Wood Floors Make Noise

Those fortunate individuals raised in a home of hardwood flooring have memories of the squeaks wood flooring can occasionally make. Having been raised on a hardwood floor, I can fondly remember the squeaks at the front door and in front of the hall bathroom. The sound would be different when my father walked on these areas compared to my sister who often came home late from a date. She always got caught and I often wondered if the hardwood flooring had anything to do with her unfortunate luck. Squeaking noises can be remembered fondly or can be a nuisance should there be far too many or found consistently throughout an installation.

Squeaking is the result of two pieces of wood rubbing against each other, which means something in the flooring system is loose and moving. The flooring system includes the floor joists, sub-floor, underlayment and the finished wood flooring, which are all made of wood. Any area of the system can be loose causing a squeak or popping sound.

Flooring systems can move from winter to summer, due to increases or decreases in wood moisture content, as well as move due to settling of the building. Any movement in the sub-floor system can result in the production of a squeak, either permanent or temporary. Temporary squeaks are usually seasonal with the shrinking and swelling of the flooring system.
Permanent squeaks can originate from anywhere in the flooring. Repair efforts using the scientific method of trial and error are often successful, but not guaranteed to be successful.

Hardwood flooring glued to a concrete sub-floor can also have squeaks if the concrete surface is not flat enough to support the flooring materials. There can be slight variations in sub-floor flatness leaving a void under the wood flooring. This void allows the planks, or strip flooring, to move up and down and squeaking or popping noises can, and often do, occur. This is a repairable condition by use of the (adhesive) injection method.

Squeaking noises can also be manufacturing related. The milling on the long sides of the planks or strips must allow little to no movement when not installed. If testing the un-installed material finds the tongue moving within the groove, something is wrong and the wood flooring should not be installed. This movement will result in noises and other problems that are not serviceable.

Purchasers of wood flooring always want to know who owns those noises or who is responsible for repairs to rid the home of these irritating squeaks and pops. The quick answer is “there are too many variables to make that determination” and a trained professional should be called in to investigate and point out the responsible party. It can be said that the occasional or seasonal noise is consistent and characteristic of wood flooring installed on a wood flooring system. It’s also fair to say that excessive areas squeaking or noises throughout the installation should be investigated by your installer or inspected by a wood flooring inspector.