What causes a creaking & popping noise in hardwood floors?

Written by lee carroll
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What causes a creaking & popping noise in hardwood floors?
Hardwood flooring often develops creaks and pops over time. (dancing shoe (2) image by TiG from Fotolia.com)

Although hardwood floors are desired by many homeowners, few people want the pops and squeaks that can accompany them. Even properly installed hardwood flooring may develop those annoying sounds over time. Finding the source of the noise is not always easy, but there are a few common places to begin the search. Repair could require a contractor. However, some problems are quick to remedy on your own.

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Floor Joists

In most homes, floor joists, which support the floor, are installed in accordance with building code. However, building code may give only the minimum acceptable requirements, which can lead to a soft floor, explains expert Tim Carter of "Ask the Builder." Changing humidity, settling and improper joist spacing can cause a noisy floor. When joists swell or shrink due to humidity, the connection to the subfloor, and ultimately the hardwood floor, is altered. When a house settles as it ages, the original position of the joists may shift enough to cause creaks and pops when you walk on the floor. Joists that are too far apart cannot provide enough support for the floor. If the joists are the culprit, you may need a contractor for structural reinforcement.

Subfloor

The subfloor is attached to floor joists. If it loosens or separates over time, your hardwood floor will flex and creak along with the subfloor underfoot. Subfloors are susceptible to the same settling and humidity changes as any wood in your home. If the subfloor is made of weak or inferior material, it may deteriorate over time. If you can access the joists freely, check for gaps between the joists and subfloor. Tapping wedge-shaped wood shims into the gaps to quiet squeaks is recommended by This Old House. If you cannot access the joists or if you think the subfloor is deteriorating, call a contractor. You may need a new subfloor or other modifications.

Popped Nails

Hardwood floors are installed with nails that can pop free over time and loosen the flooring. Boards will move and make annoying pops and squeaks if they are not secure. Repairs under and on the floor are possible. Under the floor, insert screws through the subfloor and into the bottom of the hardwood, suggests professional contractor Jim Rooney of "Jim Rooney on the Level." On the floor, drive flooring nails diagonally into the seam of the lifted board to secure it back to the subfloor.

Floor Registers

A possible source of squeaking and popping wood floors is heat and air conditioning ductwork registers in the floor. Ductwork is most often metal, and usually a bit rigid. Floor register covers are also usually metal, and fit into the floor opening. When you walk across a wood floor, some slight flex is expected. However, even small movement can create noisy friction between the register cover and the floor, subfloor or ductwork. Lubricating the sides of the register with paraffin wax or graphite may help stop the creaks.

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