Q: I eagerly read your column about fixing squeaky floors by renailing from the top. But my problem is under the linoleum in the kitchen. Do you have any suggestions on how I can fix a small (roughly 1-by-2-foot) section? When the linoleum was laid, it went wall to wall and then the floor cabinets were placed over it. My basement is unfinished, so I would have access to the joists and subfloor. Any ideas?
A: Do not despair. There’s a much better than even chance you can silence the squeak with little effort and at practically no cost.
The cause is probably a loose nail or two in the subfloor. It’s a good thing that you have access from underneath. It will make the fix easy.
Solving the problem begins with ferreting out the cause. You report that the squeak is isolated to a small section of the kitchen floor. Since you say the house was constructed in 1941, we’re betting that a cross section of the floor will show 2-by-8 floor joists covered by a subfloor of 1-inch boards over which is particle board underlayment and finally the vinyl flooring.
We think the cause of the squeak is movement of the subfloor when someone steps in that certain spot. The cure is to eliminate the movement.
Subflooring of this type is usually 1-by-8 or 1-by-10-inch boards laid diagonally and nailed to the floor joists with 8d nails. The most likely place for a board to loosen is where two boards join over a floor joist.
Over time, nails at the ends of the board tend to split the wood, causing the bond between the board and the joist to weaken. When someone steps on the spot, the board flexes against the nail and a squeak is born.
To verify our theory, you’ll have to do a little detective work. It’ll require two people, one in the basement and the other stepping on the floor above. While the person above shifts his weight to make the floor squeak, the person below should listen for the squeak and try to see any movement in the subfloor.
When the squeak is located, drive a thin wedge of wood between the floor joist and the offending board. Have your partner in the kitchen move around on the spot to make sure the squeak is gone.
But you’re not done yet. The wood wedge will expand and contract with changes in the moisture in the air. A more permanent solution is required. We suggest that the subfloor board be anchored to the floor joist with a piece of 90-degree angle iron or a Simpson Strong-Tie bracket. …CONTINUED
Simply screw one side of the angle iron or bracket to the floor joist and the other to the floorboards. Make sure the screws into the subfloor are short enough not to penetrate through the underlayment. The metal bracket will eliminate the movement that is causing the squeak.
Permits: Who needs ’em?
Not long ago we published the opinion of an architect and retired building official about the necessity of securing a permit when doing just about any type of work around the house.
One of our readers, a service electrician, took issue with that point of view, writing:
"It is not practical to obtain a permit for every repair or installation as the authorities wish. It adds more than necessary time and expense to the involvement. And, of course, it adds some nice revenue to the building inspector’s account.
"The practical solution is to have familiarity with construction people and customers who recommend them. A trust and knowledge is established, especially when you know the codes and are able to educate your customers about them.
"Permits: Large projects … yes; otherwise no."
Our view: Different jurisdictions have different requirements for building inspections and permits. Our advice is to follow the rules. When planning a project, ask your local building department whether a permit is required. If one is, get it. It may seem like a pain in the neck at the time, but it’s better than having to stop work halfway through a job and perhaps pay a fine because the proper paperwork hasn’t been done.
Also remember that when selling you most likely will be required to disclose that work was done without permits. We have seen deals die because of this.
What’s your opinion? Leave your comments below or send a letter to the editor. To contact the writer, click the byline at the top of the story.