How to Quiet Creaky Floors in an Older House

How to Quiet Creaky Floors in an Older House
Photo: MeSamong, Shutterstock

Living in an older house is, for many reasons, an experience. From architectural details you don’t see anymore, to layers of paint and wallpaper, to custom built-ins, there are features hidden everywhere.

Some quirks of older homes, however, are hard to ignore, let alone miss — like a leaky basement, teeny tiny closets, or flickering electricity — which relators routinely label as “character” and/or “charm.” Creaky hardwood floors also fall into this category.

It’s one thing for them to betray you at night, making noises as you attempt to sneak into the kitchen unnoticed to grab a snack. But older floors also have a tendency to make squeaking and cracking sounds even if no one in the house is up and about.

And even though you know it’s not an extra set of footsteps, your mind can play some pretty mean tricks on you in the dark. Here’s how to get your floors to quiet down.

How to stop wood floors from making noise

So why do older floors creak in the first place? “Squeaks happen when a house settles and wood flooring dries and then expands,” Lisa Kaplan Gordon writes in an article for Realtor.com. “This causes the floorboards to rub against each other, or against the subfloor, or against the nail casings.”

Fortunately, she also has some ideas for how to stop the squeak. But first, you have to locate its source — something she says is a two-person job.

Have one person go down to the level of the house below the noisy floor (so if the creak is on the ground floor, head to the basement), while the other walks around on the squeaky floor. The person on the lower level should be able to pinpoint exactly (or approximately) where the sound is originating.

From there, you have several different options, depending on whether you want a quick-fix, or something more permanent, and whether you want (or more realistically, are able) to tackle the problem from above or below.

From below

According to Gordon, a few of the ways to fix the noisy floor from below include:

  • Spreading some construction adhesive or carpenter’s glue on a thin wood shim, and then gently tapping it between the joists and subfloor, or two floorboards, “taking care not to pound so hard that you raise or buckle the floor,” she notes.
  • If there’s a bigger gap, you can use a caulking gun to fill it with construction adhesive between the subfloor and the joist.

From above

Meanwhile, here are some ways to go about quieting your floors from above, once again, per Gordon:

  • Sprinkle talcum powder into the noisy cracks, cover the area with a towel or cloth, and carefully walk over it so everything settles. “The powder works as a lubricant that stops the rubbing that causes the noise,” she explains.
  • “Drive ring-shank flooring nails (covered with little rings that prevent the nail from backing out over time) or cement-covered flooring nails into the seams between rubbing parts,” Gordon says.
  • If the squeak is caused by the floorboards being separated from the subfloor, you can drive two nails at opposite 45-degree angles into joists (which you can locate with a stud finder), then use wood filler on the holes.

If none of these sound feasible, Gordon provides several other options in her article.

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