How to fix creaking floorboards

Squeaky floorboards might be something you first notice when you’re trying to move about the house late at night without waking anyone up. Luckily, even for a DIY novice, they’re often easy to fix with just a few basic tools.

Finding the squeak

The first thing to do is track down precisely where the squeak is coming from. There’s no clever technique to this – just walk around and zero in on any boards that have a bit of movement in them, then work out precisely which area is the source of the problem.

 

Fixing a small squeak

Creaking floorboards are usually caused by the friction of two boards rubbing together. A quick fix can sometimes be to lubricate the area of friction with talcum powder. You can also use graphite powder for the job, which is available from DIY stores. Just sprinkle the powder around the offending joint and any nail heads that may be adding to the problem.

Keep testing to see whether the squeak has gone and add more powder if it hasn’t. And don’t vacuum any excess powder, just wipe it away with a damp cloth. Bear in mind this is only likely to be a temporary fix – you may have to add more powder every so often to keep the joint lubricated and, ultimately, seek a more permanent solution.

 

Fixing more seriously creaking floorboards

First you’ll need to take up any carpet and underlay covering the boards. Once the boards are exposed, don’t go hammering or screwing willy-nilly. There may be gas and water pipes or electric cables directly beneath the boards – you don’t want to hammer or screw into them.

When you’ve identified the problem board, the next step will depend on whether it’s a relatively modern board held down with screws or a traditional pine tongue and groove floorboard secured with L-headed nails known as brads.

In the latter case, and if the boards are hidden beneath a floor covering, you can simply remove the brads with pincers or a claw hammer, then screw the board back down with wood screws using the existing nail holes. Wood screws will grip much more securely and should solve the problem.

However, if the boards are a feature of your home, and exposed, most people will want to keep the traditional nails. Given that a nail losing its grip in the existing hole is likely to be the problem, you’ll need to hammer new nails into new locations. To do that you’ll first have to remove the existing nails and lift the board. Beneath the board you’ll see the location of the joists plus any pipes and cables.

Mark the location of the pipes, cables and joists on the surrounding boards before replacing your board. You’ll then be able to see exactly where to place the nails so that they go into the joists securely. It can be a good idea to drill pilot holes if you’re using brads as they tend to blunt and may split the wood.

If you’re using screws make sure they’re wood screws, which are identifiable by having a tread that doesn’t run the full length of the screw. Often the reason floorboards are squeaking is that the wrong type of screw has been used to hold them down. Remember to countersink the screws so that their heads are flush with the surface of the board.

 

In all cases, if you have any doubts at all, or if the problem seems more serious than you expected, the best thing to do is seek professional help.

Always be cautious when undertaking any task that you're not fully familiar with as you could injure yourself or those around you, seek professional help where required.

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