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Q: We just had new floors installed in a 1 year old home, on the entire first floor, with a crawl space underneath. This is a redo job since the original floor had to be ripped up, because of major cupping due to moisture in the subfloor. Now we have new, prefinished floors (on a dry subfloor). In various locations we hear a popping or cracking sound in hardwood floors. Any ideas, before we go back to the installer?

A: This would likely be the floor shrinking. Especially if the tongue and groove are a very tight fit, any movement is likely to make a sound like that. Nothing to worry about yet. Try to keep the RH in the home as constant as possible, or avoid sudden, dramatic swings in humidity.

Follow-up Q: Thanks for the reply. What’s odd is that this started right after the installers left. We’ll keep an eye on it.

A: I’ve only had that happen on one of my installations. The tongue and groove of the pre finished floor were so tight, I could barely pull them apart when taking the boards out of the box. With a tight fit like that, any movement is going to make a noise. Hope for the best.

Related Q: We are having a new home built and the builder has installed white oak hardwood. It has not been sanded or finished yet. We currently do not have the HVAC system installed. (We have a crawl space.) We have noticed that the floors are popping and we are concerned. We want to deal with this before they continue with the hardwoods and rest of the house. Is this something that needs to be corrected before continuing? We don’t know what to do and would appreciate your input. Thank you and I will be awaiting your response.

A: At this early juncture, since the floor has only been installed I think I would have someone come in and check the condition of the floor since installation. Someone needs to put a moisture meter on the floor. If there is room to get under this crawl space, I think I would cover the dirt if that is what is there and make sure there is good ventilation so that any moist air has a way to escape besides heading up through the floor. Depending on your location, I would also consider insulating the floor. Spray foam would be the best option I’m aware of.

And for another culprit / Floors popping after installed on incorrect underlay:

Related Q: Our solid white oak wood floor was installed over the wrong underlay. I hear lots of popping when I walk on them! My wife weighs half as much as I do and they do not pop as much for her. Half of the steps I take pop. The floors were installed a few months ago and were acclimated. I was told by the second guys that came in and fixed the top coat that the other guys used the wrong underlay. They used a thick felt underlay that was supposed to be an upgrade but has made it uneven. They put a bunch of nails in it, but that has not solved the problem. It is so beautiful, but it drives me crazy to walk around my house. We spent a lot of money on it!

I was thinking of buying the squeeek no more kit or buying some screws as I think it needs to be put down securely. Thoughts? Suggestions of the best screws to use? Thank you so much for any help.

A: I haven’t heard of the ‘Squeak No More’ in quite a few years. Home Depot used to carry those once upon a time. They use a thin gauge screw which has the head snap off at a certain point leaving just a tiny hole. Whatever fastener is used you really need to find and go into the floor joists. Also if the ceiling below the floor is open you may be able to do some shimming or sub floor securing from below.

Follow-up Q: Thanks Craig. I’m pretty certain it is not the sub floor squeaking but the wood planks on top of the too thick underlay. Does that make sense? It is a brand new house but we used an underlay we should not have.

A: How thick was this underlay? If they used long enough cleats or staples and enough of them, every 7-9″ the floor should have been fine. Unless this underlay was something like, for example, a manufactured sound barrier, some of which can be about ¼” thick. If they used something like that and overlapped the joints then that would be a big mistake. If there are so many voids between the finished floor and sub floor then there may have been an issue with the sub floor.

Follow-up: Thank you for the help. I think it was this underlay: http://www.kuantumllc.com/ecommerce/product/108/100SF-Roll-Super-Felt

I don’t believe they overlapped it but I also think they used the standard length staples and did not put enough down. The guy came in and threw a ton of long finish nails in a lot of areas but there are still a bunch of squeaks. Long story short, I fired the guy that did the install after he couldn’t figure out how to sand and stain correctly. The second guys that came in did a good job sanding and staining, but said all of the creaking was from the underlay. They saw it under there for a few spots they fixed and a vents they added.

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