By Jason Shumaker, P.E.
‘Tis the season for floor squeaks. Winter, more than any other time of year, triggers an occasional call from someone regarding a floor squeak they are concerned (annoyed) with. These noises, while irritating, are almost never a cause for alarm. Most of the time the caller suspects a TJI® Joist in the floor is the source of the squeak and desires to have the joist “fixed” and the squeak eliminated. However, it is quite rare that a floor joist is actually the cause of a floor squeak.
Floor systems consist of the floor joists, subfloor (commonly OSB), nails and/or screws and whatever floor finish material is used (hardwood for example). In addition, several other components are often found inside or attached to the floor system. These components include joist hangers, blocking, gypsum fastened to the bottom of joists, walls fastened to the top of the floor system, water lines and HVAC ducts.
Squeaks occur when one floor component rubs against another as a floor is walked on.
In the winter floor squeaks are more prevalent because the drier conditions inside a house cause materials like wood to contract which may result in movement between floor components. The drier conditions are often the same reason trim gaps and nail pops are more common in winter as well. That said, there are several things a builder can do to reduce the likelihood of a floor squeak any time of year, several of which are discussed in Weyerhaeuser’s Technical Resource Sheet titled Prevention and Repair of Floor System Squeaks.
Among the possible causes discussed in Prevention and Repair of Floor System Squeaks are subfloor panel gapping, nails that missed the joist (called “shiners”), how the subfloor was glued during installation, ductwork rubbing against the framing and partition wall nailing. Potential remedies for the homeowner (or their contractor) to try are provided for each of the issues discussed.
Additional sources and prospective remedies for floor squeaks can be found on the internet. A recent search using the keywords “winter floor squeaks” yielded several good pages discussing squeaks in hardwood floors, around stairs and more. The search also revealed proprietary products designed specifically to combat floor squeaks and ideas like spreading talcum powder between hardwood planks to stop them from rubbing together. These products and ideas have not been evaluated by Weyerhaeuser but may be worthy of consideration in certain situations.
Hundreds of years ago squeaky floors were desired in some areas. The “Nightingale” floors were actually designed and constructed so that the floors would squeak when walked on. This noise worked as a security device to prevent intruders from walking through hallways undetected. Nowadays some parents of teenagers might welcome a floor squeak to notify them of an “after curfew arrival”, but for anyone else Weyerhaeuser’s Prevention and Repair of Floor System Squeaks serves as a good resource in addressing floor squeaks in a home.
JERAD BANKSTON, P.E.
Jason Shumaker, PE is a Product Support Engineer at Weyerhaeuser. For over 17 years, he has been providing engineering support for Trus Joist and Weyerhaeuser products to homeowners, builders, dealers, architects, engineers, and code officials.