Creeky Hardwood Floors
February 2, 2014 11:44 AM   Subscribe

We have pretty nice looking hardwood floors. They are becoming increasingly creeky and I am becoming increasingly obsessed. What can I do that doesn't cost BIG $ or make the floorboards look mismatched?

I live in a NYC pre-war apt. building (built in 1939). The condition of the hardwood floors was definitely a selling points for us. They must have been re-done or re-varnished. I'm sure there were a few squeaks when we moved in but they weren't so bad. Now, they are very noticeable all the time. I can isolate loose, squeaky boards here and there. There are some pockets of more than just a few.

I don't see a lot of nails so it's not a matter of hammering at a few loose spots. We are in a building so I cannot get to the floor boards from going underneath or to a basement.

I've heard of using the powder but it seems like a band-aid. I looked into that kit where you drill in at an angle and then fill the wholes but that seems like a mess.

I'm willing to pay a carpenter-type, but I don't have a ton of $ (hundreds not thousands) so I can't afford to pull up the entire floor. If we just pulled up the loose boards I am worried that we wouldn't match the stain/look of the other boards and the floor would look patched together.

Is there anything I can do? Who should I call i.e. contractor, handy person, carpenter, floor company? What should I know to not get hosed?
posted by demonstartivepapadonous to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I bought these for my squeaky floors, but I haven't gotten around to using them yet: Squeek-No-More. Bonus, you can do it yourself.
posted by Rob Rockets at 12:18 PM on February 2, 2014

Check out Squeeeeek No More. Watch the hardwood floor video. Easy enough to DIY. You have to be willing with wood filler spots. No need to pull up boards or replace them.

BTW squeaks might be more noticeable in winter than summer.
posted by beagle at 12:18 PM on February 2, 2014

It's probably more noticeable in the winter, when the humidity drops and the wood shrinks. You might want to see if it's as bad in the summer before going to the next step.
posted by barnone at 12:21 PM on February 2, 2014

I like the idea of Squeek-No-More, but something tells me they are a real hassle if the boards need to be taken up down the line. I have entertained the idea of just piloting some screws down and putting veneer or filler over the heads, but haven't settled on it. Baby powder did nothing for mine.
posted by rhizome at 1:03 PM on February 2, 2014

Ditto waiting until spring/summer to see if the squeaking doesn't get better or go away. The planks were only refinished on the top; there's still a lot of board that can release moisture and shrink. If you adjust everything while the boards are dry, you'll end up with something worse than squeaks - buckled floorboards.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:15 PM on February 2, 2014

My uninformed opinion is that Squeek-No-More seems like it's intended to be hidden in carpeting over plywood, and would be unsightly in a wood floor. You would at least need to fill the holes with a wood filler that matches your floor and spot-seal it so the filler doesn't collect grime.

That said, I don't have a bulletproof answer. I've heard that talcum powder or powdered graphite can be swept into the cracks of a squeaky floor to act as a dry lubricant, but I've never tried it. Graphite powder would probably be both messier and more expensive, depending on how much floor you need to treat, and you don't want to inhale too much of either. In both cases, I've also heard that several days or weeks can pass before the maximum effect is achieved, especially if the gaps between boards are tight.
posted by pullayup at 2:04 PM on February 2, 2014

I don't see a lot of nails

The nails are present but hidden in the tongue-and-groove joint between the boards. Depending on the age of the building there may be no plywood subflooring below the wood floor--often, the wood floor was the subfloor below the carpet. If this is the case you'll need to deploy a stud sensor (I kind of like the simple magnetic type, which are cheaper and more reliable than the kind with a flashing light) to locate the joists if you're putting in more nails or something like Squeek-No-More.
posted by pullayup at 2:09 PM on February 2, 2014

I'd bet that the dry winter air is a big factor here. How about trying a portable humidifier (maybe >1)? Having a bit more moisture in the air might well quiet things down a bit.
posted by Corvid at 2:12 PM on February 2, 2014

Corvid is right about the humidity -- my floors do still creak a bit, but for the most part, when I run my humidifier in winter (most of the time), my floors are decidedly more quiet. It might not be enough for you, but it's worth a try.
posted by emcat8 at 1:05 AM on February 3, 2014

I would try to locate the joists under the squeaky boards, and then figure out what bit of the board is moving and causing the squeak. Then I would drill a pilot hole with a countersink (a wider but shallower hole for the screw head to fit into) down into the joist and immobilize the squeak with a 2 1/2" deck screw. I would then putty over the screw with a wood filler that matched the color of the boards, and once it was dry I would lightly sand the area and apply a matching (probably clear, satin or gloss as appropriate) varnish.

I have never done this before, but I am fairly confident that it would give you a permanent and nearly-invisible solution to your squeaks. I would be willing to try it on my own floors, if I were in your situation.
posted by Scientist at 10:20 AM on February 3, 2014

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