Our 1940’s foursquare home is abundantly squeaky. It’s situation that I happily ignored after a friend reminded me that no intruders would be able to enter unnoticed. At that time I lived alone, and if a big dog wasn’t enough, squeaky floors did seem to make me feel more at ease.
This squeakiness is a factor of the home’s age and its old bones. It’s likely due to the construct (there are places in our basement ceiling where the subfloor doesn’t rest on the joists), and due to wear (I’ve refinished the floors once already, and surely they had been done in the decades before me, but because they’re not non-tongue-in-groove there were some spots throughout the house where the ends of boards bowed loose. Loose boards are squeaky animals).
Pete hates the squeaks. He’s managed to fix most of the problem areas on the first floor by working from beneath, in the basement. In those spots, he used shims and cross braces to reinforce the joists and improve the tightness between the subfloor and the joists, but fixing squeaks on the stairs and in the second story of our home is a different story. You can’t access the joists from beneath unless you want to get into removing drywall and plaster which, yes, he has seriously contemplated and I’ve seriously considered approving if it means that he’d stop pointing out all of the squeaks that were once so endearing to me.
What I’m getting at is, we’ve been on a mission to fix those second story squeaks. Pete came across a solution that we had to try, and bought a few boxes of these Counter-Snap products on Amazon.
There are two different products:
- One that is intended for use when you know where the joists in the floor are located and
- Another you can allegedly use anywhere, regardless if you can hit a joist through your hardwoods, or not.
If you’re going to buy, search the store’s products closely because we found the descriptions and product differences to be confusing, but not confusing enough for us not to test them out for just $25 total.
If you think about it, screwing through the floorboards is a pretty obvious way to correct bouncing in squeaky floors. You’re effectively cinching that board back down to the subfloor/joist, reinforcing it into place and eliminating any bounce (and bounce so often = squeaks). The benefit to these screws is that the head of the screw is designed to break away, so you’re not left with unsightly phillips head noggins poking out of your beautiful floors.
1. Locate the Squeak
Hardwood floors squeak at two places, on the joist, and between the joist. Stairs usually squeak right in the center of the step. Once you focus on exactly where the squeak is coming from (which usually involves bouncing around like a Teletubby) you can pretty easily target where you need to make the fix.
2. Predrill a Hole
The process starts by predrilling a hole into the floorboards at the point of the squeak (the company recommends a 3/32 or 7/64 bit to prevent the floorboards from cracking. We also used this predrilling opportunity to see if we were going to blast into a joist or not.
3. Set the Screws to Proper Depth
Using our impact screwdriver, we disregarded the manufacturer’s guide. The guide says to use metal fixture beside the embedded screw in the next photo. It helps DIYers screw just deep enough to satisfy the snap-off point). We winged it, having better luck setting the screw as deep as it needed to be visually.
4. Test for Squeaks
Even before we broke away the top of each screw to leave the working part counter-sunken, we did more Teletubby bouncing to test out the floors. I told you we needed a lot of screws; each one made a big difference. The path between the bathroom and our bedroom was improved significantly.
5. Snap Off Screw at Breakaway Point
Each screw broke away easily with a firm tap of the hammer. (And to note, we found it easier to break away the screws when the metal fixture shown two photos above was not wrapping the screw.)
I initally thought that the holes left behind would be really obvious (they are, after all, bigger than the small nails that hold each floorboard into place). Turns out, when you stand up and look down, they aren’t so gaping, hardly noticeable at all. If you had them drilled in abundance, maybe your floor would start to look like swiss cheese, but in the 20 or so places that we drilled into our second story, you don’t really notice the “damage”.
If you’re looking for a quick fix, I hope one of these products sparks some inspiration and interest. After all, it wasn’t a challenging project for the result it provided. Good luck!