Floors making a cracking/popping sound

Q: We have Bruce hardwood floors in the downstairs. The house is about 4 years old. When you walk on the floors they make a cracking/popping sound. I heard the hardwood floors popping somewhat from day one, but it is really bad now. Is there any way to fix this problem? Just wondering if the floor is too tight or uneven?

A: Since I don’t know if the floor was nailed down well and what the sub floor is, my best guess is that it is likely environmental. This time of year the furnace goes on and with generally lower humidity levels in the house some contraction will likely occur. Especially if the milling of the tongue and groove happened to be very tight you could get a popping sound from the pressure the board is under as it pulls slightly away from the matching rows. I would check the relative humidity in the home with a hygrometer (you can buy an inexpensive one at most electronics stores) and try to maintain RH in winter between 35-40%. You don’t want it to drop below 30.

Related Q: My tongue and groove flooring makes a popping sound in certain spots. The boards seem to have warped in some areas to the point the floor looks raised. These type of noises didn’t happen before, when I had carpet on the floor, even though there was no padding underneath.

A: It would appear your floor is under pressure from expansion of the boards. The only thing that can cause this is excess moisture in the wood. You either have a leak somewhere or extremely high humidity. You can check humidity with an inexpensive hygrometer. A dehumidifier may help.

Similar Q: We have an 11 month old home in Ohio. Our pre-finished oak hardwood floors pop and crack when we walk on them. We had the builder out, and they placed some nails in the seams of the worst areas, but it seems to have made it worse. This is a problem during all seasons, not just when the humidity is higher or lower. Is this the nature of the product or is there a flaw in the installation?

A: I could only make a guess at this point, not knowing what the floor was installed on top of. This can be important because some types of sub flooring material do not do a good job of holding nails well. It may well be the case here. Also, if not enough nails were used and there is a small dip in the sub floor, walking over that spot can cause some flex. This is particularly important near board ends. There is suppose to be a nail not more than 3 inches from the ends of each board.

Creaking wood floor

Q: My creaking wood floor creaks and pops when I walk in certain spots. But it also does it when I am not walking on it. How can that be?

A: It’s probably a humidity issue. Particularly if the flooring has tightly milled tongue and groove. As it shrinks slightly it can make this cracking sound. Is this floor fairly new? In winter I would try to keep the RH in the home between 35-40% in cold climates. It should settle down in time.

Popping noises after 6 months

Q: We had wood flooring installed in several rooms in late May – early June 2007. The carpet and tile were removed and the surfaces prepared by the installer, glue applied and the planks installed. After a few months and now more time, we experience popping noises throughout the house as if the glue under the plank is loose. Can the floor be repaired without removing all the planks? Does glue need to be reapplied? What is the suggested solution with minimal disruption to the existing flooring?

A: Your floor is likely reacting to climate changes in the home. These popping sounds are aggravated when the milling of the tongue and groove joints is very tight. Once it has gone through a couple of seasonal cycles it should settle down. Try to keep the relative humidity in the home to near 40% in winter to minimize shrinkage. Buy a hygrometer and/or humidifier which will have a digital readout of room temperature and RH.

Floors sound like bubble wrap

Q: I just bought a new home in WI. We have hardwood (oak) floors thru out the home. When we walk on the floors it sounds like we are walking on bubble wrap. Would yoy have a solution to this problem?

A: I suspect this sound will settle down after the floors have become more accustomed to the home. I am going to make a guess that these are pre finished floors. I have installed one such which had such tightly milled tongue and groove that it also made sounds for a time. Good climate control will ad stability to the environment and you will have less movement from the floor.

Noisy floor

Q: I have bought an old house. The hardwood floor makes so much noise, and it’s increasing day by day. Earlier it was not that much, but now it’s bad. Any solution?

A: If you have access to the sub floor from the basement ceiling, perhaps you could screw support pieces across sections of the sub floor to lessen its movement. But don’t use such a long screw as to go right through the floor.

Popping or cracking sound in hardwood floors

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.

Related Q: I would like to know what the long term consequences are of just putting up with crackling floor boards versus a rip up and securing of sub floor. Will the life of the floor be shortened?

A: If the floor has been sanded too many times movement like this would cause splinters to break off the edges of the boards. If you don’t have that happening and can live with the noise you are good. This doesn’t affect how long the floor will last. It sounds to me you have an old, 3/8″ thick floor. 3/4″ is much more rigid and less prone to flex.

Laminate floor making cracking sounds

Q: We had a laminate floor professionally installed about a year ago. Now it makes cracking sounds when walked upon. any idea what causes this? It started in a few spots, but now has spread throughout the floor.

