How to Fix a Squeaky Floor Under Carpet (4 Top Reasons)

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how to fix squeaky floor under carpet

How many times have you stepped on your floor, heard it squeak or creak and told yourself it is just the house settling?

While this can be the case, unless your house is on a moving foundation or less than 3 years old, it probably isn’t.

A squeaking subfloor can be a sign or stress, damage or worse. It is important to check it out and make any repairs before the issue gets out of hand or grows more expensive.

The good news is that it is a fairly simple process to find out what is the underlying cause of the noisy subfloor and the repairs may not be that bad. This article will cover that process and help you identify and fix a squeaky floor under your carpet.

Top Reasons a Subfloor Can Squeak

Most flooring squeaks are not a sign of damage, but instead, loose boards. But where do they come from?

  • Improper installation. The biggest cause is poor initial installation of the subfloor to the joist, either not using the right nails or too few nails.
  • Heavy traffic. Flooring that gets a lot of foot traffic and heavy items on it can cause the floorboards to flex, causing a squeak.
  • Rubbing. Noises and squeaks can also be caused when loose floorboards rub together.
  • Structural shifting. In most cases the issue is simple, but there are also times when structural damage occurs, a cracked or shifted foundation, for example, that causes an uneven floor.

Do You Need to Remove Carpet?

do you need to remove carpet

This is a judgment call in many cases and you will need to thoroughly evaluate your situation before you decide. With carpet removal, you don’t remove the entire carpet, instead only pull up one or two edges.

However, if the squeak is near the center of the room or in multiple areas, it can be difficult to get the carpet taught and back in place properly.

There are methods of fixing certain squeaks without having to remove the carpet and we will touch on those differences below. If, however, you plan a full DIY repair of a squeaky floor, it is advised to do so expecting to remove the carpet.

Hiring a Professional

Should you feel the need to hire a professional, you wouldn’t be out of line. Flooring can be a tricky thing to repair and when carpet is involved, not many homeowners have the proper tools or knowledge to re-stretch and reinstall carpeting.

Finding a local contractor to do the repairs and carpet handling can also be tough. You want someone trustworthy, reasonably priced and local. Our pro finder tool is free to use and will help you find the ideal contractor. You can give it a try right now and have estimates as early as tomorrow.

How to Fix a Squeaky Subfloor

how to fix a squeaky subfloor

There are several methods to repairing a squeaky floor under your carpet and many of them can be done easily enough. If you have access to the underside of your flooring where the joists are, the process is even easier.

In the sub sections below, we will look at various methods of tightening up subfloor, joists and floorboards. Find the best option for your needs and follow along to remove that squeak once and for all.

Identify the Noise Area

One of the most difficult aspects is finding the area that is actually causing the squeak. For example, if you walk from the living room into the kitchen and the floor squeaks underfoot, it may actually be caused by a warp near your sofa.

Replicating the squeak over and over again will help you determine if it is a loose floorboard, joist spacing or a warp, crack or other issue. More importantly, though, it will help you find the exact spot that is in need of repair.

Once you find the location you will notice if it is in the center of the room or near the edge. This will help you determine if carpet removal is required or even needed. Or if you should use a method of repair that leaves the carpet in place.

Root Cause

While the cause of a creak or squeak can be almost anything, the constant noises are generally caused by one of three things. The most common is when floorboards rub together because one or more have come loose from their initial nailing.

Second is when a bridging between the joists flexes under traffic or weight. And finally when the subfloor isn’t properly secured to the joists underneath. Each root cause has a specific fix so finding the reason will lower your time on the project and make the repairs last longer.

Carpet Removal (If Needed)

If you do need to remove the carpet it is best to call a professional. However as a DIY project this is most often needed when the creaky area is near the edge of the room. You can pull the edge of the carpeting up from the tack strip along the baseboard, but the baseboards may need to be removed first.

Most carpet is tacked at the edges and laid on top of a carpet pad. It is pulled tight without the use of glue or adhesives, but this isn’t always the case. Some installers will use spray adhesive on the top of the carpet pad to help keep the carpet stable during install.

When you pull the carpet up, pull from an edge or corner and use slow, steady strokes. You only want to pull up enough to give you access to the subfloor where the squeak occurs.

