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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Ask Handy Andi: Fixing Creaky Floors

Ask Handy Andi: Fixing Creaky Floors

Dear Handy Andi,
My home is over 100 years old. I love living here, but one thing that absolutely drives me up the wall is the floors. They are are original to the house, and beautiful, but they creak and groan and squeal to high heaven when you walk on them. Short of tearing up the floor and laying down a new one, is there anything I can do to bring a little peace into my home?

-Bette, Massachusetts

The reason floorboards squeak in older homes (or even in not so old homes if the construction is less than perfect) is because they are are loose enough to move, causing them to rub against one another. Normal wear and tear in your home can cause floorboards to gradually loosen, creating creaks and squeaks. Age itself also plays a role because, as wood ages, it looses moisture, causing it to shrink somewhat.

To eliminate the creaking, you must eliminate the rubbing. One of the simplest, most inexpensive ways to do this is through lubrication. If your wood floors are exposed, simply pour some talcum powder into the cracks around every noisy board. Use a soft-bristled paintbrush to push as much of the powder as possible deep down into the cracks, then sweep away any excess. In the vast majority of cases, this will be enough to eliminate the creaks. If the noise returns, simply replenish the powder. The low cost of talcum powder makes this solution incredibly practical.

Of course, this solution won’t work very well for an area with carpeting, unless you’re able to easily roll it back. In those areas, a more permanent fix may be necessary. If you have access to the underside of the floor, you can stabilize loose boards from below by reinforcing the connection to the joists with some long screws or construction adhesive, or by slipping a few shims – thin strips of wood you can get from your local hardware store – into any large gaps.

Unfortunately, if you don’t have access to the underside of your floors, because there is a finished ceiling under them, these otherwise simple fixes become infinitely more complicated. In these cases, you will need to cut through the ceiling to fix the squeak, which means you will probably want to call in a contractor.

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1 Bridget { 04.01.12 at 7:18 pm }

The current issue of Yankee magazine has an article that better addresses your options. This link is only to the less helpful, shortened version that appears on their website:

Another option for spots that are just unavaoidable – in my house, the exact center of stair landing! – is to put a latex-backed rug down. It’s often not the prettiest solution, but for me, I feel like less of an elephant when walking downstairs!

There are specialists for old wooden, wideplank floorboards. I, personally, wouldn’t recommend ripping them up, as you will seriously de-value your old home. However, PLEASE look me up if you decide to do so!! I will come up from CT and take your old boards off your hands, to repair mine that are split and broken in places. I wish it were just a squeak and not an expensive repair…

2 Markar { 03.30.12 at 10:26 pm }

really now,,K.I.S.S. just deal with the dang carpet!!remove it carefully( ROLL IT UP),talcum the joints,,clean up your mess and put the carpet back down or change to a smaller rug you can mobilize,,sit down and do the estimate’s on who get’s your money,,”some” contractor or YOU with a smarter about carpet’s buddy,, plan the removal,,moving your stuff 3 times sucks and add’s more to your labor charge,,or beer,lol,you have fun now.

3 Amy { 03.29.12 at 2:36 pm }

hmm my floors are not very squeaky, but they are splintery.. and I rent so I just want to prolong the life of my socks not call a contractor!

4 Steve Shirkey { 03.29.12 at 2:09 pm }

I would need to cover the floor in powder, it squeaks everywhere. It’s the hardwood its self and not the underlayment. I have access under the floor via the basement, but that’s not going to help. I’m thinkin’ lots of small nails…lots. :)

5 jimbo { 03.28.12 at 7:47 pm }

spot on jamesie………….wonder how many kids right out of high school know the proper fix? i think the gov. would rather we pay the mex.

6 JAMES { 03.28.12 at 9:52 am }

If it was me, & depending on just how loose the boards were, I’d be calling in a contractor first thing. As long as I had some kind of access to the flooring from underneath, I could prolly fix it myself, but with my age & my health being what it is, I would not even attempt it.

If you do call in a contractor, make sure he/she checks for rotten wood…there prolly isn’t any, but better safe than sorry.

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