Gaps and creaking all over hardwood floors

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.

Gaps all over the floors

Related Q: We had the floors redone on June ’09 after living in our house for about 8 years. We are starting to notice big gaps all over the floors to the point that dirt and/or dust get in these gaps. Is there anything I can do to fix these gaps or would I have to replace the whole floor?

A: It is likely that the relative humidity in the home is too low. Getting a humidifier working to bring the RH up to around 40% should help. A hygrometer is a handy little device to keep around the home too. I would hope by increasing the RH the gaps will close up to some degree. Tiny gaps are considered normal.

Newly refinished floor makes firecracker sounds and cracks opening up

Q: We had our 20 year old oak flooring refinished 4 weeks ago. This morning it sounded like small firecrackers were going off. Is this OK? What causes this? The workers filled all the cracks and now it looks like they are opening up.

A: It sounds like your wood is shrinking. Have you put your furnace on? It’s likely that the finish which bridges the boards and some which has seeped between is cracking from shrinkage. It can only stretch so far. It’s going to be a matter of waiting to see if anything negative happens along the board edges.

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