Creaky floors point to installation issues
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.
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.