Clicking noises on newly installed hickory floors

Q: I have a question regarding clicking noises on newly installed floors.

I’m DIY installing 3/4 solid hickory, 4″ prefinished, using 2″ cleats 4 to 8″ spacing over aquabar b on an OSB subfloor. It’s a home improvement store product, seems comparable to other floors I’ve installed with some tongues not being milled perfectly, etc. It will be 1800 sq ft whole house.

I started the install in a master closet, subfloor surprisingly level, took care of a few screws sticking up beforehand. Wood went down well, few issues with air compressor keeping the right pressure, and few nails had to be set or broke off.

Walking on the floor gets distinct clicking sounds in some spots – can see back (groove side) of boards move very slightly, usually near end of boards. One board was very pronounced – push on it and it would move a very small amount and would click almost like a light switch, moving against the board behind it.

Adding extra nails on tongue side of problem boards did not help much.

Manufacturer is recommending ditch the aquabar, do nail and glue. The basement and crawl are unfinished but conditioned, it’s a new home, year and a half old.

My question is, will adding glue likely help this? Or is slight movement of boards normal and will this work itself out? I’d like to understand the problem before moving on to the rest of the house.

A: Thankfully, here in Canada, hickory is not that common. I’ve only seen a couple of floors and have not had to work with one. I have read enough about it to have an opinion. One common statement is that any home owner who wants hickory installed must be made aware that it is unstable compared to some other woods like white oak. This means movement and gapping is to be expected. I do not like installing any nail down product on OSB. It simply does not hold fasteners nearly as well as spruce plywood. So using an adhesive likely will help. When the milling of the tongue and groove joints is not perfect this can cause issues too. I’ve seen and worked with floors where the fit was so tight you had to beat the boards together with considerable effort. Pretty much guaranteed in this case that as the floor starts to react to the seasons and RH popping or banging sounds will occur as the boards shrink and start fighting the very tight joint. If it is a sloppy joint you can end up with up and down movement when you walk on the floor. I’m guessing the bad milling may be a larger part of the issue. If you use an adhesive I would definitely suggest something that is flexible because you have to allow this wood to move if it is determined to do so.

Follow-up: Thanks so much for your reply, we appreciate your thoughts and info; agree and understand about OSB.

I’m very confused on adhesives, manufacturer instructions are pretty generic, they suggest using a urethane adhesive such as Liquid Nails or Loctite, applied in a serpentine bead. My understanding is this is called ‘glue assisted’ install.

Everything in a caulk gun type application (such as Loctite PL Premium) seems to be construction adhesive, I would think these wouldn’t allow for any movement.

I have seen urethane glues that do allow for movement, but these are 4-5 gallon buckets meant for full glue with trowels.

Have tried face nailing problem spots, seems to take care of most of the creaks, but not sure how that will hold long term.

I’m going to try contacting the manufacturer again, their installation helpline is apparently sub-contracted to a single flooring installer.

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