How To Fix Floor Squeaks and Win Over the Admiration of Your Friends

Have we got a special treat for you today! Actually, that was a question. Have we?

Yes! Yes we have! Today we have a guest post from fellow tradesman, blogger, and all around manly dude Mr. Burrito Bowl! He writes at the deliciously title Burrito Bowl Diaries, and when you’re done reading this article I highly suggest heading over there to learn about finances, fitness, and food. There’s definitely more to his site, but those are the things my brain focuses on. Take it away, Mr. BB!

“Ha, Look at that Loser with his Squeaky Floors! Let’s Secretly Judge him,” Your So-Called Friends.

So, you’ve got a squeaky floor.  It happens. It doesn’t make you less of a man.  Yeah, your buddies tease you a little. The truth is they have no idea how to fix it either.  Don’t even worry about it. Luckily for you, you read a kick ass financial fix-it blog. Captain DIY and Mr. Burrito Bowl are here to teach you the ways of science and manly do it yourself fixes.

There are several types of floor squeaks.  One type is beneath carpet.  We can fix that.  The second type is beneath hardwood flooring located on the first floor. Generally speaking, we can also fix that, but not always.  The third type is beneath tile or hardwood that isn’t on the first floor.  In that case you’re f*cked.  Try moving to a new house.  We can deal with the first two, though.

Why Does a Floor Squeak?

To understand floor squeaks you have to understand how a floor is constructed.  First, you have joists.  Those are the big pieces of wood that run across your floor and keep your floor from falling down.  When I say pieces of wood I mean that in the same way a beam is a piece of wood.  Here’s what a joist looks like:

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This is the view of them from the floor below
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These pieces of plywood sit on top of the joists and make up the base of your floor. This is the view from directly above the joists.

Joists are placed every 16 inches if your framer owns a tape measure.  So, in other words, joists are occasionally placed 16 inches apart.  On top of the joists are flat pieces of compressed plywood, also called OSB.

Moderately Fun Fact: OSB stands for Oriented Strand Board.

These pieces of plywood are typically a half inch thick, 4 foot wide, and 8 foot long.   After that you have either padding and carpet, hardwood or laminate of some kind, or hardiebacker board and tile.

The plywood is attached to the joists with glue and nails.  In a perfect world that bond is never broken. Like the bond between two lovers dying in the hospital having one last kiss.  Sorry, my wife is watching Grey’s Anatomy. She’s crying right now.  I don’t know what is going on but it’s really emotional.  In real life that bond is broken quicker than a Vegas marriage on the fourth of July, or any other date for that matter.

Fix Floor Squeaks Pinterest

Floor squeaks happen because the plywood works it’s way loose from the joists below.  When it becomes loose it either rubs on another piece of plywood or the nail attached to it.  This causes an emasculating squeak.

What You Goin’ Do ‘Bout It?

What you’re going to do is put some screws into those plywood sheets causing them to fasten to the joists below. Screws tend to hold much better than nails and you’re going to be the one to screw these loose boards down. Pretty manly of you if I do say so myself.

You might be wondering why they don’t fasten the floors together with screws to begin with.  Well, we’re lucky if the framers make your doors square, we can’t hope that they’ll use screws instead of nails.  The truth is, nails can be put in a nail gun and quickly shot into the wood.  Screws have to be, well screwed.   This takes time.  Houses are generally nailed together.  Try not to worry.

*Captain’s Note: If you are installing your own subfloor (as demonstrated in this handy article) you can avoid this headache altogether by using screws in the installation process!

You’ll need to take a trip to the hardware/liquor store to get this do-it-yourself project done.  Here’s the list below:

  1. First thing you’ll need is a good bourbon. Buy two bottles.  Send one to the Burrito Bowl Diaries headquarters in Portland, Oregon.* Keep the other for yourself.  Don’t questions the process. Believe me, you’ll need the bourbon.  Either, you’ll want to congratulate yourself on a job well done or you’ll need one after you’ve placed approximately 47 screws into your floor while the squeak persists like some sort of unwanted roommate.
  2. The rest of your list includes a hammer, some 2 1/2 inch nails, a drill, and a box of ‘squeak no more’ screws.
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Box of Squeak-No-More Screws

These little suckers are awesome.  They look like this:

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Just look at these cute little guys…

What these magical suckers are is a screw that you can break the top inch off of.  This enables you to drill them into the carpet and break the top off below the carpet padding.  This allows you to secure the plywood to the joist without having to feel the screw when you walk on the carpet.  People aren’t as hardy these days and tend to not want to walk on carpet with screw heads sticking through.

So, What Do We Actually Do?

Ok, so let’s pretend the floor squeak is on the carpet.  Assuming you’re not a carpet installer you’ll want to leave the carpet where it is.  You can pull up the carpet if you want but then you’ll need a way to stretch the carpet back out.  You don’t need to do all that.

