Q: Our floors squeak when we walk on the carpets. What can we do to remedy this problem before we replace the carpets in two weeks?
A: What perfect timing! You can put an end to the squeaking by screwing the subfloor to the floor joists after you remove the old carpet and pad, but before the new carpet is installed. You’ll need to do a little work before the carpet layers show up, but you’ll have a quiet floor when all’s said and done.
Your first order of business is to expose the subfloor by taking up the old carpet and pad.
First, remove all the furniture from the room. Take a pair of pliers and pull the carpet from the tack strip in one corner of the room.
Tack strip is nail-impregnated 1/4-inch-by-1-inch wood strips nailed around the perimeter of the room. The points of the nails in the strip are angled toward the wall. The carpet is hooked on the nail points, allowing the carpet to be stretched flat. Once the carpet is free from a corner, it’s a simple matter to pull the rest of it from the perimeter of the room.
The easiest way to remove old carpet is to cut it into strips. Roll the old carpet from the wall. Cut the backside with a utility knife into 2- or 3-foot-wide lengths, roll them up, duct-tape the rolls, and it’s off to the landfill or better yet, the recycler. The carpet installers should dispose of the old carpet as part of the price of the new installation.
Next, remove the pad. Carpet pad is light. It’s usually 5 feet wide, so there’s no need to cut it. Just pull it up, roll it and carry it away. The pad is stapled to the subfloor. Remove the staples or pound them flat with a hammer. Removal of the old carpet and pad is usually part of the installation price of the new carpet. It’s worth a try to ask your carpet layer for a credit if you’re doing it yourself.
You’re three-quarters of the way there. With the floors bare, it’s easy to locate the floor joists. Simply look for the nail heads in the subfloor. This will give you the location of the floor joists. If the distance between joists (nail heads) is 16 inches or up to 19 1/2 inches for engineered joists, the subfloor is probably 3/4 inch thick. If it’s wider (not likely, but possible) the subfloor can be up to 1 1/2 inches thick for a 36-inch span. The 3/4-inch-thick subfloor takes a 2-inch screw. A thicker subfloor takes a 3-inch screw.
Use a heavy-duty drill to drive Phillips-head wood screws through the subfloor into the floor joists. Drive the screws approximately 8 inches apart. To make the job easier for you and the drill, we suggest that you predrill holes before screwing the subfloor down.
Use a drill bit slightly smaller than the screw and keep the hole short of the length of the screw. In other words, if using a 2-inch screw, drill only a 1 1/2-inch-deep hole. This ensures that some of the screw gets full purchase on the joists. It also has the added benefit of making sure the screw is hitting the joist.
Test your job by walking on it before the carpet installers show up. Once the new carpet is down, you’ll not only have a fresh look, but a silent floor.