Look to­ward pa­tio door for squeaky floor

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

QMy ques­tion is about noisy hard­wood floors. Our home was built in 2013. Through­out the win­ter, we no­ticed the hard­wood floor­ing by the pa­tio door be­gan to squeak and make crackly noises. We asked the builder to come and take a look at it, but when he did he looked at the deck, which is built out­side the pa­tio door, and blamed the noisy floor on it. By the way, he did not build the deck. The house came with a deck built by the builder, but we wanted to make changes and so we de­cided to get some­one else to build it for us. The builder never came in the house to in­ves­ti­gate, just sim­ply stood on the deck and blamed the prob­lems on it. He also men­tioned that since they did not build the deck, it was not un­der the Tar­ion war­ranty. We have an un­fin­ished base­ment, so we can look at the sub­floor­ing un­der­neath the hard­wood floor. What I no­ticed was a lot of the screws/nails missed the joist or caught the top of the joint at an an­gle and the bot­tom of the screws/nails were stick­ing out. Could this be the cause of the prob­lem? Thank you. Pa­tri­cia Demi­das, London, ON An­swer: There are sev­eral rea­sons why hard­wood floors may make noise, but the lo­ca­tion of the of­fen­sive floor­ing is the key to your is­sue. While I may not of­ten agree with a home­builder’s as­sess­ment of prob­lems, this time I think he may be cor­rect. In many sit­u­a­tions where home­own­ers com­plain about squeaky or noisy hard­wood floors, it is due to shrink­age and move­ment in older homes. This reg­u­larly will oc­cur be­tween the floor­ing it­self and the sheath­ing be­neath. Older wood sub­floor­ing or ply­wood can be­come dry and brit­tle or fas­ten­ers hold­ing it to the joists may be­come loose or cor­roded. Also, the fas­ten­ers that hold the hard­wood to this sheath­ing may be­come loose or dam­aged from traf­fic, caus­ing squeaks or noise. While this is a reg­u­lar oc­cur­rence in older homes, it should not be the same is­sue in a newly built home like yours. Newer homes should have ply­wood or OSB floor sheath­ing that is well se­cured to the floor joists be­neath. This is due to the common use of sub­floor ad­he­sive and floor­ing screws to fas­ten the sheath­ing. The ad­he­sive will pro­vide a good bond while also pre­vent­ing de­bris from en­ter­ing any small gaps be­tween this sheath­ing and the joists. Wood screws are su­pe­rior to nails be­cause the threads pre­vent loos­en­ing over time, common with older nails. If both of th­ese items are present in your home, there should not be a prob­lem with the sheath­ing in­stal­la­tion. Look­ing at the area un­der the floor, where you have men­tioned it is vis­i­ble, should en­able you to see some ex­cess ad­he­sive on the un­der­side of the sheath­ing or joists. Also, the fact some screws have missed the mark is quite common and is ac­tu­ally ver­i­fi­ca­tion the sheath­ing was screwed rather than nailed down. Smaller nails you see pro­trud­ing through the sheath­ing are likely the ones used to in­stall the hard­wood floor­ing and are of­ten odd-shaped and ser­rated for bet­ter hold­ing power. If th­ese items are vis­i­ble, it is un­likely there is any ma­jor de­fect with the floor­ing in­stal­la­tion, and the builder may be cor­rect in his as­sess­ment. The true cul­prit, as it is with most home is­sues, is mois­ture. Be­cause the hard­wood is only prob­lem­atic near your pa­tio door, the ac­tual cause of the is­sue is ei­ther dam­age to the floor joists, sheath­ing, or floor­ing from mois­ture re­lated to the pa­tio door. It is very common for th­ese doors to be poorly sealed, es­pe­cially at the sill. If cold air can in­fil­trate this area be­cause of poor in­su­la­tion and seal­ing, con­den­sa­tion can oc­cur, which may lead to dam­age of the wooden floor com­po­nents. This is nor­mally solved by caulk­ing or in­stal­la­tion of foam weath­er­strip­ping be­tween the door sill and the area be­neath from the ex­te­rior, but that may be dif­fi­cult in your case. If the deck is built too close to the un­der­side of the door sill, less than 10 cm be­low, it may be nearly im­pos­si­ble to re­seal any gaps un­der the door with­out re­mov­ing some of the deck­ing. But the real is­sue with a deck built in this fash­ion is mois­ture on the deck pen­e­trat­ing the build­ing en­ve­lope un­der this door. Floor or wall sheath­ing in this area can fre­quently be­come wet, due to the lo­ca­tion and de­sign of the door. This may hap­pen from wind-driven rain, or due to wick­ing of rain­wa­ter or melted snow sit­ting on the sur­face of the out­side deck­ing. Be­cause the sill is over­hang­ing this sheath­ing, it may pre­vent sun and warm air al­low­ing it to eas­ily dry. If the deck­ing is too close, or cov­er­ing this area, it will not only in­crease the fre­quency of wet­ting, it will fur­ther im­pede quick dry­ing, which is nec­es­sary to pre­vent mois­ture dam­age and rot. If the sheath­ing or fram­ing in this area be­comes dam­aged, it will com­pro­mise the se­cur­ing of the hard­wood floor­ing, al­low­ing move­ment and noise. While it may seem like an easy ex­cuse for your builder to blame a retro-fit­ted deck for prob­lems with the floor­ing just inside a pa­tio door, that may be the true source of the prob­lem. En­sur­ing the deck­ing is dropped a short dis­tance be­low the bot­tom of the door will al­low reg­u­lar caulk­ing or seal­ing the prob­lem­atic area un­der the door sill and pre­vent ex­ces­sive wet­ting and dam­age to the floor sheath­ing and floor­ing in this area. Ari Marantz is the owner of Trained Eye Home In­spec­tion Ltd. and the past pres­i­dent of the Cana­dian As­so­ci­a­tion of Home & Prop­erty In­spec­tors — Man­i­toba (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 trained­eye.ca.


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