What Makes a Hardwood Floor Squeak?

You wake up with a start in the middle of the night, startled by a strange squeak.

Thinking it may be a burglar, you pick up the phone and get ready to call the police.

A flick of the light switch reveals no burglar. It turns out that the squeaky noise was coming from your hardwood floor.

What exactly causes your hardwood to make these high pitched squeaks? How do you prevent this annoying squeak so that it doesn’t wake you in the middle of the night?

Squeaky Hardwood Floor

Common Causes

To eliminate these irritating sounds, you’ll have to figure out what’s causing your hardwood to make them in the first place. Common causes are:

  • Loose or improper nails.
  • Nails not driven properly.
  • Wood shrinkage.
  • Insecure blocking and bridging.
  • Improper spacing when the floor is laid.
  • Improper gluing procedures.
  • Improper fitting of joists.
  • Joists not sitting properly on hangers.
  • Interior partitions in walls.

Loose Nails

Loose nails are culprits that cause your hardwood to squeak. Edges of the subfloor rub against each other because nails are loose. Joists may not have been nailed properly because nails were driven in too fast. The floorboards may have been secured using the wrong types of nails, causing the squeaks between the subfloor and underlayment.

Shrunken Floorboards

Shrunken floorboards can cause squeaks. Wood dries over time, shrinking it and leaving gaps for them to shift. Floor joists or could have shrunk away from floorboards, leaving too much space between them.


Spacing is an important factor you should consider when laying your hardwood floor. Improperly done, it stops wood from expanding. There may be just enough room for the heating ducts you’ve installed. This causes wood to press on the metal when you step on floorboards.

Improper Fitting

Improper fitting also causes squeaks. Tongue and groove joints secured to cause floor panels to move in sync may not have been fitted properly. Joists not resting on hangers could also make a little noise.

Some panels are glued on before others, causing noise because of the glue beads and adhesive gaps that form. Blocking and bridging that stabilizes the subfloor may not have been properly secured, causing high pitched noises.

Wall Plates and Subfloor

A hardwood squeak may also come from the connection between wall plates and the subfloor. Lower wall plates may have been nailed to your subfloor instead of the joists. The resulting weight deflects the floor panels.

Eliminating Hardwood Squeak For Good

So what preventive measures can you take to eliminate squeaking?

The first would be to ensure that the construction guidelines of the Engineered Wood Association (APA) are strictly followed when your hardwood is first being installed. The APA is a non-profit representative of the American and Canadian wood industry. If a contractor is laying your floor, ensure that he adheres to them.

Ensure that floor panels are glued according to these guidelines. None of these should have been neglected. As recommended by the APA, the correct nail type, joists and fasteners should be used.

Have proper spacing when laying your floor. There should be clearance between panels to allow room for wood to expand. There should also be enough room between installed heating ducts and panels.

To prevent hardwood floor squeak that comes from wall partitions, ensure that you or your contractor nail wall plates where they cross joists.

Align joists properly. Look along their edges to see if they are straight. Blocking and bridging should be secured with diagonal blocks underneath wall partitions.

This is not to say that you can’t do anything to repair a squeaky floor. To do so, you will need

  • Talcum powder
  • Lubricant
  • Nails
  • Shims
  • Powdered graphite

To get rid of small squeaks, you can try applying lubricant between floorboards. This will stop friction between them. Powdered graphite or talcum powder can be used as alternative lubricants.

Check for access to your subfloor. If you are able to get to it, check for loose nails and secure them. Replace any nails that have been coated with cement and ensure none missed the joists. Secure nails that penetrate your subfloor.

To deal with an improperly glued floor, screw the panels to the joists. If blocking or bridging is not secure, insert a diagonal wood block between bridges.

To even shrunken or misaligned floor joists, a piece of lumber or metal can be inserted into the joist space underneath. If joists are not resting on hangers, inserting a shim between the joist and hanger may ease unnecessary noise.

Prevention and a few tricks will help to stop all that squeaking.

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