Squeaky floors may not be an issue for you but for your downstairs neighbor it could feel like they are in a teen horror movie all day long. Alternatively, you could be so aware of every squeak and creak and your neighbor’s complaint has confirmed the worst.
Either way, when it reaches the point that your neighbors bring up the subject, it’s time to look at solutions that are within your reach. It’s also important to know how to handle your neighbor. There are too many horror stories about people tyrannizing their upstairs neighbors with threats of legal action.
When a downstairs neighbor complains about squeaky floors, the complaint should be handled respectfully. Squeaky floors should be addressed to whatever extent is reasonable. This may be removing shoes, laying carpet, or fixing the squeaks. If the neighbor’s demands get unreasonable, involve building managers.
Handling the Downstairs Neighbor
If you own or rent an upstairs condominium, it is easy to get caught up in giving it a new facelift and envisioning all the new memories that are coming along with it. But it is a shared space, and you also need to consider your downstairs neighbors at far as is reasonably practicable.
So, better brush up on those people skills because they are going to come in handy!
Attitude to Adopt With Neighbor
Remember, first impressions are the most important. Establishing a good base with your neighbors from the beginning helps pave the way for the rest of the relationship. You should be friendly with your neighbors and show that you respect their space and are considerate.
It is also best to have open communication with one another during your residency as it prevents misunderstandings and issues can be dealt with while in their minor stages before it escalates into a worse situation.
A movie that you may want to consider giving a watch for fun is the comedy blockbuster Duplex, which may give you an entertaining perspective of what it is like to be a downstairs neighbor.
With that being said, your neighbors should reciprocate this respect. Don’t give the impression that you are going to be that pushover neighbor who they feel they can complain to about every inconvenience that comes with downstairs living. They cannot expect complete silence from you, especially if the apartment is an older one that has more squeaks and less soundproofing.
Confirm There is a Legitimate Issue
If you do receive a complaint about squeaky floors, make sure to go and investigate it yourself. Sometimes neighbors confuse noises with different parts of the apartment building.
Because you are a considerate neighbor, make sure to schedule a day and time that your neighbors are comfortable with having you in their space, they will feel appreciative and more willing to cooperate throughout the process should you discover any issues.
It may be a good idea to record (granted your neighbors permit you to do so) while investigating where the squeaking is coming from, don’t rely on information from your neighbors. It will also help you if you decide to look back onto which areas are the problematic ones and can be handy if matters escalate.
If you live alone, ask a friend to walk throughout the apartment and mark problematic areas with duct tape when you notice any noises downstairs. It may be worthwhile to ask a friend that is of similar stature or larger to put your floors to the test and you can get accurate information.
Check Improvements After Each Solution
Once again, open communication is key. If your chosen strategy to fix the squeaky floors involves temporarily bringing in more noise or requiring constant access into your neighbors’ space, then you need to let them know.
Maybe meeting up and putting together a schedule that you both can agree on could be the best way to consider everyone’s time and to get the job done as swiftly as possible.
Before getting started, try to make sure to thoroughly research adequate strategies so as not to delay the process as nobody likes to live on a construction site. Try to minimalize any stress and the less they are involved in physically fixing the problem, the better.
Keep a Record of Communications With Neighbor
Keeping track of what has been communicated between you and your neighbor is an important thing to do. We are not saying you need to have a scribe every time you visit your neighbors, but you need to make note of agreements, dates, times, and issues.
Always have a paper trail, whether it be through text messaging or emails because the spoken word is very easy to manipulate. With so many things that go on in people’s lives, it’s easy to forget what was said on which day and to whom, so to have something to go back to and recollect what happened is a must.
If Matters Escalate, Involve Building Managers
If you are lucky, you may have understanding and cooperative neighbors from the get-go, but sometimes your neighbors can be the non-understanding type. If you’ve attempted everything within your power to work together with your neighbors on the issues they have raised, then you may need to resort to involving building managers.
Now, usually, there are much more serious things that come with apartment living that push someone to take legal action. But taking legal action against your neighbor for not fixing the squeaky floors may be one of those things. Although it is not a health hazard or causing harm to your neighbors, if the noise is proven to be beyond normal (unlikely), they can decide to sue.