A: In situations like this, I could only guess. At this point I don’t even know anything about the laminate you have. Who is the manufacturer? Is it click joint? I would suggest you contact the manufacturer. Problems of this nature generally are related to climate conditions in the home.

Floor making popping noise at night

Q: I have a four year old house with a basement in NC. The first floor is all hardwood. Probably nailed down. For the past month, there is this loud popping sound that seems to come from the floor every once in a while, but only at night, after 11 PM. It happens a few times to a dozen times per night. One popping sound at a time. It is scaring my dog crazy. Is this temperature/contraction related? Our central air turns from 68 degrees to 63ish at night. Why is my floor making popping noise?

A: Yes, it indicates contraction of some boards because the tongue and groove were milled a bit too snug. Is the floor also 4 years old?

Follow-up Q: Yes. The floor is 4 years old. My wife says that the snapping popping sound may come from the dinning room. We notice the dinning room hardwood floor now developed openings between many strips of wood of about 1mm. So, I guess contraction is very likely. Interesting, that’s the only area of the house with these openings and that’s the only area where the orientation of the board is perpendicular to the hardwood floor of the rest of the house.

A: That is interesting. Why did the installers change direction in the dining room? The hardwood floor should be installed across the floor joists, and if that wasn’t done in that area, I would consider it a mistake.

Sagging and bouncy wood floors

Q: My entire home is hardwood. On the first floor the floors are in poor shape due to all the traffic over the years, but this doesn’t concern me too much. My main concern is that my house is over 100 years old and mostly every floor is sagging and not level. Is there a way to shore them and re-level them from the cellar before we refinish them?

A: If the floor is sagging, a couple of jack posts placed under the affected joists might lift it. You might want to have a contractor look at it.

Similar Q: My original oak hardwood floors in my 85 yr old home have spots near entrances that appear weak, what can I do?

A: Perhaps you can shore up the floor from below.

Another Similar Q: We live in a house built in 1859 with original wood floors. A few of the floor boards located directly over the furnace are bouncy and have cracked slightly. The joists are accessible in the basement and seem very stable but not entirely level. How should we go about fixing these few boards and supporting them?

A: Perhaps you can screw a supporting board to the sub floor between the joists in that bouncy area.

Follow-up: There is no sub floor, just floor boards and joists.

A: Okay, it doesn’t matter. You can still cut a board to fit from one joist to the next, push this board up tight against the floor above and screw in block under each end into the joists to hold it in place.

Kit #30-0002 Snap Off Screws squeaky floors

Q: Do the snap-off screws in kit # 30-0002 actually pull down and tighten the floorboard to the joist or simply keep the two components from touching?

A: I haven’t seen these screws in some time. They used to be sold with a drill attachment by Home Depot here. One of my customers used it on his squeaky floors and it did help. It pulls the sub floor and top floor against each other, and then together pulls both down to the joist.

Related Q: Can I use the snap-off screws in kit #30-0002 on my laminate wood flooring?

A: I suppose you could if you wanted to totally secure one of the panels. The floor is suppose to float though.

Note from Webmaster: the tongue-in-cheek “Snap Off Screws Squeaky Floors” title is my idea, not our flooring expert’s idea. My apologies if it offends anyone!

Snappy laminate flooring

Q: I am trying to find help on our laminate flooring. We installed it as instructed about 3-4 years ago, left the space on the side, etc. About 1 year later it started snapping. Now it is so bad I cannot stand it! It even snaps now throughout the winter, so it is not the humidity. I want to take it apart and reinstall, but how do I get it apart without destroying it? I have contacted the company that made it and home depot where we bought it and nobody wants to help. This is a beautiful floor and it cost us a good penny.

A: If it is a click joint type of floor, you should be able to start at one of the walls and lift it out. You will have to remove the quarter round and may damage parts of the first row.

Unglued spot

Q: My husband is installing our engineered wood flooring by gluing it down. We have a concrete slab with linoleum, which he coated with a concrete leveller rather than remove (we didn’t want to mess with asbestos). We are about 1/3 finished with our front room and when walking on it, I noted there is a spot where the floor is uneven slightly and the wood is not glued down. When I stepped on it, the two boards over this unlevelled ground ever so slightly sunk and made a crack/snap noise. It is too small to crack the wood but enough that when walked over will make a noise every time. What can we do? I don’t want to have to pull up everything we have down already to level the floor. Can we nail each board into the concrete, using a drill to make the hole first? He also suggested actually cutting out one section of the floor and replace it after levelling the floor? That doesn’t sound ideal to me, because I know it won’t go unnoticed.

