Discover how most people ruin their new wood floors before they even walk on them!
"The sad truth of the matter is that flooring manufacturers know this and they tend to make this information available to customers only when the customer is asking for a refund!"
So you finally got round to replacing those old hardwood floors installing an expensive new floor and because you prefer "real wood" floors to that vinyl stuff, you spent a little extra on some nice engineered wood and paid for a professional company to install it.
Three months later you hear a squeak, then another, then another and soon enough, you have squeaky floorboards everywhere that are creaking like an orchestra of crickets. How can this happen? You paid for a quality floor, you paid top price for the professional installer, so why is your floor creaking after only a few months? Until we developed Stop Creak there really was no quick fix to this problem.
If this has happened to you then you are not alone although you might feel lonely in your predicament. The truth is that wood and laminate floors are very sensitive to their environment and any changes that are made must be planned for and gradual.
What on earth am I talking about I hear you ask? Let me explain. Assuming your subfloor is sound and you aren't suffering from loose nails or screws, crooked floor joist, or loose plywood subfloor then there is probably other issues causing squeaks.
Fixing creaks begins with understanding what causes floors to creak and eliminating the most common reasons first. Wood naturally contains moisture and most wood floors leave the factory with a 6-9% moisture content. Changes in temperature and humidity in the air will cause the moisture in a floor to fluctuate and this can cause problems if the fluctuation is too much to fast.
Imagine the moisture in your finished floor is like the pendulum of a grandfather clock, swinging from 6% to 9% and then back again every time your heating is switched on. When the sun shines through the window and hit the floor it will be heating up that section of the floor and altering the moisture content. Modern wood floors are designed to withstand these changes however if the change in temperature happens to fast, the pendulum will swing one way or another too fast and damage starts to occur.
When wood flooring is manufactured it is then sent to an unheated warehouse. There it will sit for months until it is eventually dispatched to a retailer who will store the floor in another environment, typically another small warehouse. From there the floor will eventually be sent directly to a customer and then laid within a few days of receipt.
The sudden exposure from sitting in a cold warehouse for months to the warmth of a typical home is enough to change the moisture levels of your new floor too fast and this will change the size and shape of each plank slightly. Manufacturers recommend that a floor is left at room temperature for two weeks before laying and then once laid, the temperature of the room raised by 1 degree per day until the ideal temperature is achieved.
Now, in reality, this is impractically for 99% of people, especially those who live in parts of the world with extreme summers and winters. For example, if you laid your floor in January and it was averaging 5 degrees Celsius outside, you would have to wait 14 days to allow your floor to acclimatise, 1 day to lay the floor and then 16 days to get the room to 21 degrees. So in reality, if you don't want to damage your new wood floor you need 31 days from delivery day to be able to enjoy it in a room at normal temperature.
If you have kids and live in a country with seasons you'll know just how ludicrous this is!
The result for most people is that their floors will expand and contract beyond spec prior to the floor being laid and once the floor is in place, it will shrink or expand to wherever it wants to be, however, because it has been pulled, compressed and pulled again in rather rapid succession, it will never be the same floor that was put down on the day it was laid and worse still, finding the source of the squeaking can be a rabbit hole for most.
The sad truth of the matter is that flooring manufacturers don't provide this information willingly and so many folks find the annoying squeaking starts shortly after laying.
So, what can you do to stop your floor becoming a creaky nightmare?
1) I advise all our home improver customers to plan ahead and ensure you have your wood floors laid in the summer. By doing this you reduce the chances of exposing the floor to extreme temperature and humidity changes. I recommend using talcum powder on the underlay before you lay the floor on top - this will prevent the back of the flooring boards from running against the underlay when they flex. We recommend you wait until you are at least a few weeks into summer and the heating has been turned off permanently for a few weeks. At this time of year, the temperature of the warehouse is going to be similar to the temperature of your house and you can therefore mitigate the risk of causing damage to your floor prematurely.
2. Make sure you leave you unpacked floor at room temperature for as long as possible. Let the floor get comfortable with the temperature of your house before laying them.
3) Break your floors in slowly. If you have a loft conversion with click flooring or tongue and groove, you must not expose the floor to extreme temperatures too quickly. Make sure you have blinds on the windows and the heating off. Introduce heat into the room slowly and don't be in a rush to get the room to temperature.
4 ) If you are laying traditional floors, don't be afraid to use a little carpenters glue on the joists. This will stop floorboards moving up and down against a screw or nail. If you have access to the underside of the subfloor, you can also use thin wood shims to fill gaps in uneven floors and drive screws through the shims to prevent rubbing. You can also drive the screws in from the top and use wood filler to cover the tops of the screws. Doesn;t looks as good but this can work when you don't have access to the underside of the subfloor.
5) If you have squeaky tongue and groove floors, try cleaning out the grooves with a utility knife and then injecting a little carpenters glue or construction adhesive into the small gaps between the floorboards. You may need a syringe for this and it can get messy, but if you use a glue that dries clear you can get some great results.
5) If you have click system floating floors then you can try brushing powdered graphite into the gaps/grooves of the floor. It creates a mess and you will need to use a hammer to agitate the floorboards, however, we have had some success with this method. The alternative is to use Stop Creak lubricant which is designed specifically to silence creaky click system floors. It is non-flammable, non-staining and simple to apply. It doesn't create a mess or stain the wood.