How to Fix a Squeaky Upstairs Floor (Find the Source of the Noise!)
Whether you live in an apartment or in a house, hearing every step the people above you make can be incredibly annoying. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to go about solving this problem from above and from below. Today, I’m going to take you through the best ways to fix the squeaky upstairs floor.
In addition to having to hear squeaking every time somebody else shifts their weight, causing the squeaking yourself is also pretty annoying. After all, no one wants their housemates to know their every move. What if you’d just gotten up for a midnight snack? That’s the kind of shameful ritual I’d rather indulge in without an audience.
So whether you’re trying to get some peace and quiet or you’re trying to keep your own movements private, my instructions should help you get there. However, you ought to know that some of the solutions to this particular problem may involve drilling. If you’re not completely confident in your handyman skills, you may want to leave it to the professionals.
Still, before you call your local floor repair service, try following my step-by-step guide. But first, let’s talk about why this problem may occur in the first place.
As always when we’re trying to repair a noisy floor, we’ll first want to figure out how the sound is made. Usually, the squeaky sound is caused by the combination of wood and metal parts inside the floor rubbing together.
Over time, the nails that are holding your floor together may loosen and rub against the wood. Additionally, they may also stop holding the wooden parts flush together which would cause the wood to rub against itself, producing that squeaky noise. Furthermore, you may also discover that the noise isn’t coming from inside the floor at all. That may actually be the best case scenario since it’ll only require you to fix the surface layer of your floor.
Alternately, if your floor has always had that squeak, you could have a structural problem on your hands. Rather than having worn away over time, your floors could have been improperly installed from the get-go.
Underneath the floorboards, the tiles, or the carpeting you may have on the surface layer of the floor, there are slabs of subflooring. If the floorboards are the source of the noise, you shouldn’t have to go any further than this layer.
However, if the squeaks are coming from below, it’s likely that the subflooring has separated from the joists that are supporting it. In order to fix this issue, you’ll need to put nails through the subfloor into the joists, which does require some maneuvering. Fortunately, I’ve got a few tips and tricks that should make it easy to find the right spot.
Are Floor Squeaks Impact Noise?
Since most kinds of floor squeaking are caused by the internal wear and tear of the floor, we should also figure out whether squeaking is a type of impact noise. After all, the floors have to take a lot of abuse over the years, from regular walking to occasional jumping jacks people are known to do when the mood strikes.
Basically, it’s possible that walking the same routes is the thing that ultimately causes the floor to creak in some places and not others. Squeaks themselves are airborne, so the problem may be solved by making the floor airtight and applying some soundproofing measures.
However, the impact noises of objects hitting the floor are harder to get rid of. Those kinds of sounds vibrate through the very structure of the building, as I have previously explained. So, obviously, the easiest way to get rid of them is to lessen the impact. Still, if you’re not keen on having to avoid certain areas of your home in an attempt to avoid squeaks, there are plenty of ways to solve the issue.
5 Ways to Fix a Squeaky Upstairs Floor
Finally, let’s talk about the exact steps you need to take to ensure you never hear another peep from the upstairs floor. Whether you have access to the floor or not, there are several ways to take care of the problem. But before you break out the tools you’ll need, you ought to find the exact spot where the floor is squeaking.
1. Figure Out Exactly Where the Squeaking is Coming From
If the squeak is coming from the upper floor of your own house, you probably know which floorboard or joist is the source of the noise. When my attic floor was squeaking, I took note of the areas that produced the noise and took care to avoid them. But then, I wasn’t ready to deal with the problem — you obviously are!
So go ahead and walk around the room, marking all the spots where you hear the noise. Leave pieces of duct tape on the floor wherever you notice a squeak. Continue moving along the room until you’ve located all the loose boards — might as well deal with them all.
Once you’ve figured out the area, try to figure out the source. Are the floorboards loose or is the noise coming from inside the floor? If it’s the latter, the issue is likely caused by the plywood subfloor rubbing against the joists.
As I have said, we don’t always have access to the floor above us — so you may also need to know how to find a squeak from below. If your upstairs neighbor’s floor is creaking every time they take a step, you’re understandably annoyed.
While they’re walking, mark your ceiling with duct tape in the general area where you heard the creaking. If you’re annoyed enough to take the drywall off your ceiling to get rid of the squeak, you may not have to speak to your neighbor about the sound at all.
