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New houses may squeak a little for the first few months as they settle, but this should resolve itself, and the new house should be squeak-free. If new houses have squeaky floors, it is likely as a result of poor construction and/or poor-quality fasteners.
It is a common assumption (one made even when we know better) that a new house will be perfect in all its construction. All those years in a home that creaked, squeaked, cracked, snapped, and rattled—well, you expect your new house to be as silent as a vacuum. But this is seldom ever the case. No, you are usually left to wonder which of the cacophony of sounds are normal and which ones mean that you need to have the contractors back in.
Probably the most disheartening sound you can hear in a new house is the squeak of your new floor. Many contractors will try to tell you that this is completely normal, and it can be. However, there is also the chance that it is not normal and needs to be addressed. Moreover, even if the squeaks are not ominous, they may be unnecessary.
Reasons Why Floors Squeak
Large Humidity Fluctuations
If your floors are squeaking, the most common reason is relative humidity levels in your home ranging too widely.
Wood flooring, whether this is hardwood top floors or wooden subfloors, is susceptible to contraction and expansion in response to decreasing and increasing air moisture content respectively. When the relative humidity in a home remains within an acceptable range, typically 35-55%, then the resultant contraction and expansion are too minor to cause issues or to be noticeable.
However, if the relative humidity ranges widely, then you start to see the effects.
In the dry season, your floors will develop relatively large gaps between the panels. They also shrink around the fastener, making the board loose enough to slide up and down against the nail or screw and cause a squeaky sound.
When you are experiencing spells of wet weather, then the humidity of the air rises, and more water is available to be absorbed by the wood flooring. As the swollen wooden panels press against each other and against the subfloor and joists, it causes friction and squeaking.
Over time, the constant expansion and contraction of the wood can cause it to permanently warp.
Identifying Weather-Related Squeaks
You can identify squeaks due to change in the weather by the location and timing of squeaking. If the squeaking seems to be on all the floors of your house, then it is likely to be weather-related. If it occurs only when the weather has been rainy for a time, then this is likely the cause.
Poorly Sealed Boards
Wood flooring should be protected against the absorption of water to some extent, which limits contraction and expansion and, therefore, squeaking.
However, if your flooring has not been sealed properly, then any moisture in the, spilled water, cleaning water, etc., can be absorbed and cause expansion and rubbing together, which can result in squeaking.
Identifying Unsealed Wood-Related Squeaks
As the amount of moisture entering the panels is unrestrained, you will likely notice warping and a spongy feeling as you walk over the floor. Areas by doors, windows, and sinks or basins will likely squeak the most.
Top Floor Not Connected to Subfloor
Time, as well as poor workmanship, can result in the top floor coming loose from the subfloor. Without this anchoring, the two levels can rub against each other freely, causing squeaking. The nails can also squeak as they move in and out of the floor above or below.
Alternatively, the two levels can be so far apart that the top floor panels bend in places that they should not and put excess pressure in spots that were not designed to withstand these pressures. The end result is stress-related creaking and squeaking.
This kind of squeaking is dangerous and needs to be fixed as soon as possible.
The top floor needs to be re-anchored to the subfloor with better fasteners. If nails were used before, my recommendation would be to switch to good-quality screws.
Identifying Loose Flooring-Related Squeaks
If the squeaks seem to be localized and/or there seem to be soft spots on your floor, then this can indicate that the two layers of flooring have come apart. Furthermore, these squeaks are not likely to go away and can become worse over time.
Poorly Constructed Subflooring
The subfloor may be:
- Made of poor quality materials
- Not secured to the framing properly.
- Off-center from the joists.
Any of these factors will contribute to a large section of flooring being squeaky as the boards rub against things that they should be secured to, move in directions they should not be, take pressure in places not designed to handle the weight, etc.
Identifying Subfloor-Related Squeaking
If the squeaking seems localized but to a larger area, it may be a problem with the subfloor. This is also a squeaking that is unlikely to go away and likely to grow steadily worse.
