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how to fix squeaky floors under carpet

Squeaky Floors Under Carpet: How To Fix Your Noisy Floors

September 17, 2021 / 0 Comments

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Having to tiptoe around your bedroom not to hit that squeaky spot can be so frustrating. Unfortunately, numerous homeowners are facing these sounds in their houses before they decide to find a solution. If you want to learn how to fix squeaky floors under the carpet, you’ve come to the right place.

Installing carpets on your floors is a great way to protect them; they’re aesthetically appealing, affordable, and a fairly durable solution. But what happens if the floorboards start to creak and your carpets are still in perfect condition? Do you rip them up, fix the floor, then install the carpets again?

Taking that route can take a long time and pose a more significant financial burden, so today we’ll focus on taking care of the squeaky floors without touching the carpets. First, let’s find out more about the common reasons why your flooring is making noise!

Reasons Why You Have Squeaky Floors Under Your Carpet

Why do you hear squeaking when you walk around a room? There are several reasons why floorboards can become creaky; below, we get more in-depth about the most common ones.

Age is the top reason why your floors might release sounds while you’re moving around the room. It’s something that you can’t control, and in most cases, doesn’t pose a danger; however, these other factors that we list also appear frequently, so we wanted to say a word or two about how you can prevent them.

Improper Subfloor Installation

Improper subfloor installation is one of the most common reasons why your floors are creaky. This is a layer located right on top of the joists and under the carpets. If the subfloor is not appropriately attached to the joists, it can start releasing squeaky sounds.

When installed, joists have to be parallel. If they move over time or aren’t parallel from the start, the nails that connect them to the subfloor become looser and looser, so the subfloor moves each time you step on those areas which causes squeaking.

The safest, most secure way to attach the subfloor to the joists is using screws. Nails tend to get loose, so if you have a part in building your home, ensure that you hire skilled professionals. Also, it’s great if you can mention that you prefer screws over nails when they’re building the foundations of your home.

Nail guns are a problematic tool that can lead to improper installation. Occasionally when workers don’t place the gun at the right spot, instead of nailing the subfloor to the joist they miss the joist entirely or hit a corner. This can cause loose nails and eventual squeaking, since the nails have to be placed in the middle of the joist for a solid long-term connection. 

Another connecting material to avoid is glue. Glue isn’t always as strong as screws, and it’s a little trickier to work with. Also, since not all workers have enough experience to perform this process correctly, some of them can let the glue dry for too long before completing the installation and the bond between the subfloor and the joists won’t be strong enough.

Carpet Padding

Most people underestimate the importance of high-quality carpet padding. Covering your floors with carpets can be an investment, so your first thought might be saving on materials such as padding. Since not all padding types are made of the same fabric and the same way, some will be more expensive than others.

Reasons Why You Have Squeaky Floors Under Your Carpet

Always opt for a higher-quality option that fits the type of carpet you’ll install. Higher densities can withhold more pressure and will stay in place longer. Consult with a specialist to help you choose the right material to protect the subfloor and carpet, prevent wrinkles, and keep sounds from coming from below your carpets.  

Humid Environment

Humid environments and locations with extreme temperature changes can affect the size of the joists in your home. Joists are horizontal wooden boards, so when they are exposed to humidity they expand, and when the air around them is dry they shrink. When it comes to naturally humid environments, the best solution is purchasing a dehumidifier.

The same thing applies to extreme temperature changes. High temperatures can make the joists expand, and low temperatures will make them shrink. Maintaining a constant temperature inside the house will help to avoid this.

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How Do You Fix A Squeaky Floor Under Your Carpet?

How can you fix a squeaky floor under your carpet? Do you need to remove the carpet to find the culprit? Can you do it without going through the lengthy process of removing the carpet and then installing it all over again?

Taking care of creaking floorboards is an option without peeling off the carpets. There are two ways to approach the problem: underneath the floor (if you have access), and over the carpet. Below, you’ll find a comprehensive guide that explains each step of the procedure.

1. Find The Creaking Floorboards

To solve the problem, you first need to locate it. Although homeowners know when they have squeaky floors, most of them are not 100% sure where these boards are located.

The first step of fixing them is to walk over the floor, listen carefully, and see where the sounds come from. It’s an easy task, but it’s also one of the most important parts of repairing your floors. If you can’t locate the specific problem boards, have someone lie down on the floor with their head close to your feet, and they’ll hear when the sounds appear much more easily.

In most cases, these floorboards are creaking because the subfloor isn’t fixated to the joist. For those of us who are not experts in flooring terminology, the joist is actually a part of the supporting structure of your home. The wooden joists run parallel from one side of your house to the other.

We’ll explain more about finding the joists and determining their course in the next section. Once you’ve found all the squeaky boards, it’s time to mark them. Since they’re covered with carpet, you can use sticky notes or pieces of paper on the creaking spots.

2. Find The Joists

Now that you know where the sounds are coming from, it’s time to determine the faulty joist and its direction. There are a few ways to do this, and it’s up to you to decide which one you prefer.

Home construction uses a set of specific rules and regulations that will help you determine the location of the joist in most situations. First of all, joists are parallel and the space between each is generally 16 inches. This isn’t the case for all homes, but it applies to most buildings. 

If your house is quite old, you shouldn’t count on using this rule to your advantage, but if you know that your house doesn’t date back to the 19th century you can be almost sure that the space between joists is 16 inches.

There are three different tools you can use to determine where a joist is located:

How Do You Fix A Squeaky Floor Under Your Carpet?

Joist Finder

Joist finders are a part of most floor repair kits. If you decide to get one of these kits to fix the creaky floor under the carpet, then you will probably get one of these tools that looks very much like a screw. All you have to do is drill it to the spot where you think there’s a joist.

