M2=H2: J is for Joists

Your house is built and you move in. All is well, and you love everything about it. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, you notice that every time you step on that one spot of the floor, you hear a little “screeeeeeek.” What’s going on? These sort of squeaks happen after the house settles and the wood used in the flooring dries out and shrinks. When you step on the floor boards, whether solid wood or plywood subfloor, the nails or the boards rub and make the sounds. While this may annoy you, it is quick and super-easy to fix a squeaky floor. The solution lies in securing the squeaking area to the joists.

Joist

ABOVE OR BELOW: Repairs to the floor may be done from above or below, depending on how the floor is situated. If there is a basement under the floor, it’s best to repair from below. If, however, the floor has another room below it and the underside isn’t accessible, you can also repair from above.

BELOW: This is a two-person job. One person goes into the basement to listen. The other person walks on the floor above. The listener can then find the exact spot that’s emitting the offensive screech. After you’ve located the spot, you have two choices. There is an inexpensive commercial product, called the Squeak Ender, which secures the joist to the subfloor. Follow the directions in the package. Another alternative is to take a thin wooden shim, spread wood glue on it, and tap it into the space between the joist and the subfloor. If the shim alone doesn’t solve the problem, you may also add a drywall screw through the joist and the shim into the subfloor above.

ABOVE: If your squeak is caused by seams in a hardwood floor, an easy solution is to put POWDERED graphite over the crack and cover with paper towels. Then, step on the towels to move the graphite into the seam. Clean up residue with a vacuum. It may take several applications to solve the issue. A more complex solution for hardwood flooring is to use nails to secure the squeaking boards. First, drill a pilot hole through JUST the flooring (not subfloor). The pilot hole must be at least ½” from the edge of the board and should enter at an angle. Next, insert the nail and hammer through the flooring and into the subfloor. Use a nailset to get the head slightly below the flooring surface, and use colored wax filler to cover the head/hole.

CARPETING: Some “above” squeaks are on a carpeted floor. To repair these you must figure out where the floor joists are. Take a hammer and tap the carpet, moving across the floor. When the sound changes to a duller tap, that change indicates a joist. Typically, joists will be 16” apart. Drill a hole through the carpet and into the joist below. Next, insert a scored screw into the hole you drilled. Some scored screws will automatically snap off when the screw reaches the proper depth. Other scored screws need to have the head snapped off after inserting the screw. Either type will firmly attach the subfloor to the joist and solve your squeak.

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