Solutions for Squeaks — Home Fix-It

Solutions for Squeaks - Home Fix-It

Solutions for Squeaks by Yvonne Jeffery

It’s a fact of fix-it life: Wood floors will eventually squeak wherever two pieces of wood rub together, including floorboards, joists, and the bracing pieces that bridge the joists. As a first defense, check the humidity in your house using a hygrometer; it should read between 30 and 50 percent. If the house is too dry, increase the humidity to see if that reduces the squeaking.

If it doesn’t, and you can see the underside of the floor that’s squeaking, have someone walk over the floor. Watch for movement in the wood whenever you hear a squeak, and mark the area with chalk so that you’ll remember where the fix is needed.

Squeaky Floors

For hardwood floors that squeak, clean out any dust or debris in the joints between the boards, and lubricate the joints with a squeezable tube or bottle of powdered graphite or talc-just blow it in. Another option is to insert finishing nails (with very small heads) between the floorboards, at a slight angle to make them less likely to pop back out.

Flooring repairs often involve drilling pilot holes in which screw need to be countersunk (sinking the screw head slightly below the surface). Although you can use a combination of bits in sequence to create a countersunk pilot hole, it’s much easier and quicker to use a combination drill bit to shape the entire hole the first time.

If this doesn’t work, and you can access your floor from below, tap a glue-coated wedge between the joist and the subflooring wherever the floor is squeaking. If there’s no room for a wedge, screw angle irons or glue-coated blocks of wood against the bottom of the floor and the side of the joist.

To deal with squeaky floors covered with carpet, you can buy or rent a tool that drives a special screw through the carpet and into the subflooring and joists, breaking off the screw’s head at the surface of the subflooring.

Coating the wedge with wood glue will prevent it from working loose over time as the floor is walked on.

Squeaky Stairs

Like floors, squeaky stairs are easiest to fix from the underside, if they’re accessible. Coat thin wedges with wood glue, and tap them into the joints where the tread meets the risers. If there’s no room for wedges, two shelf brackets or angle irons, or several glue-coated wood blocks, can be screwed to the back of the riser and the bottom of the tread (drill pilot holes, and keep the screws at least l/4 inch away from finished surfaces). For added stability, also wedge or connect the edge of the riser against the edge of the stringer that runs up each side of the stairway.

If stairs can’t be fixed from below, you can try silencing squeaks from above. A noisy tread can be wedged where it meets the rear riser, or nailed where it meets the front riser.

If you can’t get under your stairs, you’ll have to work from the finished side. Try the powdered graphite or talc fixes first, blowing it into the joints, including the one where the tread meets the riser. (You may need to remove any molding that sits over that joint to access it.) If there’s even a small gap between the tread and the riser, tap thin wedges into it with a hammer, being careful not to hit the tread. You can hide the wedges and gap by nailing a strip of molding over the tread/riser joint.

Another option is to drill pairs of nail holes through the top of the tread into the riser below it, angling the nail holes in each pair toward each other. Insert the nails with a nail set so that you can cover their heads with wood putty. You may be able to see from the gaps between the tread and the riser that nails won’t be sufficient to cinch together the two components. In this case, use screws, angled straight down into the riser through the tread. For added stability, nail or screw through the tread into the stringer on either side of the stairway.

Whenever you’re using screws, drill counter bored pilot holes first so that you’ll be able to sink the screw head, and then hide it with a wood plug or putty.

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