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If floor squeaks, it’s a cure you seek

Sun., June 21, 2009, midnight

Q. I recently moved into an older home with hardwood floors that squeak badly. How can I stop the noise?

A. The squeaks are caused by wood rubbing against wood or nails when the floor is walked on. You have the best chance of fixing the squeaks if there is unobstructed access to the floor from below – a basement without a ceiling or a crawl space, for example.

Go into the basement and have someone walk on the floor overhead. Mark the squeaky areas on the subfloor (the layer of boards or plywood under the finish flooring) with chalk. Examine these areas closely for gaps between the top of joists and the underside of the subfloor; the gaps could be permitting the wood to move.

Gaps can usually be filled with thin wood wedges, available in packs at some home centers and lumber yards. Pieces of cedar shingles can also be used.

Put some glue on the top side of a wedge and drive it into the gap with a mallet or hammer. This could stop some of the squeaks.

Right-angle metal brackets can also be used to treat squeaks. These are screwed to the joist and subfloor to add rigidity. In some cases, additional wood or metal bridging might have to be installed between joists to reduce movement.

If there isn’t access to the floor from below, the best option is to re-nail some of the flooring in squeaky areas. For best results, nail into joists, which are normally spaced on 16-inch centers.

Use flooring nails or finishing nails with small heads, 2 1/2 inches long. Drive the nails in pairs, angling them toward each other in V patterns to give a better grip. Drill pilot holes through the flooring, slightly smaller than the diameter of the nails, to avoid splitting the wood.

Use a nail set to drive nail heads slightly below the surface and fill the holes with colored putty to match the wood.

Q. A bowl was dropped on my plastic-laminate counter and made some scratches and a very slight dent. I rubbed out some of the scratches with automobile rubbing compound. If I continue rubbing, will I go through the finished surface?

A. The entire thickness of the plastic laminate on a counter top is usually 1/16 inch, and most of that is the backing material. You have probably already removed any gloss from the counter with the rubbing compound, and I doubt if there is much farther to go without leaving an ugly mark that will look worse than the scratches.

Some puttylike products are available for patching plastic laminate, but they won’t work well on scratches or shallow damage – the cavity must be deep enough to provide a grip for the patch.

My advice is to stop rubbing. Polish the damaged area with some wax and cover it with a cutting board that will hide it and help protect against future damage.

Q. We often get a loud humming noise in the plumbing pipes in our 1854 house. The pipes are copper, only about 10 years old. The noise usually occurs when we turn off a faucet and it can persist for hours at times. What can we do?

A. If you still have old, washer-type faucets, the cause could simply be a loose faucet washer. The problem can also sometimes be traced to toilets, usually either a faulty refill valve (the device that controls refilling of the toilet tank) or flapper valve, which controls the flow of water into the bowl during a flush.

I’d check out these things before considering other possibilities such as loose pipes or lack of air in the pipes.

Questions and comments should be e-mailed to Gene Austin at Send regular mail for Gene Austin to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.

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