The carpet pad may be glued down and will need extra care to remove in one piece. if the padding does tear or rip it isn’t usually required to be replaced, but you don’t want to leave holes or gaps when replacing the carpet.

Shim Repairs

If you have access to the underside of your flooring, shims can be the quickest and easiest repair method for a squeaky floor. This method involves using wooden shims, wood glue and a claw hammer.

You want to locate the joist where the floorboards have lifted and place a shim in the gap. Using a dab of wood glue on the shim will help keep it in place.

Use a claw hammer to gently tap the shim into the gap. Be careful, though, not to push the shim in too far. This can cause lifting of the floorboards, an uneven floor above and even more creaks and squeaks in other areas.

Cleat Repairs

If the creaking spans more than a single joist or is from multiple floorboards being loose, a shim may not be enough. In this case you want to use a cleat.

Cleats are simply pieces of wood screwed to the underside of the floorboards between the joists. They act as a bridge and give structural support as well as more facing area to hold nails and screws.

Cut your cleat from a 1×4 that is snug between two joist beams. Screw the cleat into the joists and then add a few screws into the floorboards. Use smaller nails that will grip into the floorboards but not long enough to exit the top of the flooring.

When installing the cleat, make sure that it is flush and wedged against the floorboards above. The extra pressure from the cleat lumber to the floor above will help prevent the movement and creaking when walked on.

Pull Down (Screw) Repairs

If the issue is from loose floorboards you can pull the tight from underneath, provided you have the access. Similar to a cleat, you will use a screw to pull the floorboards taught against the subfloor.

This process takes a little more time and steady hand. It also takes a second person on the floor above.

First, locate the creaking floorboards and use a 1×4 to secure against the subfloor underneath. Drill a pilot hole through the 1×4 into the subfloor. Make a second pilot hole through the first but smaller, into the finished floor on the top.

Using small screws screw through the pilot holes while your partner stands on the boards above. The screw should be long enough to grab the finished floor and pull it down without going all the way through.

Push Down (Nail) Repairs

If you do not have access to the underside of the floor and do not want to remove the carpet or subfloor, this is your only real option.

You will need a drill with a small drill bit for pilot holes and a good idea where the joists are located. You will also need smooth shank nails, nail setters and a hammer.

Locate the creaking area and use the drill to make pilot holes through the carpet. Once you locate the joists and drive a nail directly through the carpet, subfloor and into the joists. Use the nail setters to countersink the nails.

Countersinking will pull the carpet and carpet pad from under the nail head and allow the carpet to remain flush and even. The small holes won’t be noticeable after a vacuum cycle or two.

Frequently Asked Questions

faq fix a squeaky floor under carpet

In this section we will answer some of the most common questions about squeaking floor repairs. If you have other questions, please use the comment section below.

Q. Will carpet installers fix squeaky floors?

A. In most cases well reputable and professional carpet installers will repair squeaky floors before they lay carpet. In many cases they can also be called to fix a squeaky floor, even if they did not originally install the carpet.

Q. Do I need to worry if my floor squeaks?

A. Squeaky flooring is a nuisance but doesn’t usually indicate a major issue. Overtime, if the creaking is caused by loose floorboards, the nails can poke through the carpet as they are raised. However, this is not an indication of pest or vermin infestation and only needs to be repaired to ease your frustration.

Q. How much does it cost to repair a creaking subfloor?

A. The actual cost will vary based on the amount of work that needs to be done, where the squeak is located and the root cause of the noise. Average costs for squeak repairs on subflooring ranges between $300 and $800. 

Q. How long do squeaky floor repairs usually take?

A. You can expect a professional repair to take a couple of hours. If you are performing the repairs yourself, the time can vary from a few hours to a couple of days, depending on your skill level and available time.

Conclusion

Squeaking subfloors or loose floorboards can be a frustrating issue in your home. While the cause can be from several different things, the fixes are all pretty straightforward and simple.

Having access to the underside of the floor is ideal for most repairs, but you can repair the creaking right through the carpeting, if needed. Hopefully this guide has shown you what you need and what you can expect as well as if you want to take on the project yourself or hire it out.

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AUTHOR

Nora has more than 5 years experience in the floor covering industry, acquiring vast knowledge about installation and material selection. She now enjoys working as a writer and an interior decorator. Her work has been featured in The Spruce, Homes & Gardens, Southern Living and Real Homes. See full biography here.

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