New Houses Should Not Have Squeaky Floors
Based on the above-provided reasons for squeaky floors, it is safe to say that your new house should not be squeaking when you walk on the floors. The new flooring should be in very good condition. Its integrity should be at its peak and therefore, it should not make any sort of sound.
- As far as fluctuations in the weather, new flooring should be more resistant to expansion and contraction due to its new conditions.
- If installed correctly, there should be no squeaking due to boards rubbing against each other. This problem is more likely to occur when the floorboards are subjected to years of wear and tear.
- The same goes for the subfloor. As long as the subfloor is of decent quality and is installed correctly, there should be no problems with it.
It is possible that squeakiness will occur after the installation of the flooring, but this is because the house needs time to settle. If your new home’s flooring is squeaky, give it some time to settle before becoming concerned.
However, if instead of improving, the squeaking gets worse over time in your new home, there is definitely something wrong with how the flooring was installed. If you are looking to buy a new house and the floors in the new development are squeaking, then you should seriously consider looking elsewhere for your new home.
For more information on abnormal squeaking, I have written an article on Should I Worry About Squeaky Floors.
If you rent your home from someone, they will likely be grateful to know about the squeaking so that they can contract the contractor regarding repairs. It’s also best to do so as soon as possible, because if the landlord can’t repair the floors at the contractor’s cost, then unless there is structural damage endangering habitability, they will not repair the squeaks for you. Furthermore, they will likely not be obligated to do so.
Is My Contractor Liable for Fixing the Squeak?
If a new home still has squeaky floors a few months after the flooring has been installed, it is a good idea to contact your contractor. There is no reason to put up with squeaky flooring, even if the contractor asserts that the sound is normal or that it is not dangerous.
Your contractor is liable for fixing the squeak since it was their faulty installation that caused it.
It is likely to be a subfloor problem where the subfloor is not secured to the framing properly by nails. The squeaking is coming from the nails sliding in and out.
Fixing the subfloor is not an easy or cheap task. If there is carpet, it must be rolled back and each and every nail must be exchanged for a screw. The floors may need to be entirely replaced for this repair.
Sometimes, contractors who know that they have cut corners try to put you off until your construction warranty is up.
If your contractor is not taking responsibility, you can contact the state agency that licenses contractors. Hiring a qualified home inspector can also support your findings as well as possibly find more problems that the contractor should amend.
Another factor you have to consider when deciding whether or not to fight for one or two parts of a floor that squeak, is whether you have downstairs neighbors. You don’t want to start having to deal with a complaining neighbor on top of the squeaks.
How to Stop New Construction From Squeaking
Newly constructed floors shouldn’t squeak, but there is a chance that they may. There are several ways to prevent squeaking in new floors and prevent worsening of squeaking.
One would be to counteract humidity. As said before, humidity should be at 35-55% in your house. Too high of humidity can cause floorboards to expand while too low of humidity can cause them to shrink. Either way, squeaking will occur.
If the humidity in your home is too high, you can purchase a dehumidifier (amazon link), or, if you link in an area that has naturally extremely high humidity, you might benefit from installing whole-house dehumidification as part of your HVAC system.
If your humidity is too low, a humidifier (amazon link) should do the trick.
A great way to prevent squeaking is to use screws instead of nails to fasten the subfloor to the floor. Nails not fastened securely can cause squeaking, but screws shouldn’t budge.
Blocks, Shims, and Adhesive
If after construction, some joists seem to be noisier than others, further squeaking can be prevented by placing wood blocks between the joists.
Be sure to use the same lumber as what was used for the existing joists. 2” by 8” blocks should work since your joists are most like to to be 2” by 8” lumber.
Two or three of these blocks with adhesive between the subfloor and the blocks and screwed into the joists should solve your noisy joist problem.
If there seem to be gaps in between joists and the subfloor, shims can be glued to close small gaps like these.
For longer gaps between joists and the subfloor, a shim won’t solve much. In this situation, food adhesive applied with a caulk gun will limit movement in the floors and therefore squeaking.
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