April 15, 2012 in Features

Do It Yourself: Put screws to squeaks in carpet

Gene Austin McClatchy
Quick tip

 Cleaning the underside of a lawnmower blade deck is one of the least pleasant parts of lawn care.

 With smaller mowers, it usually requires lifting and scraping out grass clippings and accumulated gook (always disconnect the spark plug first), and with heavy lawn tractors it is almost impossible without special equipment such as ramps, a hoist, or a special jack.

 A relatively recent innovation on some mowers greatly simplifies the job – a hose connection on top of the deck that lets you flush out the underside with little effort. It’s a feature worth looking for if you are in the market for a new mower, and is found on some walk-behind mowers as well as tractors. Brands that have the feature on some models include Craftsman, Snapper, Toro, Troy-Bilt and a few others.

Q. How is it possible to repair squeaking carpeted floors when there is no access from below – the ceilings underneath are covered with drywall. The noise is coming from the plywood subfloor under the carpet, which needs to be fastened more securely. It is also difficult to find the joists under the carpet. Any ideas on fixing without removing the carpet?

A. There is a special type of screw that can be used in this situation. These screws are driven right through the carpet, using a power drill and a special small tool that stops the screw after it has reached the proper depth. Another small tool is then used to break off the head of the screw so that it is hidden by the nap of the carpet. The screws must be driven into floor joists, so locating the joists is an important part of the repair.

There are a couple of ways to find the hidden joists. If you plan to do a lot of floors, you might want to invest in an electronic stud-joist finder. A low-tech method, which works for many people, is to thump on the floor with a hammer until you get a “solid sound.” A solid sound indicates the presence of a joist under the carpet; in other places, you will get a hollow sound. Note the spot where you got the solid sound and drill straight down with a very small drill bit – a one-sixteenth-inch bit works well and will not damage the carpet.

If the drill goes into solid wood after passing through the carpet and subfloor, you have verified the presence of a joist. After that, you need only measure 16 inches from the first joist location to find another joist, and so on. If you don’t know the direction of the joists, you will need to drill a few more tiny holes to verify that. It can take a lot of screws to fix a very squeaky floor.

Some contractors stretch strings across the floor at each joist location to make the screw installation faster. Spacing the screws depends on how badly the floor squeaks; a screw every 9 to 12 inches along the joist might be needed. The special screws, plus the small tools needed and instructions, are available from several Internet sources. To find a source that suits you, use a search engine and the words “screws for squeaky carpeted floors.”

Q. I recently had a blacktop driveway sealed by a pro and although I didn’t watch closely because of the odor, I noticed he finished in a very short time. He used a squeegee. How did he get finished so quickly? Does that mean a poor job?

A. Pros can complete jobs like this quickly not only because they are experienced and know just how to proceed, but because they use better tools. Your driveway guy probably finished quickly because he used an extra-wide squeegee, which can seal a lot of surface much faster than the typical squeegees, usually about 18 inches wide, sold at home centers. Some driveway squeegees are 24 inches wide or even 48 inches wide.

Do-it-yourselfers who want to speed up their driveway sealing might be able to find wider squeegees at a building-supply outlet or they can be bought online by searching for 24-inch driveway sealer squeegees. Speed-up-tools are also commonly used by professional painters. Many use rollers to paint walls or ceilings, like most do-it-yourselfers, but the rollers are often twice as wide as the 9-inch DIY rollers.

You might not be able to find extra-wide paint rollers at home centers, but some paint stores might have them. Again, they are also available on the Internet by searching for 18-inch paint rollers. Wide rollers also require an extra-wide paint tray, of course, but the paint goes on so fast it is worth the extra expense, especially if there are several large rooms to paint.

Questions and comments should be emailed to Gene Austin at gaus17@aol.com. Send regular mail for Gene Austin to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.

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