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Build a Squeak-Free Floor

Construction How-To, Flooring Installation, Floors, Hardwood, Laminate and Engineered, Tile, Vinyl August 3, 2008 admin


If you are planning an addition to your home, or are going all the way and building a new home, a key area to focus on is the structural framing of the floors. Too often, floors have annoying squeaks or bounce, which can mar an otherwise quality job on the rest of the project. But a correctly built floor is a hallmark of good construction and can help support the long-term value and enjoyment of your home. Paying careful attention to the framing will help provide a solid and silent floor, plus reduce the risk of cracks in tiles, or gaps and bulges that show through carpet, linoleum or other floor coverings.


Quality builders will tell you that viewing the overall structural frame as a system, instead of individual components, helps deliver a stronger built home; this goes the same for your floors. Selecting and installing joists, rim board and floor panels that perform as a cohesive unit provides superior quality over installing with a piecemeal approach. Think of a finely tuned engine: All of the parts must fit together precisely and work as one for optimum performance. And, using modern materials, such as engineered wood products, can help speed construction and improve overall quality.


Plan Ahead

The first step in creating a superior floor is working out the details in advance. This is critical because it can be difficult and expensive to try to retrofit a poor floor installation.

Fortunately, you don’t need to be a contractor or architect to develop a well-thought and workable plan for the floors. Many lumber and building material dealers—especially those who support professional builders—have the tools and resources to help turn your basic ideas into a detailed plan. They can show you the size, spacing, and span for all materials, and then provide a detailed list to help you get the right supplies. As with any construction project, you should check with your local building department to ensure compliance with codes and to confirm if an engineer of record will need to review and stamp the plans.


The traditional approach to designing a floor is based on live load deflection criteria (i.e., how much the floor “bends” when the room is furnished and occupied), but deflection is only one part of how a floor performs. Relying on this method may provide a structurally sound floor that meets codes, but falls short of your expectations if it bounces, feels soft, or vibrates when you walk on it.


To address this shortcoming, an action many professional builders take—one that is also open to the serious do-it-yourselfer—is to have the dealer provide a prediction of the floor’s performance. For example, using TJ-Pro™ Ratings developed by iLevel by Weyerhaeuser, the dealer can evaluate factors such as materials and installation methods, and determine a target performance rating for your floor based on your own expectations. Such ratings provide you with an idea of how the floor will feel, and allow you to test and compare the performance of various construction plans before installation. This can also help ensure that the finished floor is not over built or under built, and it balances desired performance with your project budget.


Obtaining performance ratings is quick and straightforward. You’ll need to provide the dealer with the dimensions of the floor, the type of floor covering (carpet, tile, hardwood, etc.), and the anticipated use of the room. Considering the use can help you decide how solid you want the floor to be. For example, a high TJ-Pro Rating may be especially important in a room with a lot of traffic like a living room or kitchen, but less important in a spare bedroom or office.