diy: how not to fix a squeaky floor

Our house has 2 levels with hardwood floors which include the upstairs and the main level, so pretty much the bulk of the house that we use regularly. Assuming the wood floors are original to the house built in the 1950’s, it makes sense that the house has settled, the wood has dried, and every few steps we take result in a loud squeak, creak, or POP! I love the pops – they’re extra loud like a cap gun behind the ear and if the room is quiet enough, they’ll make your heart jump to your butt.

Honestly up until this past summer, the squeaky floors never really bothered me, but throw a sleeping baby into a swing a foot off the floor and you quickly become aware of every sound coming from under your feet…a 30 second walk from the couch to the kitchen can end up taking 5 minutes of hold your breath, ssssssslide your foot across the floor, pause, look at the baby….hold your breath, ssssssslide your other foot across the floor, pause, look at the baby. And when Scott wakes up everyday for work at 3am, he has to walk from his side of the bedroom to the other, walking right past the baby’s bassinet, playing a song under his feet that goes something like squeak creeeeeeeeeeeak with a CRACK then a squeaky pop squeaky SQUEAKY. It’s a little ditty that strikes fear in my soul every single morning.

So the other day I looked up how to fix squeaky wood floors and everything I read said that the best way to approach it is from underneath by shoving shims in between the subfloor and the joists; however, without ripping out our ceilings to get to the joists, that just wasn’t an option for me. The other option was to approach the problem from above by drilling a pilot hole into the floor and hammering 2 inch nails or screwing deck screws in on an angle.

I could totally do that.

So I hit up the depot and grabbed some supplies, got home and got to work. I started in the hallway just outside our bedroom and it was kind of addicting drilling holes and pounding nails and sinking them with the setter and getting up and jumping on the squeaky spots to see if they were any quieter. And oooooh, my first spot actually was better. So I drilled another pilot hole, then another, then another and then snap!… my damn drill bit broke off in the floor. Whoops.

Aren’t those things made out of steel or something? If not, they should be. If they are, hi, I’m Hulk and it’s nice to meet you.

Back to the depot I went only to find they had every single drill bit except a 3/32nd which of course was the one I needed. So I hit up Sears, bought every one they had as soon as I found them on the shelf ’cause I figured if I broke one after about 6 holes drilled, I might need a few extras. I headed home to continue turning my floors into swiss cheese and this was about the time that I decided to try the screws instead of nails, figuring that a screw would probably pull the floor and the subfloor together nice and snug, much better than a silly 2 inch nail could. So I picked an inconspicuous spot in the guest bedroom (although Scott would beg to differ on the whole “inconspicuous” aspect of my next hole, psh), and drilled my pilot hole. Easy peasy. Then I carved out a slightly bigger hole at the top, about 1/8″ down, with a bigger drill bit so I could bury the screw head in. Oh I was so clever thinking ahead. I grabbed my screw, I grabbed my drill, I pulled the trigger and screwed that puppy in there good and when I was juuuuuuuuuuust about there, the mother effing screw head broke off leaving about a quarter-inch of sharp metal sticking out of the floor. Well crap, that wasn’t supposed to happen. And yeah, that spot suddenly seemed not so inconspicuous now. The good news? The squeak was gone. The bad news? Our guest bedroom floor was now a potential tetanus risk.

See that line coming from the hole? That’s where my drill screeched across the floor when the head popped off. It was kinda funny when it happened.

I tried and tried and tried to get the damn thing to move with pliers. I pried, I plied, I twisted, I blistered. It would not budge. So I did what any other home improvement professional such as myself would do – I threw a little blanket over it and walked away.

A few days later I decided to borrow my dad’s dremel and try grinding the screw down enough to where it wouldn’t leave any puncture wounds if someone stepped on it. Since I already had a screw head fly past my face, I figured eye protection might be a good idea and all I had were my gigantic sunglasses so I put them on, got down on the floor in my pajamas and got to work. While grinding, I was a little afraid of the floor catching on fire because the screw would get super hot (not sure if it could actually happen but I had already maimed the floor enough to not bother finding out) so I worked at it in installments and ultimately got it pretty level with the floor. And I may or may not have broken one of the dremel attachments – shocking, I know. Yes, that’s Hulk with an ‘h’. And I am happy to report our floor is no longer a health hazard.

After all this I went back to using nails when I moved on to the living room floor (you didn’t think I gave up at that point, did you?) because I figured it was safer, less likely to shoot screw heads at my face, and much easier to hide fix if something else were to go horribly wrong. Which brings us to today – 3 broken drill bits are forever stuck in my floor, the wood putty I filled the holes with is 3 shades lighter than the wood, my living room kinda looks like a perforated cardboard box, and there’s a gaping hole with a broken screw sitting flush at the surface in the guest bedroom, but I did actually manage to stop one or two of the more annoying squeaks that I pass over every day.

(Seriously, how in the world is that ‘golden oak’? Someday I’ll fix that, too.)

All in all it was a horrible success.



Filed under DIY, home, ridiculousness

8 responses to “diy: how not to fix a squeaky floor

  1. Hahaha – I’m sorry, I shouldn’t laugh. But this is totally something that would happen to me – I can’t believe you had 3 drill bits break off! At least some of the squeaks are gone. Maybe you can throw a side table over the one in the guest bedroom?! 🙂

  2. Ha! We went through this same thing last year with the floors in our condo. Crazy squeaky. Steve did the “drill the nails into the floor” thing and we still have something sticking out of our floor just like you had! 🙂 Come to thing of it…I’m not really sure what the status of that is – maybe it’s covered in tape or something now?

    From others we’ve talked to, squeaky floors are probably going to continue to be squeaky floors unless you rip them out and start from scratch.

    Oh and we tried using powdered graphite as another DIY fix (have you read about this one yet?). While we were optimistic…we just ended up with squeaky floors covered with powder!

  3. Carol

    I’m laughing hysterically…you are THE BEST WRITER!!!!! And I applaud you for even trying this…but look who I’m talking about…wonder woman! That Scott is one lucky man! 🙂

  4. Hah! At least the floors don’t squeak anymore!!

  5. I love your DYI Adventures, Nachos.

  6. haha omg, that sounds like quite an adventure. The house we’re renting has some seriously squeaky floors, but I figure I probably shouldn’t do any experimenting with nails after your experience!! Glad that it helped a bit!

  7. Pingback: on being an optimistic momma | rabit stew

  8. dave

    I used squeak be gone – a similar system – it’s stops noise, the finish is not perfect but you need to buy filter that matches, clean with a rag, let it dry, and uses a floor cleaner/was on the entire floor – it’s a cheap, easy fix and end look is not noticeable unless you know it’s there or are specifically looking for it. Hardwood floor drives me nuts and screams bad quality (which is usually is unless very old) – the other option is very expensive plugs which look good but take time and must be perfectly even. I’ll take this option almost always.

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