Quieting squeaky floors covered with carpeting or linoleum

Quieting squeaky floors covered with carpeting or linoleum

Quieting squeaky floors covered with carpeting or linoleum

Q. This week: We have a problem with squeaky floors, mainly in the bathroom, hallway and main bedroom. Since we have wall-to-wall carpet and linoleum in these areas, we tried accessing the joists from below, but there’s so much ductwork and pipes in the ceiling of the basement, there’s no way to fit your hand, much less a drill, etc. in to access where we need to secure them. Short of pulling out ductwork, etc. is there another way to take care of this without pulling up the carpet/linoleum?

M.B. Grandville.

A. Frankly, your best bet with this type of problem and no real access from below is to wait until you replace the floor coverings to fix the squeaks. At that point you’d be able to easily screw the subflooring to the floor joists from above, the way it is done in new construction. Of course contractors also use construction adhesive on top of the joists in addition to screws when building new, a practice that nearly eliminates squeaks; you wouldn’t be able to do that. But driving a couple thousand screws through the existing subfloor would rid your ears of most of the problem.

If you’re years away from redoing the flooring your options are limited. There is no way of dealing with floor squeaks from the top in areas that have hard surfaces, like ceramic tile, vinyl or linoleum. Driving anything through those materials would leave unsightly holes.

Carpeting can hide holes for fasteners driven through it and into the subfloor from above. However, it is possible to snag or otherwise damage either the backing or the fibers, and that could ruin the carpet. If you’re willing to risk it there are two techniques commonly used. One involves nails, the other a manufactured screwing «system.» The hardest part of each is finding the joists hidden underneath the carpet and subfloor.

With careful measuring and perhaps driving a few nails through the floor so they are visible from below, you should be able to find a joist. Once you’ve located one, the others should be relatively easy to measure to, either 16 or 24 inches away. And after you identify both ends of one joist across the span of a room, you can lay a straightedge on top of the carpet to help you drive a straight line of nails or screws into that joist.

If you want to try nailing the subfloor, purchase some spiral shank 10d or 12d finish nails and a nailset. Finish nails have small heads, so they have a better chance of slipping through the carpet backing; the nail set will drive the last bit of the nail below the subfloor’s surface.

At the spot where you’re going to drive your first nail, separate the carpet fibers with your fingers until you can see the backing. Place the point of the nail in a space between the backing’s threads and proceed to drive it into the floor. When your hammer starts to contact the carpet fibers, switch to the nailset, driving the head of the nail all the way through the carpet backing and pad. Repeat every 6-8 inches along that joist and then start on the one next to it.

Another approach would be to purchase from a home center or hardware store a «Squeak No More»www.squeaknomore.com/ kit, consisting of a jig used to drive special screws through subfloor and into joists. The screws are scored around their shanks and are snapped off once they have been driven to a certain depth below the carpet. Application is similar to the nailing technique.

Zolton Cohen is a former ASHI-certified home inspector based in Kalamazoo. Write to Zolton Cohen, Around the House, P.O. Box 2007, Kalamazoo, MI 49003, or contact him through Michigan Live at www.mlive.com/forums/homeimprovement/.

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