Hardwood flooring is a stylish design element that adds both visual appeal and functionality to your home. When installed properly, it can easily transform a monotone space into a luxurious interior masterpiece. As beautiful as these floors are, they commonly have problems with noise. Squeaky wood floors can easily drive any homeowner crazy, and it may seem like there’s no recourse for it.
Luckily, the causes of squeaky hardwood floors are well known, and there are various corrective actions you can take to help the situation. If you’re looking to identify your issues, and fix a squeaky hardwood floor for good, keep on reading.
What Causes Squeaking Hardwood?
As convenient as it would be to pinpoint one specific cause of squeaky floors, it doesn’t work that way. Excess noise can be due to a large variety of issues, with some even being out of your immediate control. In general, however, squeaky wood floors can be grouped by two main causes:
Dry Air Due to Winter
The leading environmental cause of squeaky hardwood is dry and arid wintertime conditions. During the winter, the cooler air can cause an old hardwood floor to contract. This in turn results in larger gaps between the hardwood planks, as well as the subfloor and joists.
With excess play between the boards, your hardwood can now rub up against each other. When this happens, you’ll hear the classic squeaking noise that brings you so much frustration.
Squeaking due to temperature fluctuations can also occur during the summer months. As the temperatures rise and humidity increases, your boards will begin to expand, resulting in the same type of noises experienced during the winter.
Issues With the Subfloor
In some situations, squeaky floorboards can be caused by structural issues with the existing subfloor. In a process called deflexion, your subfloor can separate from the supporting joists beneath it. This is common in homes with an old hardwood floor, as over time the nails lose their original grip. With loose nailing, you’ll hear the subfloor creak every time you make a step in the affected area. Source: Home Inspection Insider
It's also possible that an uneven subfloor in your home can cause squeaking. This is normally due to poor installation. When you have an uneven subfloor, the plywood can separate from floor joists because the nailing isn’t uniform in all places. In more severe situations, the nail gun may have missed the joist entirely.
Floor Joist Movement
Movement in the floor joists is a more serious structural issue that could be the cause of the squeaky spots in your home. If this happens to be the case, you’ll want to have the problem addressed immediately.
Floor joists should not have any flex to them, as they literally support your entire floor. However, situations like dry rot and termite infestation can cause them to have a little extra play which will in turn lead to noise every time they’re walked over.
Planks Not Installed Correctly
Incorrect hardwood flooring installation is a very common culprit of squeaking floors and can happen in both DIY and subpar professional jobs. Normally, the noise produced by this type of workmanship is due to gaps in the planks. If the hardwood is not properly aligned before it’s nailed down, you’ll have air pockets between the floorboards that can rub against one another.
Additionally, failing to acclimate the hardwood before installation can lead to similar issues. If hardwood is installed before it’s adjusted to your home’s environment, it’ll likely it’ll expand or contract later. Most experts recommend you acclimate your hardwood for a minimum of three days before installation, and in some cases even up to two weeks.