Does walking on your hardwood floor sound like a symphony of squeaks and creaks? If so, then you might wonder, “What makes wood floors creak?” We at California Flooring and Design are here to help you decode the mystery behind those pesky and intrusive noises.

Wood floor creaks can be both an annoyance and a mystery. The once soothing sound of your footsteps on your hardwood floor may have suddenly turned into a symphony of squeaks that echoes throughout your home, irritating you and disturbing your peace. Whether it’s a sudden squeak in the middle of a serene night or a continuous creak as you traverse your hallway, a creaking floor can indeed be a nuisance.

To help you understand, here are the most common reasons for creaking wood floors:

  • Friction: This happens when the floorboards are rubbing against each other or against the nails due to movement.
  • Seasonal Changes: Rapid changes in humidity and temperature can cause the wood to expand or contract, thus leading to squeaks.
  • Installation Issues: If the flooring is not properly installed, the floorboards may not be secured sufficiently, causing them to move and create a friction which results in creaking sounds.
  • Loose Subfloor: If the subfloor is not adequately secured to the joists, it can move under the strain of walking or other weights, causing the floor to creak.
  • Wear and Tear: Over the years, the nails can loosen and the wood can wear down, which can lead to creaky floors.

Infographic illustrating the common reasons for creaking wood floors - what makes wood floors creak infographic pillar-5-steps

We will take a deeper look at each of these factors and offer advice on how to fix these issues to restore tranquility in your home. So, let’s unlock the mystery of what makes wood floors creak.

Understanding the Causes of Creaky Wood Floors

The first step in addressing the issue of creaky wood floors is to understand what’s causing the problem. Below are the most common culprits behind those annoying squeaks.

Seasonal Changes and Humidity

One of the many wonders of wood is its ability to respond to changes in the environment. This natural material will contract and expand with temperature and humidity fluctuations. This is perfectly normal, but it can lead to creaking noises. For example, if your wood floors begin squeaking during winter, it may indicate that the dry winter air combined with your home’s heater is causing your wood floors to contract, providing more room for the floorboards to move and creak. To mitigate this effect, aim to keep the interior of your home at humidity levels between 40-60%.

Loose or Warped Joists

The joists, or horizontal beams that support the structure beneath your floor and subfloor, play a crucial role in preventing excess movement. If these joists become loose or warped, gaps may form between the subfloor and the joists, causing squeaks. To fix this, you may need to access the area underneath the flooring for inspection and potentially add extra supports between the joists.

Uneven Subfloors

The subfloor itself can be a source of squeaky noises. An uneven subfloor can create a gap between the hardwood flooring and the subfloor, leading to creaks. Also, the subfloor may have sustained water damage or deteriorated over time, causing it to lose its ability to hold fasteners and create a loose flooring issue.

Wear and Tear

Like any other part of your home, your wood floors are subject to everyday wear and tear that can cause boards to start moving and create gaps. These gaps allow the boards to rub against each other, producing a high-pitched squeaking noise.

Improper Installation

Finally, improper installation can lead to squeaky floors. If the floorboards and subfloor are not securely fastened, they can move and create friction, resulting in a creaking sound. This can happen due to improper installation or loosening of the hardware holding the floor in place over time.

In the next section, we will discuss how to identify the source of the squeak accurately. This is crucial for finding the right solution. Knowing what makes wood floors creak is the first step to a quiet and peaceful home.

Identifying the Source of the Squeak

Identifying the source of the squeak is the key to an effective remedy for creaky wood floors. Just as a doctor must diagnose the cause of an ailment before prescribing a cure, you must pinpoint the exact location of the squeak and what’s causing it before applying a solution. This step is crucial to maintain the integrity of your hardwood floor and to apply a precise and efficient fix.

Locating Loose Hardware

Loose hardware, such as nails or screws attaching the subfloor to the joists, can be a common cause of squeaky floors. As the wood contracts and expands due to temperature and humidity changes, these fasteners can loosen over time, causing the floor to move and squeak.

To identify loose hardware, walk slowly across the room, paying close attention to the sound. Is the squeak louder in some areas than others? An extra pair of ears can be a big help here. Ask someone to walk across the floor while you listen. When you hear the squeak, ask the person to tap on the floor. This will help you to pinpoint the exact spot causing the trouble.

If you have access to a basement or crawl space, you can also try listening from below. This can help you identify if the squeak is due to loose hardware between the subfloor and the joists.

Detecting Gaps Between Joists and Subfloor

Another common cause of squeaky floors is gaps between the joists and the subfloor. Joists are the horizontal beams that support the subfloor. If the joists are loose or warped, they can create gaps between the subfloor and the joists, resulting in squeaks.

Again, listening from below (if possible) can help you detect these gaps. If you suspect this is the cause of your problem, you will need to access the area underneath the flooring to inspect it.

