"Floor squeak drives me crazy"
Column #880 01/21/12
On The Level
Q. I have a squeaky floor thatís driving me crazy. It is on the second floor, so I can't get to it from below. It is carpeted, so I assume there is only subfloor plywood over the joist. The squeak is coming from the base of the wall. I can walk next to the wall, in the middle of the room, or in the closet on the other side of the wall and the squeak still come from the same point at the base of the wall, no where else. I got the "mysqueakyfloor" kit and installed their special screws through the carpet everywhere, no effect. Would it help to attempt to drive a wedge between the bottom wall plate and the sub floor? Impossible to do?
A. Youíre right-- the carpet is over a plywood subfloor. What you are describing may be a nail this has pulled loose attaching plywood to joist and as you walk over or near it the plywood flexes and the nail acts like a little violin bow against the wood fibers of the joist and you hear the results.
A squeak. You were on the right path with the repair kit you bought. Iíve seen them used on home shows on TV but Iíve never used one myself. Sure looks easy on TV, doesnít it? Iím too old-school and I would go after that squeak with either finish nails or inch and a quarter drywall screws.
Driving a shim under the sole plate of the wall between wall and subfloor is surely an idea that has merit but in order to that effectively you have to not only pull up the carpet against that wall but pull up the tack-strip that holds the carpet in place against the wall.
Before we get into really going after this I want you to be sure what you are hearing is truly something that can be fixed with a nail or a screw. Sometimes there can be metal ductwork run between floor joists from the distribution plenum over to a floor register or a ceiling register for the room below. Itís not unheard of that hangers used by the duct installers can rub against the joists should the joist flex bit under foot traffic and make noise. The most common duct noise in a floor is called ďoil-canningĒ because it can sound the tick-toc sound that old fashioned oil cans make when used. Think of the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz getting his joints loosened.
That you say you can walk somewhat away from the wall where you think itís coming and still hear the noise at what I would say is some distance is pointing me towards the possibility of the noise not being a nail but duct related. Try as best you can to rule that source in or out. I even carry a stethoscope in my tool kit to try to track down pesky noises and you might need something like that but be sure.
Now to crunch time. You going to have to decide just how crazy this noise makes you. Should you come to the conclusion that this noise is about to shove you over the edge then consult with the higher ups in the house because you are going to have to get drastic. Pull the carpet up and the tack strips against the wall giving you a clean slate of subfloor. Using drywall screws and noting the joist locations by seeing the nails running in rows over top of the joists, go an inch or so fore or aft of each nail and run a screw in. Don't stop until the squeak does. Once itís done and quiet you may need a professional carpet installer to get your carpet back down the way it should look-- tight and flat.
Keep the mail coming. If you've got a question, tip, or comment let me know. Write "On The Level," c/o The Capital, P.O. Box 3407, Annapolis, MD 21403 or e-mail me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.