Wood Floor Maintenance

How To Fix Creaking Floorboards

Rob Patwary

Rob Patwary

December 15, 2020

Creaking, or squeaky, floorboards can quickly become more than just a minor irritant, especially if they are in an area of the room where there is high traffic.

Although they are more common in older homes, newer homes are not exempt from the problem and there several things that could be causing the creaks and squeaks.

Once you can work out what it is that is causing the problem, you should be able to find a quick (hopefully) fix that will bring peace and quiet back into your home.

What causes squeaky floorboards?

The noise that you hear when you step on a floorboard (or floorboards) is usually a result of loose boards.

The bounciness and movement in these loose boards causes them to rub together or onto a fixing nail or floor joist which, in turn, creates an unpleasant and annoying noise referred to as creaking or squeaking.

Though a loose floorboard may sound like a simple problem to solve, there are several reasons why a board could be loose and you will need to establish what is causing your noisy floorboards before you can work on fixing it.

Squeaky floorboards are most commonly caused by one of two factors, particularly when dealing with suspended wood floors - nails or floor joists.

Floor joists are the large wooden beams underneath your subfloor which hold the weight of your suspended floorboards. They run perpendicular to the boarding and are secured to wood flooring using nails.
When there is a gap between the top of the joist and the underside of the subfloor this creates space for movement when pressure is applied to your flooring.

Similarly, when the incorrect nails have been used to secure your flooring to the joists, or they have just not been fitted correctly, this will leave the boards loose and free to move around when walked across.

Ultimately, the root cause of your creaking suspended floorboards is likely to be one of the following:

  • Incorrect nails being used to secure the floor to the joist
  • Nails being fitted inadequately
  • A gap between the top of the floor joist and the underside of the subfloor
  • An issue with the supporting joists underneath the boards

When dealing with floated or glued down flooring, the creaking is likely to be a result of a different issue such as uneven flooring, bad underlay installation, excessive moisture, or boards that have not been acclimatised.

In any of these circumstances, you will require the services of a professional carpenter to fix the issue if it’s a more severe case.
Otherwise, there may be a simple DIY fix that can solve the problem in a matter of minutes.

How to work out what is causing your creaking floorboards

In order to establish what is causing your floorboards to be loose and cause noise, you’ll need to pinpoint the exact location of the creaking by having someone step on the floor whilst you listen closely for the noise and look closely for floorboard movement.

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Once you have honed in on an exact location, you can assess the area and determine which of the above is responsible for your loose boards.
It can be helpful if you have access to the space beneath the floor, such as a basement or crawl space, otherwise you will be required to lift the boards.

If you are at all unsure as to what is causing the creaking, then this is not a DIY job as you risk making the problem worse.
Instead, seek the advice of a professional and experienced carpenter who can pop by and assess the situation for themselves.

How to cure those creaking floorboards

Once you have identified what is causing your creaking floorboards, you can figure out the appropriate steps to take to eradicate the issue.

  1. Incorrect nails
    If the incorrect nails have been used to fit your flooring to the floor joist, this could mean that the nails are not long or strong enough to keep the floor secure which allows it to move around when pressure is applied. To solve this problem, you will need to remove the current nails/screws and use the correct ones to refit your floorboard which should be quite a straightforward task.
  2. Inadequate fitting of nails
    If the nails are fine but the flooring has not been correctly nailed to the joist, this will result in movement too. Similar to the above, you will need to remove the nails/screws and assess where it has gone wrong - the nails might be too far apart, or they may have missed the joist or slipped out.

    In order to solve the problem, you should screw-fix the board to the joist to secure it rather than introducing nails as this will cause further damage.
  3. Gaps between the floor and joist
    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 floor joist and the underside of the subfloor.

    If you have access to the space underneath the floor then this is a lot easier to fix, as you will not need to lift your floorboards at all.Once you can get access to the top of the floor joist, apply some carpenter’s glue and affix a thin wood shim to fill that gap between the joist and the underside of the subfloor. Ensure that the wood shim is the correct height otherwise it could raise the subfloor and cause an unsightly bump in your flooring. If the gap has been caused by the floor joist warping or shrinking over time, then you will need to install a long plank of timber alongside the affected joist at a slightly raised height so that it reaches the subfloor and fills that gap acting almost like a replacement for the damaged joist.
  4. Other issues with supporting floor joists
    If you find that there are more complex issues with the supporting floor joists, then you will require more extensive repair work and should seek the help of a professional carpenter.Some examples of problems that can occur with floor joists include weakened floor joists where too many holes have been drilled into it or generally damaged joists due to external issues such as damp or rot.
  5. Uneven subfloor/bad underlay installation
    Similarly to suspended wood floors and joists, if your subfloor is uneven it could leave gaps between your floated or glued down wood floor causing it to create a creaking noise. This is also true when the underlay has been fitted incorrectly leaving gaps and spaces between the floor and subfloor. You might be able to solve the problem by finding a small hole in the plank directly over the gap and injecting epoxy into it; however, if the space is quite large this won’t work. Instead, you’ll need to lift up the boards, level the subfloor and lay new boards down.
  6. Flooring has not acclimatised
    As discussed in our previous blog ‘How To Acclimate Wood Flooring’, it’s important to allow your floorboards time to adapt to the temperature and moisture content of its new environment before having it fitted.If this isn’t done correctly, then 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.

    This is a case of damaged flooring that will need replacing rather than fixing - only this time be sure to allow your new flooring the appropriate amount of time to acclimate before having it installed.
  7. Excessive moisture
    As with the above, when wood flooring is exposed to moisture it will either expand or contract; hence, if an area of the room has been the victim of a leak the wood will absorb the water and change in shape/size which can cause warping, gaps and noisy floorboards.Unfortunately, there is no quick fix and you’ll have to remove the damaged floorboards and fit new ones, taking care to avoid a repeat incident by cleaning up any spills or leaks immediately.

Upon investigation, if you find that the noise is not being caused by any loose boards or uneven subfloor and everything has been fixed firmly and correctly, then there might just be some friction between the boards which is creating the noise.

In this instance, try dusting the cracks between the boards with talcum powder or graphite powder lubricant.
This will greatly reduce any slight bit of friction that is occurring between the planks of wood and should eliminate all noise.

You can avoid the problem of creaking floorboards altogether when your flooring is installed by a skilled expert.

At Inner Space Flooring, we pride ourselves on delivering quality products and a high standard of service employing only the most qualified and experienced hardwood flooring fitters in the industry.
Call us today on 0121 684 4772 for further details.