2. Fill the Gap Between the Joist and the Subfloor
If you can access the joists and the subfloor of the creaky floor from below, you can manually fill the gap that’s been created between the two. However, even though some basements have visible joists, you’ll probably have to take off the ceiling drywall. After you do, there are two ways to plug any gaps between the subfloor and the joists.
Using a Shim
If you’re reluctant to nail the plywood subfloor to the joist from above, you may be able to get away with inserting a thin shim into the gap. Attach the shim by applying some construction adhesive to it then sliding it into place. As I’ve mentioned, you’ll need to work from below. Remember: insert the shim just far enough to fill the gap without widening it.
Fluid Alternatives: Caulk, Construction Adhesive, or Wood Putty
While on the subject of closing the gap by inserting materials into it, we should also consider liquid products. If the gap between the joist and the subfloor is particularly tiny or long, stuff it with construction adhesive or wood filler. That should stop the metal and wood parts from rubbing against each other.
Once the product dries and sets, you can also sand it down a bit, but it’s not necessary. After all, none of the work will be visible once you put the ceiling drywall up again.
3. Install a Joist Brace
The only way for you to see that your joists are unstable is to watch them from below while someone else is walking on the floor above. If they move, you may need joist braces to prevent future squeaks. There are several kinds of mechanisms that can help you screw the joist into the subfloor from below.
The Squeak-Ender is only one such product, but it’s pretty simple. The product is applied as seen on the packaging. You screw one part up into the subfloor while hooking the metal bracket underneath the joist. Then, tighten the two parts until the joist in question is firmly pressed up against the subfloor.
You can also use products like the Squeak Relief as demonstrated in this video.
This product is a metal insert you can lodge between the subfloor and the joist and nail it in. It also has two additional holes for nailing the insert diagonally up into the subfloor and joist for additional support.
Additionally, if the squeaking is the result of a bent or warped joist, you could nail a straight board along its length. Similarly, you can also attach a board snugly between two joists in lieu of a joist brace, to keep them securely in place. That should prevent the noise and discourage further warping as well.
4. Nail the Subfloor to the Floor
In addition to closing the gap between the subfloor and the joists from below, there are also ways to approach the problem from above. So you won’t even have to take the ceiling drywall down if you don’t want to.
If you have wooden floors or laminate tiles, you may have to take them off before proceeding. Well, if you don’t mind having to plug a few extra drill holes with wood putty, I suppose you wouldn’t need to lift them at all. And you won’t even have to use regular screws to connect the subfloor and the joist from above. That’s exactly what products like the O’Berry Squeak No More kit are for!
As you can see in the video, this product comes with special screws that’ll be completely unnoticeable. After you insert the screws, use the tripod bit from the kit to break off their heads. Before you do that, you’ll have to find a way to locate the squeak. Moreover, you’ll need to find the exact spot where the subfloor has lifted away from the joist.
Personally, I recommend using the paperclip method from this video (which is another demonstration of the kit). You should use a slim bit to drill through the wood, then insert a bit of wire into the hole. If the wire doesn’t hit the bottom at some point, you’ve missed the joist. If you know which direction your joists are lined up in, you should be able to find them. They’re usually about 16 inches apart from each other, so you can calculate the space between them.
5. Install Soundproof Floor Underlayment
Lastly, if your floor is still creaking after fixing the joists, you may want to work on the floorboards. In fact, this solution will also work if you have a concrete floor so there are no joists to fix. If the boards themselves are still new, they may be squeaking because of the extra space under them. However, the solution to this problem is easy if you have access to the floor in question.
I’ve talked about soundproof underlayment before, which is the perfect way to stop floorboards from creaking. There are different kinds of underlayment materials corresponding to various needs, but they all have similar purposes. Basically, they provide padding underneath the floorboards. That adds stability and softens the floor, reducing the impact of the footsteps as well as the creaking.
Final Thoughts on Fixing Squeaky Floors
Fixing a squeaky upstairs floor isn’t an easy task, but the results should be satisfying enough to give it a go. After all, nobody wants to live in a house that announces the location of each of the residents, do they? For that matter, nobody wants to live in an apartment building that creaks every time their upstairs neighbor takes a step. Fortunately, the solutions I’ve listed here should work whether you can access the floor from above or not.