Buying a House With Squeaky Floors (Things to Look Out For)

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To spot problems, look at the house’s age; new houses should not have squeaky floors. If the owner or agent hedge the issue of the floors, be suspicious. Spongy wood plus squeaks indicates water damage or lack of subfloor support. Ask for inspection certificates or check for open building permits.

Buying a new home can be a truly exciting—albeit daunting—time for anyone. As you walk through each room of your dream home, you start to imagine the endless possibilities that each square foot holds. That is until every step you take is met with an unruly squeaky sound.

This might make you want to run in the opposite direction, but you should keep in mind that a number of factors could play a part in making that noise, so the trick is to know what to look out for.

Not All Squeaking Floors Are a Problem

At first sight, or rather, of a squeaky floor, your first instinct might be to panic. Is it termites? Structural damage? Is the floor going to give in at my next step? Relax, because not all squeaking floors are a sign of a detrimental problem.

Firstly, if it is a relatively old house, creaks and squeaks are extremely common, and even kind of add character to the home. As the house settles, creaks and squeaks are going to happen, and a couple of loose floorboards are nothing to fret over.

Changes in the temperature and humidity levels will cause the floorboards to expand and contract, which will cause the nails in the boards to loosen over time. The squeak is what you hear when you step on the floorboard, causing it to lift where the nails have loosened, or pressing it back down onto the nails below.

If there are some gaps between the floorboards, then you will almost always hear a squeak due to the above process.

You can read more in my article: Should I worry About Squeaky Floors.

Is It a New House?

On the other hand, if it is a new house and the floorboards are squeaking, you should be seeing a major red flag as it can be an indication of a building defect.

If there is squeaking in your new home, it could be caused by improper installation of the subfloor. The sounds are an indication that the nails are not correctly securing the subfloor to the framing of the room. When you walk across the floor, the nails attach and detach the entire time, causing squeaky noise.

You will definitely need to sort out the problem ASAP. Call the builder of the home, or another construction worker to install screws along the framing so that the floorboards are reinforced. Even if the cause of the squeaks is not immediately dangerous, they should not exist in a brand new construction.

Sometimes, squeaky floors in a new home will be covered under warranty, so don’t wait to let your contractor know about the noise.

Do the Boards Sink?

When you step on the boards, do they just squeak, or do you feel them sinking beneath your foot? A sinking, soft, or spongy board or area of the floor accompanied by squeaks (or not accompanied by squeaks, for that matter), can indicate water damage or insufficient subfloor support.

Look for this in areas near the water heater, washer, windows, doors, basins, etc.

How Does Owner/Agent Talk About the Squeaks?

When you are seeing houses that could potentially be your new home, the previous homeowner or the real estate agent should tell you everything you need to know about the house, and how they approach the squeaks can sometimes guide you in how concerned you should be.

I say sometimes because real estate agents especially will be very adept at setting your mind at rest and making you feel like they are on your side even though they have been employed by the owner.

Real Estate Agent in Front of Blank Sign and House

If you were fully informed on the squeaky floors—if they are attributed to old age or are admittedly indications of deeper problems—then you will be able to make a decision on whether you want to take on the task of making the changes that will reduce or eliminate the squeak completely, should you choose to purchase the home.

If the agent or owner does not mention the squeaking specifically until you happen to bring it up, or they downplay the severity of it, then you should start to be concerned. They could be well aware of the issues of the home, and are choosing to hide them from you in order to make a sale.

If the agent offers to get an inspector in for you to make sure that all is well with the flooring, then you can relax a bit as the inspector won’t lie to you. Don’t turn down the inspection though! They may be hoping the offer was enough and that you won’t call their bluff.

If the squeak is quite unbearable, but you just love the house as a whole, then perhaps the agent or owner will offer to drop the sale price in order for you to make the necessary improvements when you move in.

Indications of Deeper Problems

Squeaky floorboards might not be purely attributed to the house’s age or the change in humidity levels, but could actually be indications of deeper problems.

Issues with the Floor Joists

Floor joists help make up the framing of the home. Therefore, they are very important for the stability and structure of the home. If your floorboards squeak the whole year, despite the weather, or there are certain areas that are very squeaky, then there could be issues with the floor joists.

If your floor joists are not even and flat, then the subflooring will not be sufficiently supported and when nailed down, it will be quite bumpy and uneven. Over time, a gap will develop between the floor boards. When someone steps on them, the unstable floorboard will move, causing a squeaking noise.

Brick room with unstable looking wooden floors

If the joists themselves are cracked or broken, then creaking can also occur.

Improper Installation

The general way to install flooring is with the use of screws and glues. First, glue should be placed on the subfloor in a long line, then the floorboard needs to be placed over it quickly, and flattened. After this, the screws can be installed to secure the floorboards into the joists.

However, if the floorboards are not placed on the glue quick enough—the glue will not adhere properly because it will already be semi-dry. The floorboards won’t be secured enough, so creaking can occur.

Another issue from poor installation is when the contractor uses a nail gun to install the boards. Sometimes, the contractor may be in a rush and will just use the nail gun quickly, not paying attention, which could cause the nails to not anchor sufficiently to the joists, making the boards squeak.

Subfloor Issues

If you floor creaks or squeaks quite badly when you walk on it, or put a lot of weight on it, it could be due to issues with your subfloor.

If your subfloor is uneven, then it may have gaps between the joists and the subfloor, then when someone walks on it, the subfloor bends downwards and causes a squeak.

Signs of Termites

Sometimes, structural issues are not linked to poor construction, but rather to the interference of pesky termites. Some signs of termites include piles of sawdust, holes in carpeting, and hollow-sounding boards. You can read more in Are Squeaky Floors a Sign of Termites.

Ask for Inspection Certificates

If you are really worried about the squeaks that are emanating through the house as you walk through it, then it is definitely in your best interests to ask the agent for inspection certificates.

If the house has been efficiently (and recently!) inspected, then the certificates will prove that the condition of the floors and its structures have been thoroughly evaluated and are in compliance with laws and regulations.

Approved Concept on File Label

If the inspector has picked up the squeaking floors and has attributed it to a specific cause, then the current owners of the home should fix it for you before you buy the house. If they don’t, then it will be up to you to rectify the situation, which can be costly and time-consuming.

Luckily though, inspectors usually force contractors to provide the utmost quality of work to avoid fines and re-doing of work.

If the squeaking floor is located in a remodeled section of the home, then you can also check to see if there are any open building permits for the house. If the permit is open, it likely means that a final inspection was not done, so you should steer clear of that house.


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