mois­ture to vent, you may be look­ing at mould growth.

In­stead, my guys use in­su­lated sub­floor pan­els. One side of the panel has raised foam in­su­la­tion to al­low for air flow, while the other side has sheath­ing. Placed foam side down, di­rectly against the con­crete, the panel al­lows any mois­ture that does come through the slab to dry over time. It also cre­ates a ther­mal break be­tween the cold slab and your warm base­ment, cre­at­ing bet­ter en­ergy ef­fi­ciency.

Wa­ter needs to be able to move to­ward the base­ment drain, so if your con­crete floor is wavy, you may want to ap­ply some self-lev­el­ling un­der­lay­ment to en­cour­age that move­ment. Some mi­nor slop­ing is fine, but if it’s ex­treme, it’s a pretty sim­ple fix.

Mak­ing smart choices when it comes to your in­te­ri­ors will save you money in the long run. Put down good qual­ity floor­ing, in­stall it cor­rectly and make sure that it makes sense for the way you live. Mike Holmes and his son, Mike

Jr. are back! Watch Holmes And Holmes at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV Canada. For more in­for­ma­tion, visit makeitright.ca.

MIKE HOLMES PHOTO

Creak­ing and bounc­ing floors could be a sign that your floor­ing wasn’t in­stalled prop­erly, says build­ing ex­pert Mike Holmes. Mak­ing smart choices when it comes to your in­te­ri­ors will save you money in the long run, he said. Put down good qual­ity floor­ing, in­stall it cor­rectly and make sure that it makes sense for the way you live.

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