Why does my laminate floor creak?

Updated April 17, 2017

Laminate flooring is a less expensive alternative to hard wood flooring. It is very durable and most manufacturers offer a 15 to 20 year warranty. Laminate flooring is an engineered composite of wood that is moulded together by heat and pressure. It has a tough, durable finish, able to withstand considerable wear. There’s a wide variety of wood patterns and designs available in a palette of colours. Laminate flooring is not difficult to install but it must be done correctly or you can end up with problems, like a creaking, squeaky floor.

Install Flooring Correctly to Avoid Creaking Problems

Laminate floors do not require special maintenance but the manufacturer’s directions should be followed closely. This is a “floating floor,” which means the laminate planks rest on the subfloor, but are not secured to it. These pieces can be bonded together with an adhesive, fastened together with small screws, or designed with a special tongue and groove interlocking system to snap together. Select a brand of laminate flooring which will be the easiest for you to install. Since installation errors are the cause of creaking floors, select user-friendly materials and allow plenty of time for the task

Uneven Sub-floor

If laminate flooring is laid over a subfloor that is uneven, slopes or has bumps and depressions, there will be creaking problems. This unevenness creates gaps between the new floor and the old one, leading to vertical movement of the laminate planks. This makes a creaking, clicking sound. The flooring must be removed and the subfloor repaired before laminate is reinstalled. A self-levelling compound, when applied to a slightly sloping floor, has corrected the problem, creating a level surface upon which laminate flooring can be re-laid. Using a different underlay material has successfully resolved the creaking problem for other homeowners.

Flooring Installed with Screws

The creaking problem occurs most often with laminate flooring that has been installed using screws. If just one screw passes through the plank into the old floor, it makes an anchor point, creating a slight rise in the floor. This will creak whenever the area is walked upon. Flooring should be taken up and new snap together or bonding laminate installed.

Broken or Cracked Joints

If creaking is confined to a small area, one or more of the laminate floorboards may have a broken joint. This could be due to an uneven subfloor where one of the snap together boards cracked when pressure was put on it. This broken area will creak whenever someone walks on it. It is extremely difficult to just remove a section of laminate to repair one broken plank.

Importance of Expansion Space

Do not install the flooring flush against the wall. There should be an expansion space of 1/4 inch. Leave the same amount of space around pipes, toilets and cabinet bases. Use the spacers that are supplied with the flooring to ensure there is an adequate expansion gap. After flooring is installed, use the floor trim designed for your specific brand of laminate to cover this expansion gap. If flooring is flush against the wall or other areas, it will rub and creak.

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About the Author

Nancy Williams has been writing about health-related topics since 1979. Her work has been published in "Prevention," "Nurseweek" and "Senior Life." Williams is a registered nurse with more than 35 years of experience and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in health-care administration. She is working on a book about historic sites in the West.