Eliminating the source of the squeaky floors is not always easy for an amateur handyman, but there are several user-friendly methods available with minimal investments in equipment or elbow grease required. The key to fixing a squeak is to identify the exact source of the noise and provide a solid fix, not a temporary patch.
Most flooring in modern homes consists of several layers. The lowest level of flooring is the floor joists, which are solid beams similar to the studs behind walls. These floor joists may begin to sag or settle over time, which may be the root cause of some squeaky floors. If floor joists sag significantly, the beams may have to be replaced professionally or jacked up from below. Much like the studs in a wall, these joists must remain level for maximum support.
Above the floor joist level is the subflooring. Subflooring usually consists of large plywood slabs nailed directly to the joists. After years of continuous use, the subflooring panels may work themselves loose from the floor joists.
Some squeaky floors are caused by loose nails between the subflooring and floor joists. To fix this, you may have to install wooden shims between the top of the floor joists and the bottom of the subflooring. Some experts consider shims, angled pieces of scrap wood, to be a temporary fix. They suggest attaching a wooden plank to the floor joist and the bottom of the subflooring to stabilize it.
The source of squeaky floors may also be the actual flooring above the subflooring. Many hardwood floors are constructed with individual tongue-and-groove boards. If the subflooring becomes uneven, the floorboards start to form high and low spots.
When two boards slide up and down against each other, the friction can cause squeaking. One solution is to apply a layer of powdered graphite over the squeaky section and work it into the grooves with a towel. As the slippery graphite fills the gap between tongue and groove, the squeaking should be reduced.
A mechanical way to fix squeaky floors is to drive a short flooring nail through the loose boards and into the subflooring. If the floorboards can't move, they can't squeak. Some experts suggest driving two nails at opposing 45-degree angles to hold the boards more securely. If the floor is carpeted, it may be necessary to cut a small hole to access the squeaky boards and drive the nail below the surface of the flooring.
Squeaky floors may be an indication of a larger settling or foundation problem, so look for other signs, such as cracks in the walls or doors that no longer shut properly. If you cannot pinpoint the source of your squeaks, it may help to start from the bottom up. Inspect your floor joists from above and below to make sure they aren't sagging or warping. You should also be able to see the bottom of the subflooring above the floor joists. Look for gaps between the subflooring and the joists, especially any exposed nails. Some repairs on squeaky floors can be performed from below, which can spare you the trouble of removing carpeting or individual floorboards.