First thing you need to do is find the joist beneath the carpet.  We know we need to secure the plywood floor to the joist below. Damnit, where is that joist?

Grab your hammer and a nail.  Hammer the nail into the floor through the carpet until only half the nail is showing.  Either the nail will break through the initial plywood and hit the joist or it will pass straight through into the open air.  If you miss the joist, the nail will hammer straight through with relative ease.  If you hit the joist it will be harder to hammer the nail in.  It’s important to not hammer the nail all the way in because we’re eventually going to be taking all the nails out.

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Emasculating, isn’t it?

The goal is to hit the joist.

Assuming you miss the joist with the first nail, you’ll place a second nail horizontally two inches away from the first nail and try again.  You move two inches because the width of a joist is about two inches.  If you move more than two inches there’s a chance you could skip right over the joist entirely.  Repeat this pattern until you’ve gone at least sixteen inches because joists are placed sixteen inches apart.  I usually try to do ten nails to make sure the length of my trail of nails is longer than sixteen inches.

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Pick a direction and hammer nails every two inches for at least 16 total inches

If you hammer ten nails halfway in and still haven’t hit a joist then you want to go to the middle nail and start the process again going perpendicular to your first string of nails.  The reason for this whole process is to figure out which direction your joists are running.

Eventually, through dumb luck or sheer willpower you’ll hit a joist.  Once you’ve found the joist you want to place a few more nails surrounding that magic joist hitting nail.  You want to surround it to figure out which other nails also hit the joist.  This will tell you which direction the joist is going.

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If you don’t hit the joist after 16 inches in one direction start the process over going perpendicular to your first line of nails

Once you’ve figured out which direction the joist is going you can get a mental image of where the joists are located under the carpet.

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Once you find the joist, hammer a few inches away so you know which way the joist is for sure running. Then, measure 16 inches away from that spot and you’ll see where the next joist is. Put tape where you know the joists are to help you get a mental image

Place some tape along the joists so you remember where they are.  Remember, they’ll all run the same direction and all be approximately 16 inches apart.

Now to Find the Squeak

Alright, you’ve found the joist.  You can now successfully nail the plywood and joist together.  Place nails in your carpet along the joist line until you hit that magic spot where the squeak disappears.  This will take some trial and error.  Once the squeak disappears you’ll take that nail out and replace it with a ‘squeak no more’ screw.  Screw that sucker in 3/4 of the way in and stop.  Make sure the squeak is still gone.  If the squeak is gone break the top portion of the screw off.  If the squeak is still there continue placing a few more screws in line with the joist.

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Add nails along the joist until the squeak stops. Put a squeak no more screw in place of the nail that stopped the squeak

 

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Remove the other nails and make sure the squeak is still gone. Break off the top of the screw and pour yourself a congratulatory drink. You’ve earned it.

Just like magic you’ve just managed to make a debilitating floor squeak completely disappear.  At this point most of your friends wives or girlfriends will be flocking around you feeling your biceps and making weird drill and screw innuendos.

Take a Drink, You’ve Earned It

Now comes the bourbon.  Open that sucker up, take a drink and say something manly like, “Just part of the job. *wink*”

Truth be told it’s a bit of a guessing game. Some floor squeaks you’ll get in a minute or two and some will take a substantial amount of screws and/or swear words.

In a later post we’ll detail how to take care of floor squeaks under laminate or hardwood but those require going into a crawl space with spiders so we’ll stick with carpet squeaks for now.

*It’s illegal to ship alcohol across state lines so for sure wrap it up really good before you send it.  I don’t want my bourbon being confiscated.

Good stuff, Mr Burrito Bowl! Time to brush the hordes of groupies out of the way and get back to work! If you guys liked today’s article, do yourselves a favor and go check out the Burrito Bowl Diaries! And if you have any of that bourbon left over, your dear old pal the Captain is feeling a little thirsty…

7 thoughts on “How To Fix Floor Squeaks and Win Over the Admiration of Your Friends

  1. Never heard of the squeak no more screws! Definitely will help when you don’t have access from an open basement.

    A few other tips, if you have a “deep scan” option on your stud finder, it should be able to find the joists no problem!

    For wood floors, occasionally the squeak is from the boards separating from each other or they are lifting away from the subfloor. Apply a generous amount of talc powder everywhere and sweep it into the seams. If the boards are rubbing together, this should solve it.

    Thanks for the informative post and hope some of my tips can help with an alternative approach. Now time for that bourbon.

    Like

    1. Also, if you have a stud finder, you can test it by holding it up to your arm. if it beeps, then you can declare it working. If it fails to beep, throw that crap away, it don’t know a stud when it see one and is clearly defective. My husband does this every time he uses a stud finder. *holds up to himself: “beep” “yep, it works!”

      Like

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