How to Quiet Creaky Floors in an Older House

How to Quiet Creaky Floors in an Older House

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.

Luckily, you have options for how to address the problem and get your floors to quiet down.

Reasons your floor might be creaking

Over time, the fasteners that hold your subfloor to the joists or the hardware holding your flooring material down can become loose. In older homes, the nails holding things together can eventually begin backing out, allowing the floor to move. If space develops between the floor joists and the subfloor or between the flooring material and the subfloor, the wood will often make a creaking sound as it rubs against itself under pressure from footsteps.

How to stop wood floors from making noise

Lisa Kaplan Gordon writes in an article for Realtor.com, “Squeaks happen when a house settles and wood flooring dries and then expands. 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 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.

Try supporting the subfloor

The hardware holding your subfloor to the joists can become loose over time. Nails can begin to back out and the boards are then free to rub against their neighbors, causing a creaking sound. If your floor is squeaking because the subfloor is moving against itself, there are a few more things you can try.

  • If the subfloor is accessible from underneath in a basement, you can try adding a support or cleat to the underside of the subfloor boards. Cut a piece of one-by-three or one-by-four to fit in between the floor joists of the problem area. Then use a pilot bit to drill two pilot holes to either side of the board. Using some short screw (1.5– or 1.25-inch), screw your cleat into the underside of the sub floor through your pilot holes.
  • If the subfloor is accessible, you can also try toe screwing the offending subfloor board into the floor joist. Drill a pilot hole at an angle through the joist neighboring the offending subfloor board. Then, using a two-inch screw, drive the screw diagonally through the joist into the subfloor board.

Try lubricating the neighboring surfaces

Because the creaks are caused by neighboring boards rubbing against each other, you can alleviate some of the problem by lubricating the areas where the boards are rubbing. While this is a temporary solution and will need to be redone periodically, it’s a quick and simple way to address the issue.

  • Rub some beeswax into the cracks of your floor where the squeaking is coming from. Walk back and fourth on the area and then reapply your beeswax. Repeat this process until your beeswax has been well worked into the area. When you’re finished, you should hear no squeak.
  • If you have engineered hardwood or vinyl floors laid overtop of an existing floor, it might not be held onto the surface below with adhesive. If that’s the case, you can use a floor lubricant to address the problem area.

Lead Image Credit: MeSamong – Shutterstock


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