A: Drill a small hole and use an injectible adhesive. Any number of adhesive manufacturers likely make something suitable for this. Perhaps Bostik Findlay or Vermeister etc.

Subflooring damaged

Q: I recently installed 3/4″ x 4″ prefinished maple planking in my home. I used coated staples and rosin paper. The flooring looks great, but I now have a problem in my kitchen. To accommodate the flooring, I tore out ceramic tile and a layer of Luann. That left the plywood underlayment which worked fine in the other rooms where only carpet covered the floors. In the kitchen, however, the screw holes and glue that held down the Luann appears to have sufficiently damaged the plywood and affected installation – I get creaks and squeaks in a lot of places and especially in the most marked up areas of the plywood subfloor. In my opinion, the integrity of the subfloor was damaged enough so that the staples do not hold well. I should have repaired the floor, added a new layer of subflooring and then installed. I have access to the floor from the basement and tried screwing the flooring down from below, but that only worked in some spots. The problem is too acute to use this approach effectively.

I noticed the reference to the injectable glue in a post on a website. Would that work?

A: The injectable adhesive won’t work, because the floor has rosin paper under it. Next best solution in my view would be to remove individual boards, cut out the rosin paper, spread some urethane adhesive, such as Bostik’s Best. cut the new board to length, removing the bottom edge of the groove side and groove end. Drop the board into place and either face nail or weight it down until the adhesive dries. I would try to carefully remove the entire floor and re install it before I would put laminate over top.

Just for informational purposes, you might even find inject able adhesives on the Bostik-Findley web site. I believe a company called Vermeister also makes such a product. I have discovered a good moisture cure urethane adhesive at Home Depot in a squeeze bottle. You would have to find a way to get it to the bottom of the board. Perhaps a long tube attached to the end of the bottle in the smallest diameter that works. This would likely require a slightly bigger hole of perhaps 1/8 to 3/16 which could be putty filled after. With this product, you would have to tape around the hold to prevent the adhesive from getting on the floor surface. It expands as it cures, and would likely foam up out of the hole. You don’t want it getting on the floor surface. After it is dry, you can cut off any outpouring with an exacto knife. Not that this will help your situation, given the paper beneath the floor. But one possible solution in other circumstances.

Floor pops where glue didn’t adhere

Q: About three years ago, we had some laminate 1/4 wood floors glued to the concrete in my garage which was converted to a family room. The wood was acclimated as prescribed and the floor had to be skimmed per the installers recommendation.

Since that time, there have been several areas that have apparently either “cupped” from the floor or were never actually adhered due to a poor skim or trawling job by the installers. In any event, the floor now “pops” in those areas when you walk across them, which is quite annoying. Is there any way to fix these areas?

A: Drill a few small holes and inject some adhesive.

Related Q: We had engineered strips glued to the sub-floor by a local installer, and now the floor pops in places where you walk on it. I’m assuming the adhesive didn’t take. Is there any way to repair this?

A: There are injector type kits that can be used. A tiny hole would need to be drilled to allow insertion of the adhesive which will expand and fill the cavity beneath. I thing Vermeister and Bostik-Findley both make a product like this.

Squeaking floors

Q: How can I stop my floors from squeaking?

A: The only fail safe way to do this is to remove the floor, secure the sub floor, or screw down plywood sheeting, then install the hardwood floor. If it is only a few areas, there are also injectible adhesives, whereby a small hole is drilled through the floor, the adhesive is injected, which then expands into the gap beneath, stabilizing the floor to the sub floor.

Related Q: Why does my wood floor squeak sometimes, at different times of the year?

A: Without writing a book: humidity will play a part in that.

Adhesive did not adhere

Q: I had 3/8″ oak hardwood floors installed over the solid concrete slab. The slab was not properly floated and there are areas the adhesive did not adhere to the slab or floor and there are also areas of deflection. What can be done to repair the floor without having the installer remove and replace the new floor?

A: There are injectible adhesives which can fill voids and grip both the sub floor and finished floor. This is providing we are not talking general adhesive failure.

Spikey nails in floor

Q: We have just bought an old house. When we removed the carpeting we discovered hardwood floors. However, each three foot strip of wood had at least three nails in them with heads, which means that we cannot sink the heads into the floor. We will have to remove all the nails, renail the floor with the correct hardwood floor nails, fill in the holes and then refinish the floors. my question is: Can we do the above (pls. suggest the right tool to remove the nails) and get the floors to look decent?

A: No doubt, this was someone’s effort to remove squeaks. If they have used spikes, with a large nail head, and they are flush with the floor surface, you will likely cause plenty of damage just trying to dig them out. Depending how thick the floor is, and how many nails there are, you may have to replace the floor.