Spotting Exposed Nails

Exposed nails can also contribute to a squeaky floor. The nails may have shifted due to changes in the wood, or they may have been improperly installed. A careful visual inspection of your floor can help you spot any exposed nails.

Accurately identifying the source of the squeak is the first step towards a quieter, more peaceful home. In the next section, we’ll discuss various solutions to fix these common causes of squeaky wood floors.

Effective Solutions to Fix Squeaky Wood Floors

Once you’ve identified the cause of your squeaky wood floors, it’s time to explore possible solutions. Let’s delve into some effective techniques that we at California Flooring and Design use to silence those annoying, persistent creaks.

Lubricating the Floorboards

Lubrication can be a surprisingly effective way to eliminate the friction that causes squeaks. By applying a thin layer of powdered graphite or WD-40 between your floorboards, you can help them glide past each other more smoothly, reducing the friction that causes the noise. Lubrication isn’t a one-time solution, but a regular maintenance task that can extend the lifespan of your hardwood floors and keep them in top condition .

lubricating floorboards - what makes wood floors creak

Tightening Loose Floorboards

Loose floorboards are often the culprit when it comes to squeaky floors. By tightening these boards, you can reduce movement and noise. One method is to screw from underneath the floor to secure the flooring to the subfloor in problem areas. This method has the added advantage of not leaving visible screw heads on your floor.

Filling in Gaps with Shims

Gaps between the subfloor and the floor joists can create voids that contribute to squeaking. One solution is to fill these gaps with shims – thin, tapered pieces of wood. It’s important to do this gently to avoid making the problem worse by lifting the subfloor. For a more permanent solution, consider using an adhesive such as epoxy to fill the voids .

Stabilizing Warped or Noisy Joists

Warped joists can also be a source of squeaks. If you have access to the joists from below (perhaps from a basement or crawl space), you can firm up the structure by attaching a 2×4 or 2×6 piece of wood to the warped joist, securing it with screws. For an even stronger fix, you can fill any long gaps with construction adhesive, which will harden and eliminate any movement .

Screwing the Subfloor to the Top Floor or Joists

If you have an issue with an uneven subfloor, screwing the subfloor to the top floor or joists can help. This can be done from above or below the floor, depending on your situation. If you’re screwing from above, make sure to countersink the screws to avoid creating trip hazards or damaging your floor finish.

These are just a few of the many solutions available to fix what makes wood floors creak. While some of these methods may sound daunting, remember that we’re here to help. At California Flooring and Design, we’re experts in dealing with all sorts of flooring issues and can guide you through the process to ensure you achieve a noise-free, beautiful hardwood floor.

Special Considerations for Different Types of Flooring

While hardwood floors are the usual suspects when it comes to squeaking, it’s crucial to understand that other types of flooring may also produce unwanted noises. The approach to fix these noises can vary depending on the flooring type. Here, we’ll discuss some special considerations for fixing squeaky floors under carpeting as well as addressing squeaks in newly laid floors.

Fixing Squeaky Floors Under Carpeting

Carpeted floors can also suffer from squeaks and creaks, and the culprit is usually the same: friction caused by loose subfloors, joists, or nails. The challenge here lies in the fact that the carpet conceals the source of the noise.

To fix squeaky floors under carpeting, you’ll need to locate the source of the squeak. While you can usually feel a loose board under your feet, another useful technique is to have someone walk over the carpet while you listen for the squeak from below, if possible.

Once the squeaky area is located, you can use specially designed carpet screws that go through the carpet, without damaging it, to tighten the subfloor to the joist. After tightening, the top part of the screw snaps off, leaving the shank embedded and your carpet safe from damage.

Addressing Squeaks in Newly Laid Floors

Hearing squeaks in your newly installed hardwood floors can be disappointing. However, it’s not uncommon. The causes are generally the same as for older floors: loose joists, an uneven subfloor, or improper installation.

If the squeak persists after the settling period (which can take a couple of weeks), it’s time to take action. The methods used for fixing squeaks in newly laid floors are quite similar to those we previously discussed, ranging from using wood blocks or shims to stabilize the subfloor and joists, to screwing the subfloor to the top floor or joists.

Addressing these issues in a newly installed floor should be done by professionals to avoid damaging the floor or voiding any warranties. At California Flooring and Design, we’re committed to ensuring your peace of mind by providing expert installation services and a 5-year guarantee on our flooring products.

In the end, understanding what makes wood floors creak — and how to address it — can help you enjoy your beautiful flooring without the symphony of squeaks. Whether your floor is old, new, carpeted, or hardwood, there’s always a solution to silence those pesky creaks.

Preventive Measures to Avoid Creaky Floors

While it’s crucial to know how to fix creaky floors, prevention is always better than cure. Preventing creaky floors is often a matter of proper maintenance and initial installation. Here are a few preventive measures you can implement to avoid the unpleasant surprise of creaky floors:

Regular Vacuuming

Believe it or not, regular vacuuming can help prevent your hardwood floors from squeaking. Debris, regardless of how small, can work its way into cracks and gaps in your wooden floorboards. This can cause the gaps to increase or induce friction, leading to creaks. The best way to avoid this is to stay on top of your cleaning schedule. By regularly vacuuming, you can prevent debris from building up and causing problems.

