Quieting squeaky hardwood floors — Chicago Tribune

Quieting squeaky hardwood floors - Chicago Tribune

Quieting squeaky hardwood floors

Squeaky floors may alert you to kids sneaking in past curfew, but they’ve got little else going for them.

Traditional hardwood strip flooring is the most susceptible to developing a case of the squeaks, but all types of flooring can make annoying noises. The good news is that it’s easy to silence nearly any squeak in a matter of minutes—if you know a few tricks. Here, we’ll tell you how to eliminate squeaks when working below the floor and above it. We even include tips for quieting carpeted areas and noisy stairs.

Repairs from below

If the floor is over a basement or crawl space, go below to make the repairs. Start by having someone walk across the floor while you listen from below. When you hear a squeak, have the person above rap on the floor so you can pinpoint the exact spot. Next, take a thin wood shim and coat it with carpenter’s glue. Gently tap the shim into the space between the joist and subfloor. Don’t drive it in too far because you will raise the flooring. You just want to fill the gap above the joist and take out any «give» in the floor. For additional support, drive a 11/4-inch drywall screw at an angle up through the joist and shim and into the subfloor.

Another effective way to silence floors from below is with a cleverly designed piece of hardware called the Squeak-Ender ($7), manufactured by E&E Consumer Products (800-854-3577). It consists of a threaded rod attached to a flat mounting plate and a steel bracket fitted with a squared-off hook on one end. Installation is easy:

Screw the mounting plate to the underside of the subfloor with the four screws provided. Position it directly under the squeaky spot. Slide the bracket over the threaded rod and hook it onto the joist. Spin a nut onto the rod, then tighten it with a wrench until the subfloor is pulled down snug against the joist.

When you can’t get access to the floor joists from below, your only choice is to make the repairs from above. The trick, however, is to silence the squeaks without damaging the finished floor. Fortunately, there are two fastening systems, both manufactured by O’Berry Enterprises (800-459-8428), that can do just that.

The Squeeeeek-No-More Kit ($30) can be used on carpeting laid over a wood subfloor. The kit consists of a screwdriver bit, pilot screw to help you locate joists, depth-control fixture and 50 specially designed breakaway screws. First, locate the joist nearest the squeak. Stand the depth-control fixture on the carpet directly over the joist. After wrapping transparent tape around one of the screws to prevent it from catching on the carpet strands, drive it through the fixture. Remove the fixture, tip it sideways and insert the screwhead into the slot in the top of the fixture. Rock the fixture side to side until the screw head snaps off below the surface of the subfloor.

The Counter-Snap Kit ($8) provides an effective, nearly undetectable way to stop squeaks in hardwood floors. The kit comes with a screwdriver bit, depth-control fixture and 25 breakaway screws. But, unlike the Squeeeeek-No-More system, the screw head automatically snaps off when you drive the screw into the depth-control fixture.

Start by boring a 3/32-inch-diameter pilot hole through the floorboard nearest the squeak. Next, put a screw through the depth-control fixture and into the pilot hole. Drive in the screw until it snaps off below the surface of the wood. To conceal the screw, fill the pilot hole with wood putty. Allow it to dry, then lightly sand the spot. You can also use a crayon-type putty stick. It may not be possible to silence every squeak in your home, but with the techniques described here, you can certainly cut down the chatter to an occasional chirp.

Quieting stairs

The typical interior staircase produces more squeaks and squawks than a flock of angry geese. The reason? Staircases are assembled from dozens of wood parts. Over time, these parts expand and contract and the joints between them loosen up. As a result, every step you take—up or down—emits an irritating creak or groan. Four simple techniques for reducing stair squeaks are explained here.

Look for access to the back of the stairs in closets and the basement—these repairs are the most effective. From the rear, tap glue-coated shims into the joints between the horizontal treads and vertical risers. Or, screw wood blocks into the corners where the risers meet the treads.

When you can’t get behind the staircase, try one of these topside repairs: Take several very thin wood shims and tap them into any loose or squeaky joints that you find. Neatly trim off the shims with a utility knife.

Another way to reinforce loose parts is to glue and nail a length of quarter-round molding along each step.

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