Once you’re done drilling, check whether the screw entered a joist or not. If it’s fixated, then you’re at the right place; if it’s not, then you should try again.

Stud Finder

In addition to its better-known purpose of finding studs in walls, this device will also help you determine where a wood floor beam is located. It’s quite straightforward to use and will only take minutes for you to determine the position. Turn the stud finder on and start moving it above the carpet.

Depending on the device, it will release either noise or light to show the spots with wooden beams underneath. You can now use any pointer you like to mark the places. Many people use paper, a tape measure, etc.

Hammer

If you don’t have a stud or joist finder at home, you can grab a hammer. Go back to the spots you marked as squeaky, then lightly tap with the hammer at those locations. You will hear different sounds at the points where there are joists and the points without joists.

Spots without joists will release hollow sounds. The locations with joists underneath produce a solid sound, but you’ll need a few tries and some time to learn the differences between sounds. Once you manage to find the first joist, you can measure 16 inches from it to find the location of the second one.

Another helpful trick to determine the location is to follow any lighting fixtures on the floor below. For example, if your house has multiple floors or an unfinished basement, you can remove a lighting fixture because they’re fixated on a joist.

Once you’re removed the fixture, place a 6- to 8-inch piece of wire hanger through the hole. Start moving it in different directions, and you’ll figure out the exact joist position.

3. Fix The Squeaky Floorboards

There are two ways to access your floorboards; unfortunately, not everyone will be able to choose. People with multi-level homes where the faulty boards are above a ceiling with exposed joists can get the job done from below; however, people who don’t have access to the inner workings of the ceiling on the floor below the damage, or whose damage is on the bottom floor of their home, will have to do the fix from above the carpet.

If you can reach the squeaky floorboards under the carpet both ways, you should repair them from below. That way you can enhance the joist’s strength, and implement an easier, more permanent solution.

Fix From Under

If you have access from underneath your floors, such as an unfinished basement, you can easily fix the problem. All you need to do is have someone walk on the floors above while you’re scouting for the problematic joist from the basement.

Even the tiniest gap between a joist and subfloor can result in squeaky noises, so you should mark it and start working on the repairs. You can fix the damage in several ways, depending on how big the gap is.  If you can’t see the size of the gap, turn the lights off, and use a flashlight in between the spaces.

Here are some of the most straightforward fixes anyone can try:

  • Use a small piece of wood to fill the gap. First, try to see if the wood fills the space, and let someone walk on the floors above. If you can’t hear the creaky sounds anymore, feel free to apply glue to the piece of wood and place it between the subfloor and joist.
  • If the gapping is present throughout the length of the joist, filling it with small pieces of wood won’t do the job. In this case, you need to find a construction adhesive. Be sure to get one packed in a gun because the application will be more controlled, and the entire experience is easier.
  • If the reason for squeaky floors is a damaged joist, you’ll need to reinforce it. Add a long wood piece to the damaged parts that cause the squeaking, and use screws to secure it to the joist. You can also use nails; however, they can become loose in time.
Fix The Squeaky Floorboards

Fix From Above

When you have no access to the floors from underneath, the only way to go is from above the carpets. Since no one wants to go through the trouble of removing the carpets, fixing the boards, then installing the carpet back again, the easiest solution is to go over the carpet.

For this method, you’ll need to purchase 10d or 12d galvanized finish nails. How many you’ll need depends on how many floorboards you need to fix. Place the nails in three spots on each joist and walk on the floor to check whether they’re still making noise.

When the nail has been hammered all the way into the floor, you can use nail pliers to remove the nail heads to make the nails less noticeable.

Another option is to use a kit to add screws to the weak spots. First, place the tripod device from the kit on top of the carpet and use it to install the screws. The tripod is designed with a special guard to let you know when the screw has reached the correct position.

Once the screw is completely installed, move the device repeatedly to the left and right to remove the head of the screw. Place two to three screws at each spot that you marked as faulty.

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FAQs

How much does it cost to fix a squeaky floor under carpet?

The cost of fixing squeaky floors under carpets will depend on whether you plan on doing the job yourself or if you prefer to hire a professional. DIY projects cost less; however, there is a lot of space for mistakes.

If you decide to do things yourself, you’ll only need to cover the costs for screws or invest in a repair kit. Another potential expense is a stud finder, but most homeowners just use a hammer.

A professional flooring service can cost between $200 and $1,000 to repair your squeaky floor. 

The final cost depends on the damage, accessibility, room size, etc. For example, floors located on top of unfinished basements are easy to access; therefore, they’ll cost significantly less.


Should I worry about squeaky floors?

Generally, there is no need to worry about squeaky floors. Squeaks and creaks usually appear on hardwood floors and are either a sign of aging or improper subfloor installation. They can also often appear on staircases and other flooring types.

Although you shouldn’t lose sleep over squeaky floors, it’s still a good idea to get in touch with professionals and ask them to search for damage to the structure of the subfloors and joists. If they determine that the squeaking is due to extensive damage, you should consider removing the carpets and fixing the problem.

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Conclusion

Now that you read all about how to stop squeaky floors under your carpet, which approach will you take?

If you can reach the floors from your basement, we recommend fixing the issue from there because it’s more secure and provides a more permanent solution. Using screws to attach the joists to the subfloor over the carpet is another way to go and a solid solution for when you can’t reach the floors from below.

If you have any comments or first-hand experiences with fixing creaky floors, please post them below or share your pictures via our social media.

About Maricel Dee

Maricel Dee is a writer & blogger on all things home improvement. When she's not writing on her favorite home improvement topics, you can find her immersed in her own home projects.

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