What Causes Squeaky Hardwood Floors, and How to Fix Them

Squeaky Hardwood Floors: What Causes Them and How to Fix Them

Squeaky floors are a problem that almost all homeowners experience at some point.

In order to fix a squeaky hardwood floor, you must first determine the cause. Here are some common causes of squeaky floors, along with possible remedies:

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The most common cause of squeaky hardwood floors: Wintertime contraction

Did you first notice the squeakiness during the winter?

As the temperature gets colder, the air gets drier. The heat kicks on in your house, and the relative humidity drops.

Wood is very susceptible to the conditions of its environment. In response to humidity changes, floorboards give up their moisture and often shrink in size during the winter.snow-630194_1920

This contraction can cause squeaky floorboards. The planks rub up against each other or against the nails due to their increased capacity for movement.

If the squeaks are accompanied by flooring gaps, it’s a pretty sure sign that the problem is due to the wood’s reaction to winter weather. Although it’s annoying, squeakiness resulting from wintertime contraction is usually no cause for alarm.

You can try to combat these winter-related problems by increasing the relative humidity of your home, but be warned that this isn’t likely to work. It’s very difficult to maintain the relative humidity level of a whole house at 40 to 60 percent, which is the ideal amount of humidity for most wood species.

If the squeakiness is related to decreased humidity, the problem should disappear in the spring as the humidity in the air rises and your floors expand again.

Cause of squeaky hardwood floors #2: Flooring joists

If your floors squeak year round or there are a few spots that are squeakier than others, there might be a problem with the flooring joists. The joists are part of the structural makeup underneath floors. In order to determine whether the joists are the source of your problem, you’ll have to go into the basement or the room beneath the flooring (if you have access).

If you see that the joists in the squeaky areas appear to be loose, you can buy a special kit to drill down through the floor and tightly secure the floor and subfloor to the joist. Repeat this process in the problematic areas until the squeakiness is gone.

You can also attach a special brace to secure the subfloor to the joist beneath it.

If you have determined that the source of the problem is not a loose joist but a gap between a joist and the subfloor, you can insert a wood shim into the gap. This is a simple repair that can reduce or completely eliminate the squeaking in your floors.

Cause of squeaky hardwood floors #3: Uneven subflooring

Maybe the problem isn’t a loose joist, but an uneven or loose subfloor.

Uneven subflooring can cause gaps between the floor and the subfloor. In this case, when you put weight on the floor, the subfloor rubs against the flooring joists, causing the floor to squeak.

You can determine if the subfloor is the source of your problem by going into the basement or the room beneath the problematic floor and having someone walk across the floor upstairs. See if the subfloor moves when someone walks across the squeaky areas.

If it does, it might be due to a gap between the floor and the subfloor in that area. If you identify a loose subfloor as the problem, you can drill up from below into the subfloor to draw the floor and the subfloor closer together.

For more information on pinpointing the problem and curing your squeaky hardwood floor, speak with a wood floor expert at (800) 787-1786.

4 thoughts on “What Causes Squeaky Hardwood Floors, and How to Fix Them

  1. Lynette Smith

    Our floors have squeaked ever since we moved in June 2007. We’ve had the contractor out who didn’t know what to do. Also, we had to replace the flooring in the kitchen because of a water leak. The guys who did the repair work put a couple extra nails in the floor only to have it start squeaking again. Winter is the worst for squeaking, but it also squeaks after it’s very hot outdoors. Anything you could help out with will be more than appreciated! We’re at our wits end!

    1. Caran Baxter

      Hi Lynette,

      Thanks for your question. We’d love to provide some suggestions. What species it is and where are you located? Is it solid or engineered? How wide?

  2. Laura Tsang

    The squeaky floors in our house is getting worse. It started out in certain spots in the hallway. Now the whole hallway squeaks and some patches in all the rooms. The only place with no squeaks is the kitchen and dining room. Should we be concerned that there are issues with the floors that should be inspected or is this normal?

    1. Caran Baxter

      Hi Laura,

      Thanks for your question.

      There are a lot of variables that can affect weather a wood floor will squeak. Hardwood flooring will expand and contract as the relative humidity and temperature increase or decrease. Proper expansion along the growth areas is critical. It could also be an improper Nailing schedule. If the flooring is plank hardwood was there any form of glue assist, I would connect with the installer and see if he has a remedy before going forward with an inspection.


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