Heritage Restoration, Inc.

Squeeky Floors

Our 1968 ranch style home has oak flooring.  The floors squeak terribly!  We don’t know if it is because of the construction at the time or if the use of a wood stove in the basement might have caused the problem.

 

We have tried using those commercial metal angled fixtures but to no avail.

 

Is there a way to eliminate these squeaks that will not break the bank, or are we destined to live in Squeakville?

 

                                                            Ray and June

                                                            North Attleboro, MA

 

Squeakville may be good for wandering teenagers, although it is not a place to live the quiet life.  I assume your oak wood flooring is a tongue and groove strip floor, about 3” wide or so.  Tongue and groove floors were typically nailed through the tongue at an angle, helping the floor to stay tight to the subfloor.  And since your house was built in 1968, the subfloor is most likely plywood, which can be better at grabbing the nails than a solid pine subfloor.  I also assume the nails did not suffer from moisture damage, allowing the nails to get loose by rusting away.

 

The wood stove in the basement could have something to do with the movement.  Reducing the house’s relative humidity in the winter from the stove, then allowing everything to expand in the summer from the increased relative humidity can cause the wood (even plywood) to expand and contract.  This expansion and contraction can wiggle the nail out over time, causing the floor to be loose against the subfloor.  Trying to now correct the relative humidity in the winter may be too late for the nails that have come loose.  The problem may also have occurred from a poor initial installation.  Either way, a loose floor will rise and fall through the nail, causing the floor to squeak against itself and the nail.

 

The solution for a whole floor may be more challenging.  If there were only a few boards squeaking, you can do a finish screw through the top solution, then fill the hole with colored filler.  The hole through the floor must be bigger than the shaft of the screw, so the screw grabs the subfloor and pulls the floor down.  A whole floor using this method may be a bit too much.

 

The other solution could be to nail the floor through the face, or top, using a 2 nail per board offset pattern of finish nails.  During the first part of the 20th century,  strip tongue and groove floors were installed nailing through the face.  The floor was thinner than today, about ½” thick, and was often laid in patterns of alternating wood, like white oak and mahogany.  The flooring was about 2-1/2” wide and the two nails were installed perpendicular to the run, with each nail about 1/8” offset from the other, since few can nail in a perfect straight line.

 

Use a nail gun with about 2-1/2” nails.  You want a nail with a slight head, so the floor will not slip past the nail.  The nails should be installed at a slight opposing angle, so they will not lift.  Nail about every 8” or so, drawing lines or using blue or green tape to keep things straight.  There will be a lot of nails, perhaps several thousand, but it will save your floor.  If you are doing the work, get some good knee pads.  You can then fill the holes with colored soft putty and wipe off the excess with mineral spirits.  This method will fundamentally change the way the floor looks, although you can buy some time until someone eventually changes it.

 

And as always, do a test spot somewhere.  If the floor is lifting or floating, you want to be sure the floor is hard to the floor before you nail it down, or else it will still move.  Dead weight can help keep it down.  May your life become squeakless.

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