Fix for squeaky floors lies within sub­floor

Winnipeg Free Press - Section F - - HOMES - ARI MARANTZ

QUES­TION: I am hav­ing trou­ble with my lam­i­nate floors, which are squeak­ing. I have tried adding cross-mem­bers be­tween the joists, un­der the ply­wood seams, and I have tried adding shims be­tween the joist and ply­wood, but they are glued with sub-floor ad­he­sive. I am not cer­tain what else I can do, and the lam­i­nate floors are squeak­ing quite badly in places. I am try­ing to sell my house and this is ob­vi­ously a prob­lem. If pos­si­ble, could you please re­spond with any ideas you might have? Aaron Sym­chuk

AN­SWER: Squeak­ing floors in older homes is prob­a­bly the se­cond most com­mon com­plaint I get, next to leak­ing foun­da­tions. While many home­own­ers at­tempt var­i­ous reme­dies from un­der­neath the joists, most of these ef­forts are fu­tile. Un­less the lam­i­nate floor­ing is im­prop­erly in­stalled, the only way to re­pair this is­sue is from above.

What hap­pens in many homes, most older than a cou­ple of decades, is a loos­en­ing of the sub­floor sheath­ing over time.

One so­lu­tion was to use sub­floor ad­he­sive, as in your home, but that can also wear out over time. What many peo­ple don’t re­al­ize is noisy floor­ing is more com­monly caused by move­ment be­tween the un­der­side of the sheath­ing and the floor joists, not be­tween the floor­ing and sub­floor. Many cre­ative home­own­ers and con­trac­tors have tried var­i­ous meth­ods to re­pair loose sheath­ing from be­low but, like your shim­ming ef­forts, it rarely works.

There is a chance that your squeak­ing is partly due to move­ment be­tween the sub­floor and the newer lam­i­nate, but that’s usu­ally only the case if a se­ri­ous de­fect has oc­curred in ei­ther the man­u­fac­ture or in­stal­la­tion of the floor­ing. Lam­i­nate floor­ing should be in­stalled with a thin foam un­der­pad, which nor­mally elim­i­nates noise due to its cush­ion­ing effect. Small bumps or un­even sur­faces in the floor sheath­ing will be filled with this un­der­lay, pre­vent­ing squeak­ing when the lam­i­nate is walked on. If the in­staller has im­prop­erly laid this un­der­pad, or if it’s miss­ing, then ex­cess noise can be a prob­lem.

Some lam­i­nate floor­ing has this foIf you truly wish to fix this is­sue, you must re­move the lam­i­nate to ac­cess the sub­floor sheath­ing be­low. The beauty of lam­i­nate is that it is de­signed to make re­moval and re­place­ment pos­si­ble. The orig­i­nal prod­uct was de­signed in Europe for ten­ants to in­stall and re­move when they moved be­tween rented suites. If you’re care­ful, you should be able to re­move the en­tire floor without sig­nif­i­cant dam­age. La­belling some of the planks on the un­der­side dur­ing re­moval will also help you re­lo­cate them. This is par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant for pieces that have been cut for a spe­cific lo­ca­tion.

The foam un­der­lay will also have to be pulled up, but may not sur­vive to be reused. Depend­ing on its age and con­di­tion, it may be wise to re­place it.

Once the floor­ing is lifted and moved, mark­ing the lo­ca­tion of the floor joists is the next step. This should be quite easy if the orig­i­nal fas­ten­ers are vis­i­ble. Us­ing a sim­ple chalk line, the ap­prox­i­mate cen­tre of each joist should be marked from end to end. Then de­ter­mine the thick­ness and type of sheath­ing by mea­sur­ing any small ar­eas where the sub­floor is miss­ing, near the perime­ter walls or by look­ing at a floor-mounted heat duct. Any area where the sheath­ing is vis­i­ble on an edge will pro­vide the an­swers you need.

If the sub­floor is a sin­gle layer of ply­wood, it’s likely 12 to 17 mm thick. For this ma­te­rial, or older wood boards that may be slightly thicker, two to 2½-inch floor­ing screws should be used. If there are mul­ti­ple lay­ers of sub­floor­ing, longer screws may be re­quired. The rule of thumb is that a min­i­mum of two thirds of the fas­tener should be em­bed­ded in the joist.

If ply­wood is present, sim­ply in­stalling coarse-threaded floor­ing screws di­rectly with a drill or driver is pos­si­ble. If real wood sheath­ing is present, pre-drilling should be done to pre­vent crack­ing the old boards. This will also pre­vent slight lift­ing of the sub­floor­ing, com­mon when pre-drilling is omit­ted. Once the en­tire floor is screwed down, pound­ing down or re­mov­ing any loose or raised old nails will fin­ish the job.

While it may seem like a ma­jor pain in the neck to re­move the lam­i­nate floor­ing in your home to stop the floor from squeak­ing, it’s the only way to prop­erly ac­com­plish this task. Any other at­tempts are just go­ing to be a waste of time and leave you just as frus­trated as you are now. Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home In­spec­tion Ltd. and pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Home & Prop­erty In­spec­tors — Man­i­toba (www. cahpi.mb.ca). Ques­tions can be emailed to the ad­dress be­low. Ari can be reached at 204-291-5358 or check out his web­site

at www.trained­eye.ca.

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