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Squeaky floors in a new build should be covered under the warranty unless there is a specific stipulation saying that they are not. Even squeaks that are not caused by structurally dangerous issues should be covered if the squeaks are the result of poor workmanship or low-quality materials.
When moving into a new place, we want everything to be perfect. Sometimes, it’s a nightmare to get the contractors back for the finishing touches or the final issues once they have moved on to a new project. So, with the warranty ticking away, when squeaking floors ruin the ambiance, it’s important to know what, legally, you can do about them.
Building companies that refuse to fix squeaking floors have been the cause of legal battles in the past. Let’s hope it doesn’t get to that point for you, but either way, it’s important to know your rights when it comes to squeaking floors and getting them fixed by your contractor.
Some Squeaking Is Normal in New Houses
You’ve just moved into a brand-new home. It’s a perfectly clean slate with white walls and clean floors. And then you notice the squeaky floors.
Nothing can ruin the serenity of a newly built home quite like noisy floorboards and the constant question of why they are squeaking.
You should note that some squeaking in a newly constructed home is usually not a big deal. It is usually just an indication that the house is settling in and compressing the ground beneath it. However, this type of squeaking should only last for a few months, and it should not get worse. If you notice persistent squeaking or squeaking that gets worse over time, it usually indicates a construction concern.
Continued Squeaking Indicates Poor Construction
Sometimes builders like to cut corners. This means using worse materials for the job or doing the job halfway.
Squeaking floors are often a symptom of loose subflooring that is not attached well to the joists beneath it. There are certain shortcuts builders take that can lead to loosened subfloors.
Loose subfloor is often a result of builders using nails rather than screws to secure the subfloor into place. Screws create a much stronger hold due to the presence of threads, but they take longer and are more expensive to use, so many builders will use nails instead.
Builders may also choose to use lower-quality materials for the subfloor that are less expensive but that wear out more quickly. A material like particle board seems like an effective choice, but it will wear out faster than an alternative like plywood, and this can lead to squeaking floors in a “young” house.
If you rent your house from someone else, inform them that the floors are squeaking and ask them to get in touch with the construction company. Your landlord will very likely wish to get this fixed under warranty before it falls to their cost. However, some landlords will not (and don’t have to) pay to fix squeaky floors unless they are dangerous, so you might have to be the driving force behind getting the contractor back in.
Warranty Terms Vary
If you used a specific flooring company, you will be subject to their warranties. Since you signed a contract with them, you will need to check the conditions, because they vary. If you used a building firm, then their warranties will apply.
In either case, you will have to read through the contracts and see what is covered. If they specifically mention squeaky floors are excluded, and you signed, you have to accept that there is no legal reason for the company to fix your squeaking floors. A possible exception is if the floors are structurally unsound, but you’d have to prove this.
If they don’t mention squeaky floors at all, then you can push the issue. Don’t harass them; be respectful but direct and see how far this can take you. They may be willing to fix them if you give them a reason to believe it was their poor construction.
If they specifically mention that squeaky floors are covered, you are good! There should be no reason for them to fight back on the issue. Getting them to commit to a date when they can come back, however, is a whole other kettle of fish!
Tarion’s Policy on Squeaking Floors
The popular company Tarion is often used for home warranties, and they have an explicit section on the coverage offered for squeaking floors.
The company allows for some squeaks due to settling and shrinking of materials after construction and squeaks caused by extreme weather changes. However, it does cover squeaks caused by loose and, therefore, poorly constructed floor systems.
Since dry weather is so often a cause of squeaky floors, Tarion will not cover squeaking floors unless a proper level of humidity is maintained inside the house.
This means that if you want to be compensated for squeaking floors by this company, you must make sure the issue is not dryness first, so you should run a few humidifiers if the air is dry at the time.
Builders May Try to Put You Off
Fixing your squeaking floors is going to cost the builder money that they don’t want to spend, so when you first approach them about it, they will likely tell you that squeaking is normal. Particularly if their warranty terms do not exclude repairing squeaky floors, they will want to reassure you that they do not need to be fixed.
However, if the problem remains consistent or gets worse, you need to be persistent with them. The squeaking floors are not only a nuisance for you but could potentially be a sign of a deeper issue.
Since the squeaking floors are covered in your warranty, you have every right to bother your builder about them until they get fixed. Especially when it was their faulty construction that caused them in the first place.
Keep Record of Notifications to Builders
Make sure you notify builders of the squeaking before the warranty runs out and keep a record of this notification to come back to in the future. That way, even if they say it’s normal and push off fixing them, you can show that you did notify them within the timeframe.
Tell the builders firmly that you do not consider it sorted and off the list of fixes required until the squeaking stops.
Continue to be firm since it is their legal responsibility to fix the squeaking floors for you. They will not be able to say you missed the warrantied timeframe if you keep some sort of record of your interactions.
Get Second Opinions (Professional)
Your builders may want to hear from another authority source that your squeaking floors are a real problem. They may be more likely to listen to a professional than a client, unfortunately, and so bringing in an outside opinion might strengthen your case.
You can look to other builders, home inspectors, or landlords to confirm the floors are squeaking excessively. If you can get other professionals to provide you with unbiased opinions and they all confirm your squeaking floors are an issue or the result of poor construction, then you might be able to get further with an obstinate builder.
There Is Legal Precedent
While you would never want things to go this far, know that if the company refuses to fix squeaking floors that are covered under warranty, it is within your legal right to take the issue to court.
Do not resort to this unless you have exhausted all other courses of getting the building company to comply, but if they don’t, case law should be on your side in the issue. After all, the building company said that they would fix the floors, but they did not.
This type of lawsuit has been successful in the past, and the company ended up paying up for the dispute. But again, this is the last resort.
Australia Has Standard and Tolerance Codes
Australia has specific codes regarding squeaking floors in new homes. Squeaking floors are “defective” if they squeak regularly under common foot traffic within the first two years of buying. This means no jumping on the floors to get them to squeak, but if they squeak under normal footsteps, they are faulty, and they should be fixed by the builder.
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