A creaking noise can be good or bad. Here’s how to tell the difference!
Creaking house noises are normal when they happen once in a while and there is no structural damage like wall cracks. But shifting foundations, pests, and floor problems can also cause persistent creaking which should not be ignored.
When are creaking noises normal and when are they a problem? This guide will show you which groans are harmless and the cracks that are not.
The Reasons Why Your Home Is Creaking
The most common reason a house gets chatty is thermal expansion and contraction. Most homes experience this. Thermal expansion and contraction mean that your house is responding to the differences in temperature. Roofs, in particular, swell and shrink when the weather changes. While most of the resulting bangs and creaks are harmless, thermal expansion and contraction can also cause damage where there is a weakness in the walls, roof, or foundation.
Creaking is also caused by the following not-so-good issues.
- Loose floorboards.
- Shifting foundations.
- Problems with the plumbing.
How To Deal With Creaking Floorboards
The main reason why floorboards creak or squeak is that the boards are no longer resting in their proper positions. Loose floorboards are found more often in older homes but new houses can also suffer from this annoying problem - and it can be annoying when the creaking boards are located in an area of your home where there is a lot of foot traffic.
Unfortunately, there is no single cause. The first step to fixing a creaking home’s floorboards starts with finding the reason the floor so noisy. These are three of the most common culprits.
- Floor joists.
- Some kind of friction.
How To Fix A Creaking Floorboard’s Nails
When nails are causing the noise, the fault can be traced back to one of two reasons. Either the builder used the wrong nails or he fitted the right nails incorrectly. Both possibilities have one thing in common - they prevent the boards from staying in place. This makes them more prone to movement and creaking.
Step 1: Locate the creaking floorboards. This should be easy. Just walk around and see which boards are making a noise.
Step 2: Remove the old nails.
Step 3: Use the right nails to re-fit the boards to the floor joists.
Step 4: If incorrect fitting is the problem, you can follow the same steps. But assess the situation to see if the nails were also placed too far apart. If so, rather screw-fix the board instead of adding more nails to the joist (which might cause more damage and more noise).
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Floor Joist Problems
Unless you have a good handle on DIY and carpentry, it might be best to call a professional carpenter to identify and deal with a floor joist problem. But for interest's sake, here are the most common causes of floor joist problems.
- There is too much space between the subfloor and the joist.
- Wear and tear over the years.
- The joists were damaged by a specific event like drilling.
- Rotting wood.
How To Deal With Friction As A Cause
When there is nothing wrong with the nails or joists, then friction between floorboards could be the reason why they creak all the time. Under normal circumstances, nothing should cause friction between floorboards.
However, friction can happen when:
- The floorboards are new and still adjusting to temperature changes. It is best to let them adjust.
- Dust and fine debris are making their way in between the boards. A good cleaning could stop the creaking.
- Water damage can also cause floorboards to swell and rub against each other. To prevent permanent warping, water spills and leaks must be dried up as soon as possible.
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Pests Can Also Cause A House To Creak
This is not what any homeowner wants to hear! But it is true. Sometimes, an infestation can cause creaking sounds in a house. The most common pests that produce creaks are termites and rodents.
These ants can cause a lot of damage under the floor and inside walls - to name but a few places. The terrifying part is that a termite infestation happens very quietly and by the time you hear creaking sounds, the colony is well-established in your home. There are signs that you are dealing with termites and not the wrong nails. That is right, a squeaky floor is also a calling card of these insects.
- Look for shelter tubes. These are usually brown in colour and clay-like. The ants use them to travel up surfaces and also throughout the house.
- Structural damage without an obvious cause. Once you eliminate poor building techniques, wear and tear, and water damage, you might have a colony in your home.
- The walls and floors suddenly sound more hollow.
- A lot of termites fly from the nest to start their own colony. If you notice this swarming event or their discarded large wings, it’s definitely a large infestation.
Here are more ways to deal with termites or prevent them from infesting your home.
Rodents like rats and mice can also cause squeaking sounds in the ceilings and walls due to their weight on beams and their habit of causing structural damage. Their presence is easier to detect due to droppings, urine smells, and the sounds of scurrying. But either way, a severe rodent or termite problem needs the attention of a professional pest company.
Shifting Foundations Can Cause Creaking
When the soil expands and contracts, it can cause serious problems with the foundation of a home. If the creaking noises come with the following signs, then your house might be in trouble. Get a reputable contractor to help before the damage gets even more serious.
- There are new cracks in the walls or floors.
- One or more doors get stuck (this is because the doorframe is warping).
- Roof damage like cracks and leaking.
When Does Plumbing Cause Creaking?
Plumbing can get chatty. Pipes pop, bang, and sometimes even whistle. But what if your pipes are creaking? The good news is that creaking is not commonly a sign of a serious problem. However, the noises can still be annoying.
Pipes creak when they undergo temperature differences. When hot water flows, the pipe expands. Once the metal cools down again, the pipe contracts and this causes creaking. Another possibility is that the expanding pipes are rubbing against a nearby surface like wood.
How to fix it: Insulating the pipes is the best thing to do. It allows hot pipes to cool down slower which should prevent them from creaking after every shower. If rubbing against a surface is the problem, you could try to replace the metal pipe clamps with Mickey clamps. The plastic clamps will suspend an expanding pipe slightly away from the surface and stop the creaking.
Remember, a creaking house often signals a serious problem that might take some time to sort out. If you want things to be done faster and have the problem solved permanently, it might be best to hire a reputable company to deal with it instead of doing it yourself.