New floor is popping

Q: I’ve just installed a floor at my parents house using staples on a hardwood 3 1/4” Maple. The manufacture said I didn’t need glue, and I stapled to what they said, every 6-8 inches. The odd extra one, but I tried to stay to 6-8.

Anyways, today I’ve noticed some popping noises when walking. Nothing terrible, but just the odd pop as you walk across the floor. With little pressure, you sometimes can’t get the pop again. With pressure though, it’s a given.

This floor was from Home Depot, and upon many reviews I found it was received well or exactly the opposite, no in-between.

My only answer I can think of is that the floor, because of it being tongue-and-grooved, had the odd split. I played with PSI so much that I was well below the indicated level, and even then I had splitting, but not much. It seemed to depend on the wood, because one piece would be flawless, where as the next would be the opposite. The manufacture recommended 2” 15.5 gauge staples (or 16-gauge cleats).

Lastly, the wood acclimatized for over a week (manufacture recommended 3-5 days) and has more than an inch to play with in terms of expansion because of undercut drywall. What are your thoughts?

A: Did these boards pull together easily or did you have to fight with them because the tongue and grooves were so tight? That can cause a problem. Another can be voids under certain boards. That is, the sub floor is not perfectly flat. Was the sub floor OSB? That sheeting doesn’t hold fasteners near as well as spruce sheeting. I would give it a little time to settle. If there are only a couple of spots that persist in this popping you could drill a small pilot hole and spray in expanding adhesive. I believe Bostik makes such a product.

Follow-up: These boards were so tight compared to the other floors I’ve installed at work. It was impossible to use your hands to get them in, and if you had to remove one before stapling, it was next to impossible to get them out with your hands (gentle tap on the ends with hammer was the only way).Some pieces had small defects in the bottom of them, but not much. The subfloor was 3/4” ply.

A: Yeah, there you go. I had to install a floor like this before and the owner of the house who was my neighbor across the street told me the floors made a popping sound. I can imagine they would, being that tight. Wood will move according to environmental factors, even if only slightly. Having such tight joints, I even wonder if there exist the potential, under stress, to crack either the tongue or bottom edge of the groove side. If from one plank to the next, over time, you can see that some are not flat and move up and down, that this has indeed occurred.

I helped a carpenter install 7″ wide ash recently. It was unbelievably tight. Every single plank took major effort to mechanically force them together. He thought the floor was really good. I told him the milling was the worst I’ve ever seen and to wait until the humidity changes and the floor starts to shrink a bit. I can hear the banging sounds in my head.

Hardwood floors pop and crack when we walk on them

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 subflooring 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 subfloor, 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.

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