Q. We have hardwood floors in most rooms of our house and they squeak badly. The basement under the floors is unfinished except for insulation in the ceiling. What can we do to quiet the awful noise?
A. As you might know, squeaking in wood floors is caused by wood rubbing against other wood or against nails.
The best solution is to stabilize the floors so that the wood movement is stopped, and this can sometimes be difficult.
In some cases, the supporting structure of the floor is not stable enough to keep the flooring and subflooring from flexing enough to make noise. When this is the problem, the floor needs to be strengthened with support posts, bracing between joists, or by some other means.
That said, an old but temporary treatment is to lubricate the floor by sprinkling baby powder on the noisy areas and sweeping it into gaps in the wood. Carefully clean up excess powder (it’s slippery).
To try for a more permanent solution, go into the basement and have someone walk on the floors overhead. When a noisy area is identified, mark it with duct tape, chalk or some other marker. You will then have to remove the insulation temporarily from between the joists in that area. Wear gloves, eye protection and a dust mask. Removing the insulation will expose the subfloor and joists.
When the person upstairs walks on the noisy area, look for movement in the subfloor (the subfloor is sometimes plywood, sometimes boards). There are sometimes small gaps between the bottom of the subfloor and the top of the joists that can let the floor move and cause squeaks.
Shims (thin wood wedges) can be tapped snugly into the gaps to stop the movement and, hopefully, the noise. To keep the shims in place, use wood glue such as Titebond. There is also special bracket-type hardware that can be used instead of shims to tighten subfloor gaps; one brand name is Squeak Ender.
Sometimes the gaps occur between the layer of hardwood flooring and the layer of subfloor – you can’t see them. To fix these gaps, screws can sometimes be driven up through the subfloor and into the finish flooring to pull the two layers together. This is tricky, since you don’t want a screw to protrude through the finish flooring.
Subfloors are generally three-quarters inch thick and solid hardwood finish flooring is sometimes the same thickness, but the thicknesses can vary. If in doubt about the length of screw to use, the best bet is to have a flooring professional check the floor.
Screws and nails are also sometimes driven into hardwood floors from above in squeaky areas, the heads set slightly below the surface and concealed with wood putty that matches the flooring.
Q. I had my asphalt driveway resurfaced last fall. On a very cold February day, the contractor came back and wanted to seal it. I thought it was too soon to seal and probably too cold. What are your thoughts about this?
A. There is a great deal of controversy about when a new or resurfaced asphalt driveway should be sealed, even among asphalt contractors.
One contractor told me it was OK to wait five years; I heard of another who said seven years. Still another contractor said one year was a good interval. Gardner-Gibson, a leading manufacturer of driveway sealers and repair products, says a new asphalt driveway should not be sealed for “at least six months, including a full summer season.” However, some contractors, and asphalt industry sources, say a new driveway should be sealed after 90 days.
There are also differences of opinion about what sealing does.
Some say it is largely cosmetic, that the driveway will just look nice for a few weeks after sealing. Others say sealer will help protect the asphalt from oil and gasoline spills (but if you get these, they are still hard to clean up, whether there is sealer or not).
As for the best temperature, Gardner-Gibson recommends sealing between 75 and 90 degrees, and not below 65 degrees or above 95. A sunny day with no rain expected is best. Gardner-Gibson makes water-based sealers, and some contractors use other types of products that might be usable at different temperatures and different waiting periods.
However, I think the Gardner-Gibson guidelines make sense and I intend to follow them for my own asphalt driveway. For more details, visit www.gardner-gibson.com and click on Troubleshooting & FAQs.