In this article I’m going to talk about how I stopped an Engineered wood floor from creaking. I’m not going to give any cast iron guarantees but this method is simple and a common sense approach..
Let me start by explaining why I’m writing this basic guide. As a website owner, I get to see frequent search words that people type into Google that let’s me know how people have arrived at my site. Over the last few months I’ve seen a huge increase in searches like ‘my engineered wood floor is creaky’, ‘creaky engineered floor’ and so on. It would seem you’re not on your own!
As I’ve recently repaired a creaky engineered floor, I thought it would be a good idea to help others and run through what I did. Be warned, this is no quick fix and it may not solve your creaky engineered floor but in the particular job, it worked..
Some reasons why engineered floors creak
The first reason and in my opinion the most common is movement. Most engineered floors are sold today from large retail outlets at bargain prices. Now I’m not knocking them as I’ve installed a ridiculous amount of their engineered floors with great results. However, a lot of them aren’t the most substantial of products with thin boards and extremely basic locking mechanisms. An equation I use is a thin board is easier to bend and a basic locking mechanism is easier to move. Pretty simple stuff!
Any slight movement with any wood based floor covering will result in friction. When you get friction between two pieces of wood, you often get noise, the dreaded creak! This is more often than not due to an uneven sub-floor or a thick, springy and inappropriate underlay being used. The latter becoming less and less as people are easily educated with a few taps on a keyboard. Now-a-days suppliers are also more knowledgeable to what should and should not be used. A sub-floor being subtly uneven is not always easy to spot and can often require a seasoned eye. So don’t kick yourself too much if you’ve installed the floor yourself.
There’s also another type of noise that you may be familiar with. This noise is almost like a tear or similar to perhaps walking on broken glass. The noise you are hearing is the minute wood fibres separating or tearing away from each other later to re-bond with the help of air humidity, hence, the cycle happens again and again. You can often get this type of noise more in the morning and is simply the engineered wood shifting from the cold nights contraction into the warmer mornings expansion, then add some foot pressure and you get the tear or creak. This creaking noise can be very normal and consistent with an engineered floor but if it carries on throughout the day, that may point to continual vertical movement resulting from an uneven sub-floor.
The last point I’d like to make before I move on and look at our recent solution, is that some engineered wood floors (mainly the cheaper one’s) would creak if the sub-floor was super water level. In other words the locking mechanism’s are that slight and the structural strength of the boards that weak, creaking can be an inevitable by product of a budget purchase. You’re probably wishing to know what I class as a budget engineered floor. Well, in my opinion anything below £20 per square metre I’d consider as a lower end engineered floor. Although, I’ve installed engineered floors over the years that have cost over £50 per square metre and still creaked even after extensive sub-floor levelling work, so there really is no guarantee. If you’re reading this before you buy as an aid towards research, I’ve written a brief guide on how best to avoid a creaky engineered floor before you buy with some handy tips and tricks.
How did I stop my recent clients engineered floor from creaking?
Ok, I was called to visit my clients property about a month ago in Urmston, Manchester. He had bought an engineered wood floor from Wickes. He had lifted this floor twice after installing it, in an attempt at stopping the creaking. When I got their my client had the Wickes engineered floor installed on top of fibre board underlay, which was laid on top of hardboard, which was laid on top of a suspended timber floor.
One thing that struck me was how bouncy the floor was and at that rate of movement, creaks were completely expected. I pushed down on the exposed hardboard were the wood had not yet been laid and the hard board was moving. The intention of the hardboard was to even out the uneven floorboards. This seems to be one of the huge myths of hardboard. We’re talking about a 3 mm compressed fibre board with the strength of a wet lettuce. Any undulations in the floorboards and the hardboard is simply going to follow the undulations and if the hardboard isn’t prepared, acclimatised or even screwed/nailed down properly, is going to have voids underneath and create bounce. Can I have a vote of common sense here please! This is by no means a smear on my client as he had bags of perseverance..
Ok, first thing was to lift the Wickes engineered flooring, making sure to be gentle as this floor was coming up for the third time and I didn’t think the locking system could take much more. Then the underlay and lastly the hardboard. When the hardboard was lifted I got to see why the floor was originally creaky prior to my client installing the hardboard. The floorboards were cupping. They were running from left to right of my clients house and the new engineered flooring was going to be installed front to back. Normally, cupping or not this would be fine with most floors without much preparation. However, because the Wickes engineered floor wasn’t the most substantial engineered floor I’d ever seen (don’t get me wrong I’ve seen a lot worse), I decided that we would take the cupping out of the floorboards.
It was time for my trusty electric plane. Prior to setting to work, me and my comrade sunk all the nails in the floorboards around 5 mm below the surface. I then ran my electric plane along the high cupped points of the floorboards. As you can see in the picture below, the middle of the boards were barely touched. This left a nice even surface ready for the re-installation of the underlay.
Fibre board underlay is the best underlay to use on a wood sub-floor like floorboards. It beds in to acute undulations, while leaving the top surface level. I equate it to a polystyrene block. Poke a whole in one side and you will see a hole. Look on the other side of the block and you will see a nice flat polystyrene surface. This is the exact same concept with fibre board underlay. You should note the use of ‘acute‘. If you have a surface that is smooth and undulates, the fibre board underlay will simply follow the natural flow of the undulations. So our main task was to make the surface of the floorboards as level as possible as the original cupping was far too much for the fibre board underlay to deal with.
My choice with regards the hardboard was to completely get rid of it. It was doing far more bad than good. If ever you wish to use a surface medium to level badly cupped floorboard, at a minimum, I would always advise 12 mm WBP plyboard. This will give a far more stable sub-floor ready for a floating engineered floor to be installed.
Ok, so nice flat floor boards, good quality underlay, we were ready to get cracking. As the Wickes engineered floor had been taken up three times, I doubted the integrity of the locking mechanism. It wasn’t the strongest looking system to start with. Only having essentially a tongue and groove design with a very basic locating channel machined into the groove and an opposing male channel machined on the tongue. I opted to use a pva adhesive. A small bead ran along the top of the tongue of each board one at a time just before I installed them. I knew this would accomplish two things. The pva would fuse the engineered boards together and create an additionally strong bond between each board. Secondly, any damaged parts of the locking mechanism due to the lifting wouldn’t be a problem.
As we went a long with the installation I decided to use compression straps to keep everything in place as I always do when pva gluing any wood floor. Please note, should you opt to glue a new engineered floor with a machined locking mechanism, compression straps should not be required. I used them as some of the locking mechanism in this circumstance were, as mentioned, damaged.
Once installed, I left the floor overnight to allow the pva glue to set. When I arrived the next morning, the floor was still slightly creaky so between my client and myself we decided to leave the floor for a couple of days to make sure. Two days later, not a creak in site!!!
Just because a floor isn’t as expensive as others, doesn’t mean you’ll have a creaky floor for that reason only. As we saw in this situation, it was purely down to the unevenness of the sub-floor. More expensive and thicker boards would more than likely not need the additional leveling work that was required here, although I’d always advise to get a sub-floor as flat as possible, ready for any engineered floating floor.© Copyright 2013 Wes, All rights Reserved. Written For: Fitmywoodfloor