Monitoring Humidity Levels

Wood, which is a hygroscopic material, easily absorbs moisture from its surroundings. Fluctuations in humidity levels can cause your wood floors to swell or contract, leading to creaks. A good preventive measure is to control the humidity levels in your home throughout the year. Consider using a dehumidifier in summer to reduce humidity and a humidifier in winter to add moisture back into the house. This balance can help prevent creaky wood floors.

Using Proper Installation Techniques

Proper installation of your hardwood floors is a crucial step in preventing creaks. When laying floors, it’s vital to ensure they are flush with the subfloor and properly supported. This can prevent the flooring from becoming loose in the future and creaking. Ideally, the moisture content (MC) should be within the manufacturer’s specifications to prevent excessive expansion or contraction after installation. If you’re not confident in your DIY skills, it’s wise to consult professionals like us at California Flooring and Design. We ensure your flooring is installed with the right technique and offer a robust 5-year guarantee on our flooring products.

Reinforcing the Subfloor

Finally, reinforcing your subfloor can be a significant preventive measure against creaky floors. If your subfloor is weak or uneven, it can lead to creaking. Strengthening the supports with blocking between joists or using bridging techniques can minimize floor movement when walked on, hence reducing creaks. This task, however, is best left to a professional as it requires specific knowledge and experience.

Implementing these preventive measures can help you avoid the annoyance of creaky floors. However, if you’re still struggling with creaky floors despite your best efforts, don’t despair. At California Flooring and Design, we’re here to help you solve your hardwood floor problems, including those pesky squeaks.


Unlocking the mystery of what makes wood floors creak comes down to understanding the underlying causes and implementing effective solutions. From seasonal changes and humidity to loose or warped joists, uneven subfloors, wear and tear, and improper installation, various factors can lead to squeaky floors. Identifying the source of the squeak is the first step to resolving the issue.

Applying simple fixes such as lubricating the floorboards, tightening loose hardware, filling in any gaps with shims, or stabilizing noisy joists can bring back the silence you crave. For more complex issues such as squeaks in newly laid floors or those under carpeting, professional help may be required.

Preventive measures like regular vacuuming, monitoring humidity levels, using proper installation techniques, and reinforcing the subfloor can go a long way in preventing creaky floors.

At California Flooring and Design, we understand the importance of a strong and silent floor. We’re committed to providing high-quality, durable wood flooring solutions that not only look beautiful but also stand the test of time. We offer expert guidance and a 5-year product guarantee to give you the peace of mind that your investment is secure.

So, if you’re tired of playing detective with your squeaky floors, let us help you bring back the tranquility to your home. With our expertise and commitment to quality, we can transform your creaky floors into a solid and serene foundation for your home. If you’re ready to say goodbye to those annoying squeaks, contact us today.


How Do I Stop My Hardwood Floors from Creaking?

Creaking hardwood floors can be silenced by applying a lubricant such as powdered graphite or baby powder into the joints between the floorboards. This reduces the wood-on-wood friction that causes the noise. Another method is to tighten any loose floorboards or hardware that may be causing movement and noise. If your floors continue to creak despite these measures, it may be worth consulting a professional. At California Flooring and Design, we can help address your squeaky floor issues and provide solutions tailored to your specific needs.

When Should I Be Concerned About Creaking Floors?

While a certain amount of creaking can be normal, especially in older homes or during periods of temperature and humidity changes, prolonged or excessive squeaking could indicate a more serious issue. If your floors continue to squeak well past any seasonal changes or despite your attempts to fix them, it may be time to call in a professional. Persistent squeaks could be a sign of underlying issues such as loose nails, gaps, or even moisture damage that need to be addressed.

Do Creaky Floors Mean Foundation Issues?

Creaky floors do not always indicate foundation issues. However, if you notice other signs such as uneven or sloping flooring, warped window and door frames, bulging walls, or soft spots in the flooring along with the squeaking, it could be a sign of a problem with the foundation. In such cases, it is recommended to consult a professional to properly diagnose and address the issue.

How Do I Stop My Floorboards from Creaking?

Creaking floorboards can often be silenced by applying a lubricant to the joints between the boards. This can reduce the friction that causes the creaking noise. You can also tighten any loose nails or hardware that may be causing the boards to move and make noise. If your floorboards continue to creak despite these measures, it may be worth consulting a professional to identify and address the root cause.

For more information on how to deal with creaky floors, check out our in-depth guide on how to fix squeaky floors under hardwood. If you need professional help, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at California Flooring and Design. We are here to ensure that your floors are not only beautiful but also soundless and secure.