Gaps and creaking

Q: We purchased a brand new home in April 2010. Since then, every time we walk on the hardwood flooring, on the outer walls it makes cracking and creaking noises. Why is it doing this? It is very loud and what I would imagine a 100 year old home with hardwood flooring would sound like. Is there anyway to fix this?

A: I don’t know what this floor is installed on top of nor whether an appropriate amount of nails, cleats or staples was used. But clearly the floor is moving. It could also be expansion and contraction noises occurring. Do you notice any large gaps appearing or conversely do you see any cupping of the boards that would indicate expansion from moisture?

Follow-up Q: Hi! I took a picture of one of the boards [gapping] they are all like this on the exterior wails of the home. Our house is not even three years old yet. I’m jut wondering if it is normal or if I should be contacting the builder? Thanks for your help!

A: That looks like wide maple plank which is more sensitive to environmental changes in humidity than some other woods. This clearly is significant shrinkage. I’m wondering what the moisture content of both the maple and the structure it is fastened onto was at the time of installation. Yes, I think I would be calling the contractor. Tell him to bring a moisture meter with him.

RH and moisture readings before installation

Q: I installed hardwood flooring on the main level and the top level of a new home as well as a hardwood staircase. The install was in Nov 2013. The floor on the main level is showing areas of gaping and splitting and so is the staircase. There is a lot of shrinkage in the trim and mouldings as well as some shrinkage in the kitchen cabinets and the solid wood cupboard doors in the same areas of the house.

The RH at the time of install was in the 40% range and the wood was in the house for at lest 72 hours before being installed.

The present moisture reading in the floor on the main level where all the problem is are 9 to 8 and up to 12 in some areas; the stair treads have different readings one is 7 and the next one is up to 13. When we take a reading in the basement of the floor and the sheeting for the first floor the meter does not give a reading because the level is too low for the meter to read. I have developed the basement and added a propane stove in the last year. The ceiling is a T-bar type with a drop in tile. Did this cause the staircase and the floor on the main level of the house to react in this way? The RH at present on the main is 38% and the basement is 30%.

A: It sounds to me the moisture reading of the wood products were not taken prior to installation. At any rate, significant heat rise coming from under the stairs and floors could significantly dry the areas you mention. You could add some moisture to the air, but 38% is not bad at all in winter, and I don’t think you would want to go much higher. It is possible none of the wood, stairs, floors, etc., were dry enough, or dry enough to be within range of 4% moisture content in the sub structure.