A recent column on how to fix the squeaks in a carpeted floor before replacing the carpet generated a couple of questions with some twists.
Q: I read your column where a reader wanted to fix the squeaks in her carpeted floor. Lucky for her, she was replacing the carpet, so you suggested that she screw the subfloor to the joists in between taking out the old carpet and installing the new. We’re not so lucky.
Our floor squeaks, but the carpet is only 4 years old, and we’re not about to take it up and replace it. Is there another way, or do we just have to live with those irritating squeaks?
A: There are a couple of alternatives. The obvious one is to pull up the carpet and pad, screw the subfloor to the floor joists and replace the carpet. You can do the removal and the screwing, but we recommend you hire a carpet layer to reinstall the goods.
But there’s a better way, using some inexpensive specialty screws and a little detective work to find the joists. A company appropriately named Squeak No More has developed a way to screw the subfloor to the joists through the carpet.
The process is pretty simple. The toughest thing to do is to find the direction the joists run and the first joist. We tend to use sound to accomplish this. We pound on the floor with a hammer until we hear a solid sound. A hollow sound means no joist, but if the sound rings solid, you’re either on or very close to a joist.
When the sound indicates a joist, probe the area by pounding a 10d finishing nail through the carpet about an inch. The subfloor is usually 3/4 inch thick, so if you hit solid wood, it’s a joist. If not, move the nail 3/4 inch toward the solid sound and try again.
You’ll probably hit the joist on the second try. Pound on the subfloor about a foot around the nail. The sound will tell you the direction of the joist. Leave the nail sticking out of the floor.
Once you’ve got the first one, go 16 inches to either side and confirm that the joists are the standard 16 inches apart with another nail. Sometimes, if the joists are engineered I-joists, they’ll be 19 inches apart. Use a tape measure to identify both ends of each floor joist in the room and drive a nail. Use the nails as anchors for a string to create a grid.
With the grid in place, screw the subfloor to the joists using the specialty screw system you’ve purchased. Place the screws about 8 inches apart in each joist. The screws are specially designed to be installed with a jig and to break 1/4 inch below the subfloor. At the end, no bumps in the carpet and no squeaks. To see how it’s done, check out this video.
Q: You addressed the squeaky-floor issue, but it applied to exposed subflooring. We have finished oak floors that squeak. How do we solve that problem without marring the flooring and knowing where the joists are?
A: We’re sorry to say you’ll have to face-nail the flooring. But the nail holes will be hardly noticeable when you’re done.
Use a stud finder to locate the joists. A stud finder is an electronic gizmo used to determine the location of wall studs or floor joists. They’re available at hardware stores and home centers.
Move the stud finder along the floor to determine the possible location of a floor joist at the center point of the squeak. Drill a small hole with a 5/64-inch drill bit through the floor. Undo a paper clip and stick it down the hole. If it meets resistance, you’ve got the stud.
Use a 6d finishing nail to secure the floor to the joist. Put a dab of wood glue on the nail to increase its holding power. If the board is wider than 2 inches, put a nail about 1/2 inch from each edge. Use a nail set to drive the nail head just below the surface of the floor. Repeat this process on the boards adjacent to the squeaky one and on joists on each side of the center point of the squeak.
Fill the holes with wood filler that matches the finish on the floor. Wax-filler pencils work well and come in many colors. When done, only you will notice the repair.