Nothing makes you feel like an old cartoon villain like trying to avoid squeaky hardwood flooring. The difficulty comes when you are renting, and the landlord is not getting on board with getting the flooring fixed.
While I think it’s always a good idea to participate in ninja training, there are some alternative physical interventions or additions to walking quietly in your apartment. The goal would be to have the landlord address the root of the problem, but if that isn’t happening, you can try and brace or pad the floor to decrease the noise.
A landlord is responsible for making repairs to the floor; however, this isn’t always a simple matter. In the meantime, utilize shims, talcum powder, nails, or rugs for temporary or non-invasive fixes to stop the boards from squeaking through bracing, lubrication, or sound dampening.
Try to Get Your Landlord to Fix It
The ultimate prize for squeaky hardwood floors would be to get the real reason behind the squeaking fixed instead of having to make do with less effective, non-invasive options or adjusting the way that you walk.
This is because the root of the squeaking is from loose, cracked, or warped floorboards, loose subflooring, loose nails, or rubbing between the wood and the joists below. To actually fix any of these issues, you need to get into the floor and make proper repairs.
You need to check your rental agreement for the rules and responsibilities concerning fixing problems, but flooring is considered a major issue and is the responsibility of the landlord to fix, but typically only if there are accompanying signs that you should be worried about the squeaks.
You should request the repair in writing. Mention how the floor is being damaged, which could result in costly repairs and replacements in the future, and if the floor is lifting in any way, be sure to note the potential tripping hazard. Injured renters are not good in any circumstance.
If all your requests are being denied, you can look into mediation agencies. If you are truly having a problem with the landlord not upholding their side of the agreement, you could escalate it by reporting them to your local housing agency or even taking them to small claims court.
Your Best Bet: Shims
The floor can be squeaking because there are loose floorboards. An easy way to help with this, without repairing the causative structural damage, is to use shims.
Shims are wedges of wood (or other material) that act as a spacer or support. Using these on the floor would brace the wooden planks and secure them to prevent the creaking that occurs when they shift.
If you have access to the subfloor, you will need a buddy to help you locate the squeaky section from below. Be careful to make sure that it is safe to enter the space, and don’t forget to take a torch!
You will need to locate the section of the floor where the boards are loose and then glue the shims into place. You can also use caulk to help fill in larger gaps.
Gently insert the shims between the planks and the joists, where there are gaps. Be careful not to be too rough and create bigger gaps, and it might be helpful to check that the shims are placed where they help the squeaking before removing them and reinserting the plank with a bit of wood or carpenter’s glue.
It doesn’t involve a lot of work, but there are a few things you will need for the project:
Use Talcum Powder in the Cracks
When the wood floor rubs on the joists underneath, the resulting friction creates the creaking you hear as you walk across the spot.
Talcum powder is a good way to temporarily lubricate the floor if the squeaking comes from the wooden planks rubbing on the joists. The powder getting into the floorboards will help reduce the noise by reducing friction.
All you need to do is get some talcum powder, like the Fasco Epoxies Inc Pure Talc Powder Quart (amazon link), and then you sprinkle this onto the floorboards and walk it into the floor. Repeat this until you notice a decrease in the squeaking.
If you are worried about tracking powder footprints through the house or slipping, just place a towel over the area while the powder is being walked in.
Although this is temporary, you can also repeat the whole process over and over to keep the squeak away until the landlord can address the problem. So, don’t be shy about how much talcum powder you purchase!
Important note: do not do this without receiving written permission from the landlord first!
If the floor is squeaking because of loose or missing nails from the floorboards, you might be able to take care of it. Check your rental agreement and apply for permission from your landlord. This would require you to get under the floor and feel the nails around the squeaking area. Any missing or loose nails can be replaced.
Hammer the nails through the floorboard and into the joists. This will secure the boards back into place.
For a more secure job, use screws.
Use Carpeting/Rugs to Mask the Sound
Using carpets or rugs is not a way to fix the squeaking, but it can certainly help to dampen the sound. The same way that carpeting and rugs can muffle footsteps, they can also muffle the noise of squeaking hardwood.
It is a good option for rentals where you are limited in what you can do aside from telling the landlord it needs to be addressed.
You can also add rug pads, such as the Vellax Non-Slip Rug Pad Gripper (amazon link), which will help prevent the rug from slipping around the wooden floor and add an extra layer of padding to help dampen the squeaks.