Under 2 hours
Though they are a nuisance, squeaky floors and stairs can be fixed quickly and affordably. Floors and stairs squeak when wooden floorboards or structural elements rub against each other, when the bridging between joists flexes under traffic or when floorboards have not been properly nailed to the subfloor.
Learning how to fix squeaky floors is simply a matter of determining which area the problem is coming from. Depending on the type of creaky floors you have, your technique could change.
This guide will teach you how to fix squeaky floors with simple but thorough step-by-step instructions.
Understand Squeaky Floors and the Job Ahead
Often, problems with squeaky floors are due to the loosening of the hardware holding the floor in place. When nails or screws no longer fit tightly, boards can rub together. That noise you hear is the sound produced by rubbing.
The design of your home will help determine how to address the squeak. This guide starts with a quick method to fix a squeaky floor that you can use anywhere. You can move on to the other steps if it doesn't stop the sound.
However, some of the following steps may not be possible in your house. If you have a finished basement, skip steps 4 through 6 because you need access to the underside of the floor to do them. Step 7 will be the best starting point for you if you can’t get to the bottom of the floor.
For squeaky floors below carpeting, move on to Step 8.
Lubricate Hardwood Floors
Lubricating hardwood floors is a quick and easy way to stop squeaks. To lubricate means to add a substance that reduces friction, and the product you use to lubricate is a lubricant.
Simply cutting down on friction may be enough to stop the squeak. Give it a try by sprinkling a powdered graphite lubricant over the squeaky spot. Cover the powder with paper towels, so it stays in place.
Put on your shoes and use your feet to move the lubricant into the grooves between the flooring. Move your foot back and forth and in circles for a few minutes.
Still hear the squeak? Repeat the process two or three or more times. If the sound is still there, go on to the next step.
Tip: Use a handheld vacuum cleaner to clean up any leftover lubricant.
Pinpoint the Source of the Squeak
First, find a helper to continue fixing a squeaky floor. You’ll need their assistance locating the squeak.
Have your helper stay upstairs and walk on the squeaky spot while you head to the basement. Stand on a step ladder and use a flashlight to locate the area of the squeak.
Check out the squeaky spot. Sometimes, a long nail that installers left exposed can cause the sound. You’ll usually be able to spot a problem nail right away because it will be visible beside the wood.
If you see one, use a pair of bolt cutters to cut it off close to the ceiling. See if this fixes the problem and move on to the next step if the sound continues.
Fill in Gaps with a Shim
Instead of a rubbing nail, a gap between the joists and the subfloor may be to blame. The joists are the beams that run below the floor, and the subfloor is the wood that goes on top. Together, the joists and the subfloor support the hardwood floors.
When someone walks over the floor in a spot where there’s a space, the subfloor may push down and rub against the joists. Then, you hear the end result as that squeak.
Filling in the gap could stop the noise. To do it, you’ll use a small piece of wood called a shim. Put a little construction adhesive on one end of the shim. Then, slide the shim into the gap.
If the shim doesn’t slip into place easily, tap it with a claw hammer. Try not to pound, as this could damage the floor.
You only need to get the shim in an inch or two. It’s not necessary to slide the shim all the way in. In fact, forcing the whole thing into the gap could worsen the squeak.
Drive Screws from Below
For a squeak in just one spot not caused by a gap, try driving in screws from below.
Use a power drill make a pilot hole through the subfloor. Then, drill a second smaller pilot hole through the hardwood floor into the subfloor.
Have your helper stand in the spot while you drive the screws in with an electric screwdriver.
Tip: Be sure you use short screws to avoid having to repair damage if the screw comes through the top of the finished flooring.
Cleat the Subfloor
If you see two or more subfloor boards moving when your helper walks, bracing the floor may help the squeak. Bracing means to add another piece of wood to support the floor, so boards move less.
To brace, start by measuring the area with a tape measure. Then, cut a 1x4 to the correct length with a circular saw. Use an electric screwdriver to drive drywall screws into the lumber at each end.
Another approach is to use steel bridging. Bridging is a long metal support that goes under the subfloor. It comes in various sizes, so choose the length that fits your floor. Then, nail it into place below the subfloor boards.
Safety Tip: Wear eye and hearing protection when working with power tools.
Drive Screws from Above
If you can’t access the subfloor through the basement, try driving screws into the floor from above.
First, drill small pilot holes into the hardwood floor at an angle. Put the hole at least 1/2 inch away from the board's edge for best results. Go through the floor but not into the subfloor.
Apply pressure and drive trim screws through the pilot holes into the subflooring. The head should end up below the surface. Fill in the hole with wood filler in a color that matches the floor.
Fix Squeaky Floors with Carpeting
Work from above for a squeak below thick carpeting. Roll back the carpeting when possible. If you can’t, use a stud finderto locate the joists.
Once you find the problem, drive a finishg nail into the subfloor in the squeaky spots. Use a nail set to drive the nail through the carper and below the surface of the subfloor.
Tip: Avoid using screws with carpeting, as they can get twisted in the fibers.
Now that you know how to fix squeaky floors, you’re ready to make your living space quieter. Gather the tools and materials you need and find a helper to assist with the steps. Shop at The Home Depot for shims, lumber, hardware and everything else required for your DIY repair job.
Use The Home Depot Mobile App to locate products and check inventory. We’ll take you to the exact aisle and bay.