Q. I need your help in finding a solution to a problem of creaking floors. I have a 1975 rancher with hardwood floors throughout the living area. They are in very good condition but they make the worst creaking noises you have ever heard. The house has a full dry basement, gas heat, air-conditioning, and I use a humidifier and a dehumidifier when necessary.
I was told to use shims between the floor boards and the joists but that doesnít seem to work. The weather does not seem to be an influence, but I notice it more at night than daytime. I would appreciate any advice you can give me.
Actually, weather is an influence but in such a subtle and chronic way that one wouldn't normally suspect it as the cause of your problem. And that your basement is dry is a relative term. That you notice more it at night is probably due to the fact that daytime background noise is diminished at night and you are more sensitive to the creaking when that's all you hear.In the big old house I grew up in, the floors and the stairs all creaked and mother said they kept us honest, but we had the worst spots memorized and stepped over them when arriving home after curfew. But you're lucky with a full basement under your single storey rancher-- you can get to the underside of the flooring to quiet them down in a manner we never could in our old two storey Four-Square. The cause of the creaky floors has to do with time, foot traffic and humidity shifts. When your floors were laid the strip oak flooring was just about as dry as it was ever going to be. The flooring mills kiln dry the oak prior to milling it so that the dimension from one board to the next is exact. If they were not then they would mis-match ever so slightly during installation and job wouldn't look very good. And you can patch new strip oak flooring into an older floor and it will fit. The old-timers used to stock the job-sites with the bundles of flooring and let them sit for a week or so permitting them come into equilibrium with ambient humidity levels prior to laying. If the wood was going to swell ever so slightly from its new, more moist environment, it would do so prior to installation. Installers now use moisture meters to check subfloor moisture content to determine if itís safe to lay the floor. Hardwood floors are tongue and groove pieces of wood and are nailed at an angle through the tongue into the subfloor. The next piece laid is slid groove over nailed tongue and then nailed through its tongue. The tongue of the first board holds the groove side of the adjacent piece down. This works pretty well until the cycles of slight expansion and contraction in response to humidity changes and repeated foot traffic overhead works a nail loose. Creaking can arise from the wood rubbing together and the nail sliding up and down in its hole. The wide spaces you see in floors that have actually gotten soaking wet are due to the edge fibers of wood being crushed against each other during swelling and opening up during drying-- there's not much cure for this. It's no surprise that shimming the joists underneath didn't work because that's not where the creaking is taking place. Frequently, the act of refinishing will quiet the floors down as the new finish seeps between the floor boards and acts like glue but you say your floors are in good shape so the expense of a refinish isn't warranted here. What I've done successfully in the past to quiet these types of floors down is to screw up into the creaking floor boards through the subfloor from underneath. The screw of choice is a drywall screw and the length of the screw is dependent upon whether the subfloor is three-quarter inch boards or half-inch plywood. You don't want to screw the points of the screws up through the floor face so proceed carefully here. The oak floor boards were 25/32nds of an inch thick when laid and lost maybe and eight of an inch during finishing. If the oak was laid over a 3/4 inch subfloor then you will use an inch-and-a-quarter drywall screw. If the floor was placed over a half-inch plywood subfloor, then use no greater than a one-inch screw. Lift a floor heating register and look down at the cut for the duct to see exactly what you have. The floor boards are two and a quarter inches across the face so that's a good spacing for the screws. Set the clutch of the screw-gun to set the screw-heads flush with the subfloor surface and expect that the hard oak will cause a few screws to break while running them in. I know it's hard to pin point the offending boards from underneath, but have someone walk across the floor making it creak and mark the spots you think are the squeakers with a piece of chalk and screw that area. It takes time and patience but it works.