Handling the Floor
Let’s not forget the real reason why we need to have such neighbor relations. The squeaky floors. Why do floors squeak?
Usually, it is because of the subflooring (floor underneath your finished floor) separating from floor joists (forms part of the floor frame under the subfloor) due to warping of the subfloor material (usually plywood).
It could also be from the wood of wooden floors rubbing against one another as wood absorbs humidity and expands.
An Inspection May Be Worthwhile
Unless you are a professional contractor or you have had experience with home maintenance, it is probably a smart idea to look into hiring a home inspector.
A home inspector will be able to see if there is anything more to a simple squeaky floor than meets the eye. With an untrained eye, it may just be uneven floorboards, but an inspector will be able to look deeper. Maybe the warping of the subfloor material is due to water damage from a leaking pipe in the wall.
Maybe the areas that the squeaks are coming from are problematic areas where you can’t just go through with your chosen strategy. An inspector would also be able to give you proper facts about what is causing the noises instead of implementing a trial-and-error strategy that may cause problems elsewhere in the apartment.
An average home inspection can cost around $340. It may be a cost now, but it will probably avoid more costly problems in the future.
Try Introducing Some Carpeting/Rugs
One way to try to minimize or cancel out the noise from the constant squeaking is through installing carpets or adding rugs to your apartment as they are good sound proofers and the cheapest methods. You can also place decorative pieces or furniture on these rugs preventing people from walking in that area and thus no more squeaking.
However, if your apartment is fully carpeted already, it’s a little tricky. You would need to locate the problematic area and either remove or replace your current carpet completely to fix the floor underneath. Or you can cut a small flap using a utility knife, fix the floor, and flatten it back to its normal state.
Other soundproofing methods that lean towards the more costly side of things include adding soundproof floor underlayment on top of your subfloor or installing mass-loaded vinyl (MVL) underneath your floorboards as you would an underlayment.
Remember, all methods are like putting on a band-aid. It isn’t going to fix the problem, but it can help with reducing the noise until you fix it accordingly.
Fixing the Squeaks: Shims, Screws, and Glue
Using Shims and Glue
Shims are thin or wedged pieces of materials that can fill these gaps and create a more leveled surface. This method involves wedging shims into the gaps or grooves that are between the subflooring material and the joists.
The thinner part of the shims is gently hammered into these gaps, and the section that sticks out and is not wedged is cut off using a utility knife. Construction adhesive is also applied within these gaps to enhance subfloor stability, preventing movement of the subfloor while walking over it. Here is an easy video demonstrating how to apply shims.
This is a more invasive method as you would need to be underneath your floorboard to do this. This means you would need to be in your downstairs neighbors apartment to fix your floors, which may not be ideal.
If the subfloor and furnished floor are becoming separated, then using a screw to tighten them together will help. It may be better to use screws as they have grooves and the subfloor material or flooring will not budge. However, if you are using nails, the subfloor material may slide against the smoothened nail shaft and contribute to the squeaking.
Remember, the heads of screws may be an eyesore and, if exposed, can be painful for victims with no shoes.
Sprinkling some talcum powder on your floors within the gaps around the nails, will stop the rubbing between the wood and the nail shaft. However, this is only a temporary fix.
Hire a Professional
As it may be beneficial to hire a home inspector to investigate where the squeaks come from and the severity of the case, it may also be worthwhile to hire a building contractor, or in this case, a carpenter to repair your floors.
Most methods of repair may require extensive manual labor, especially if you may need to replace the entire floorboard or remove your current carpet to make necessary repairs. Some jobs can even be dangerous. If you are not aware or have experience with floor repairs, you may land up drilling a screw into nearby electrical wiring or water pipes.
The average price to hire a professional can average about $350. However, the hiring costs may be subject to change according to the various factors such as how big the job is, how easy it is to access the problem, and if there will need to be involvement from other contractors, such as plumbers or electricians.
If your walking is too loud for your neighbor and they are complaining about that as well, or if they switch from squeaky floors to stomping as their reason for knocking on your door with a complaint, then you can try some of the methods from my articles Downstairs Neighbor Complaining About Walking (Easy solution) and How to Walk Quietly in an Apartment (Your Neighbors will thank you).