How to Fix Creaky Floorboards

creaky floorboards

Creaky or squeaky floorboards can be an annoying problem for homeowners, especially when they disrupt our peaceful moments or wake us up in the middle of the night. In this article, we will walk you through the steps on how to isolate and fix creaky floorboards and restore the silence to your home.

What Causes Creaky Floorboards?

Squeaky floorboards can be a nuisance, but they are a common problem many homeowners face. While the causes can vary, understanding the most common culprits can help you find a solution. Wear and tear is a frequent offender, as the constant pressure of foot traffic and shifting subfloor can cause boards to loosen over time. However, problems with the original installation can also lead to squeaks. If boards were not properly secured or the subfloor was not adequately prepared, it can cause movement and friction, resulting in creaking sounds.

Ultimately, the underlying cause of your creaking floorboards will likely be attributed to one of the following factors:

  • Incorrect nails were used to secure the floor to the joist
  • Nails being fitted inadequately or becoming loose over time
  • A gap between the floor joist and the underside of the subfloor or the floorboards
  • An issue with the integrity of the supporting joists underneath the boards
  • Inadequate or uneven underlay
  • Unacclimatised floorboards
  • Boards that have gotten wet

Locate the Creaky Floorboards

To address creaking floorboards, the first step is identifying the ones causing the noise. Take a walk around your house and note the noise’s location. Once you pinpoint the exact location, use a sticky note to mark the boards making noise.

If you’re uncertain about the source of the creaking, it’s best not to attempt a do-it-yourself fix, as you could potentially exacerbate the issue. It’s advisable to consult with a skilled and knowledgeable carpenter who can evaluate the situation.

creaky floorboards

Fixing creaky floors:

Lubricating the boards

One cause of creaky floorboards is moisture buildup in the joints between the boards, which causes them to rub against each other and create a squeaky noise. To lubricate the joints, apply powdered graphite lubricant or talcum powder between them. Gently tap the floor to distribute the powder between the two boards. Afterwards, use a damp cloth to remove any excess powder.

You can also use a lubricating oil like WD-40, but make sure to wipe off any excess oil to prevent slips and falls. Simply spray it over the gap between squeaky floorboards.

Test the potential reaction of any substance you are going to use on the floor surface before applying. You can do this with spare pieces of flooring or on a small area of floor that’s usually hidden under furniture.

Fixing loose nails

Loose nails are one of the most common causes of creaky floorboards. A loose nail will move up and down as you step on the board, causing it to creak. To fix this, use a hammer and nails to reattach the board firmly to the subfloor. Be sure to use a nail that is long enough to go through the board and into the subfloor underneath. If you notice a gap between the board and the subfloor, fill it with wood glue before you nail it down.

In some cases, incorrect nails (or screws) were used to attach your flooring, the right nails were not adequately nailed to the joist, or the nails are simply too far apart. These issues could result in an unsecured floor that moves under pressure. To fix this issue, you will need to remove the existing nails or screws and replace them with the appropriate ones to secure your floorboard. In some cases, more nails can be added without removing the original ones, especially if you suspect the nails are too far apart.

Supporting the floorboards

Sometimes, creaky floorboards result from issues with the joists and subfloor. Access to the subfloor, via a basement or crawl space, is vital for this solution. If you can’t access the subfloor, get in a professional or replace the flooring.

Gaps between the floor and subfloor or joists

You might find that the joists that are supposed to support the board are not doing so because there is a gap between the top of the joist and the subfloor. Gaps can be filled in various ways. We recommend getting a professional if you’re not confident.

  1. One option for gaps is to insert a thin wooden shim into the gap and fix with carpenter’s glue. Ensure that the wood shim is the correct height, and don’t hammer it in because too much force may elevate the subfloor, resulting in an uneven floor. The shim fills the gap and prevents any up-and-down movement.
  2. If the gap is long, spanning the entire floor joist, it would be impractical to install multiple shims. In such cases, filling these long voids with a generous amount of construction adhesive is recommended. Use a caulking gun to apply the adhesive directly into the space between the joist’s top and the subfloor’s underside.
  3. Sometimes, floor joists might twist, warp, bow, or shrink, particularly if they were damp during installation. Consequently, a gap may form between the joist and the subfloor. To address this issue, fix a lengthy timber plank alongside the problematic joist with construction adhesive. Press it firmly into place and use a hammer to tap the bottom edge of the timber multiple times to ensure it is firmly against the subfloor. Finally, secure it in place using screws.
  4. Another effective method is installing a solid block between floor joists. To do this, cut the blocking from lumber of the same size as the joists. Create two or three blocks that fit snugly between the two joists but not too tightly. Apply a line of construction adhesive along the top edge of each block. Space the blocks evenly along the length of the joists, and push each block tightly against the underside of the subfloor. Secure with screws driven through the joists’ sides and into the blocking’s ends.
  5. Annoying squeaks that arise between the joists are typically caused by wooden floorboards rubbing against the underlying plywood subfloor or chafing against the nails securing the flooring. To fix the issue, drive short screws from the underside of the subfloor into the bottom of the finished flooring. Ensure the screws are not too long and do not penetrate through the top of the flooring. As this method runs the risk of damaging your flooring, it’s recommended to get a professional for this task.

Issues with supporting floor joists

If you encounter more intricate problems with the supporting floor joists, it is necessary to conduct extensive repair work and enlist the assistance of a skilled carpenter. Common issues with floor joists include weakened conditions caused by excessive drilling or general damage due to external factors like moisture or rot. Seeking professional help is essential in such cases.

Uneven subfloor/bad underlay installation

If your subfloor is not even, it can result in gaps between your floated or glued-down wood floor, leading to a creaking noise. This is also the case when the underlay is improperly fitted, creating gaps between the floor and subfloor. Attempting to inject epoxy into a small hole in the plank directly above the gap might solve the problem, but it will not be effective if the space is large. In such instances, lifting the boards, levelling the subfloor, and installing new boards will be necessary.

Replacing Creaky Floorboards

If all else fails, you may need to replace the problematic floorboards. Unfortunately, this will be the case with floorboards that were not appropriately acclimatised before installation or if they have received water damage. If flooring acclimatisation isn’t done correctly, your floorboards are likely to expand or contract after they have been installed, which can create gaps between the boards that rub together when walked across, causing that annoying squeaking sound. Similarly, spills, leaks, or flooding that have meant prolonged periods of moisture exposure for your timber flooring will cause them to warp, twist and move resulting in them fitting poorly and squeaking.

creaky floorboards

By following the steps provided in this article, you will be able to identify the problematic areas and select a suitable solution for addressing them. Whether it is tightening loose nails, lubricating the joints, providing support to the boards, or even replacing them, you can restore a calm and noise-free floor in your residence.

Avoid the issue of creaking floorboards by having your flooring installed by a skilled professional. At Back to Timber, we take pride in providing top-notch products and exceptional service, employing only the most qualified and experienced experts in hardwood flooring installation. Contact us or visit one of our Sydney showrooms to find out more.

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