Squeaky doors and creaky floors make wonderful sound effects for scary movies. They heighten our suspense and add to the drama of the scene.
But for homeowners, noises that come with aging houses and expanding or contracting joists are annoying.
Fluctuating temperature and humidity cause shrinking and swelling of the wooden structures in floorboards and doorways. Over time, nails can loosen and strike plates, latches and hinges can wiggle out of alignment or get rusty.
Loose boards and nails rubbing against each other cause the squeaking noises we hear as we walk across the room or up and down the steps. The culprit behind rattling doors usually is a malaligned strike plate that prevents the door from closing firmly against the molding. If you hear squeaking noises from a door as it closes, it's most likely coming from the hinges.
Fortunately, these problems are easily fixed. You will need a hammer, nails, screwdriver, screws and wood putty. Squeaky floors can be fixed from above or below. Floors that are carpeted or tiled are best fixed from below, unless the floor covering is being replaced. Then, do repair work when the floor is bare, before the new carpet is installed.
To silence a squeaky floor from the top surface, drill a starter hole into the wood flooring at an angle. Hammer nails into the flooring.
Avoid using smooth nails, which can work loose eventually. Countersink the nails and use wood putty to fill in the nail holes.
To fix the squeaking from below, determine if the problem is the result of movement between the joist and subflooring, the finish floor has loosened from the subfloor or the bridging between the joists is loose. Inspect the underneath surface while a second person walks above over the noisy areas. Look for movement of any of the structures.
If the joist and subflooring have gaps, hammer a shim between the two to tighten the gap. If the finish floor has loosened from the subfloor, screw in a wood screw through the subfloor to the finish floor so the two are pulled together. A washer on the screw will prevent it from pulling through the subfloor. For loose bridges between joists, hammer large nails into the bridging at an angle.
Quieting squeaky stairs is just as easy. Most likely, the tread needs to be tightened against the riser or the stringer. The technique to quiet the noise from above is similar to fixing floors. From below, hardwood blocks can be screwed between the treads and risers. Metal angle brackets also can be used to tighten the tread to the riser.
While you're at it, check to see if the rail and balusters along the staircase need tightening. Though their squeaking is not as apparent at the noise from a step, their looseness can be dangerous. After drilling a pilot hole in the baluster, place a wood screw at an angle through baluster into the rail or through the baluster into the tread. An alternative is to squirt glue in the joint that holds the rail to the baluster.
Nails may also be placed through the rail into the balusters, countersunk and covered with wood putty.
Doors that rattle or don't close properly require a quick fix. If the strike plate (the metal plate on the door jamb where the door latch inserts) is not aligned correctly, the latch cannot "catch" in the strike plate and the door will not close properly. File or relocate the strike plate so the latch is centered in it when the door is closed.
Sometimes a cardboard shim is required between the door jamb and the strike plate to produce a snug fit of the plate and latch.
Squeaking doors most likely mean squeaky hinges. Oiling the door hinges usually fixes the problem. Sometimes the hinges need to be dismantled and cleaned with a wire brush. The pins that hold the door to the hinges should be cleaned with steel wool. A wire pipe cleaner can be poked into the pin holes to remove any loose debris and rust. Reassemble the hinges.
There, the creepy noises should be gone.
-- Carol Boncella is education coordinator at Lawrence Memorial Hospital and home and garden writer for the Journal-World.