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Handyman on Call

How do you silence a squeaky wooden floor?

By Peter Hotton
Globe Correspondent / September 5, 2010

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Q. My hardwood wood floors squeak like crazy. How can I stop the squeaks? I have access under the floors, in the basement. FRANK RIZZA

A. Your floors are squeaking because they dried out and contracted. When the floor is walked on, it moves, and the squeak is the sound of the wood rubbing against the nails. Often floors will squeak in winter, when the wood is dry, and not squeak in summer when it expands as it takes on moisture. The cure is to get the floors (top floor and subfloor) tightly together and tightly on the joists (the beams underneath), so they won’t move. This is usually done under the floor.

Drive wood shingles or tapered shims of wood or plastic between floorboards and joists, the beams holding up the floorboards. This will bring the boards and beam together, so there will be no movement when you walk on the boards.

If you have no access under the floor, this is what to do: Buy a kit called Squeek No More. It consists of a small jig and a number of headless screws; drive these screws into the floorboards, and, if you can, into the joist. Then break off the screw that is showing (it is designed to do this). It will break off below the surface of the wood and will leave a small hole that can be left as is or filled. This kit is designed for use on a wall-to-wall carpet, but it can be done on bare boards as well. If you can’t find such a kit, drive thin brass screws through hardwood, subfloor, and into joists.

While driving screws, have someone stand on the floor where the squeaks are. Weight will bring the floors together, making it easier for the screws to hold. For temporary relief, apply talcum powder to the joints of the boards. Or, try WD-40 (a spray lubricant), although this is a bit oily and should be wiped up if you get it on the face of the floorboards. Q. My house faces the ocean, I was told I need new corner boards, and that Azek is good to use as a trim board. What is Azek, and will it stand up to the weather

SYLVIA TOPP, Beverly

A. Azek trim boards, balusters, and decorative molding are solid vinyl, and will last close to forever, and will certainly stand up to weather. It comes in white, and maybe colors, too, and can be painted. It is quite hard and may be difficult to nail without splitting it, so pilot holes may be needed for the nails. Q.I built an outbuilding, a shed, really, with footings of concrete tubes about 4 to 6 inches deep. Now, the shed is tilting at least 6 inches out of level. How can I straighten it out? How deep should the footings be? JOE, Jamaica Plain

A.Footings are usually 3 to 4 feet deep, even for small buildings. That is as deep as the worst frost can get in winter, and if groundwater under the footing freezes, it will heave the footing right out of the ground. You can probably get away with footings 2 feet deep for a backyard shed. You can level the shed by jacking up one end and putting extensions (wood blocks) between the footings and shed floor. But don’t be surprised if the tilt recurs next winter.

Q. I have to buy a new front door, a whole setup including frame and threshold. The one there now is wood. Is fiberglass worth looking into? KAY, Boston

A. Fiberglass is relatively new, and a good choice, but don’t faint when you price them. Fiberglass can be painted (better to stain it), and is a very good insulator. Wood is also good, and can be painted or stained and also can be trimmed if the fit is not right. Fiberglass is more stable than wood.

Q. I have three casement windows in my family room. At 15 years old, they are not very old and work nicely. Except that in winter, if I sit not far from the windows I feel a draft. The windows close and latch OK, except for that phantom draft. Placing a rolled-up newspaper along the bottom of each window has helped some. What’s wrong and how can I fix it?

KAY STEELE, Milton

A. Hey, another use for newspapers. Your windows are probably tight because they are casements, but here is what happens: air, warmed by the heating system, wafts around the room, floating along the ceiling until it approaches the window wall, and cools off and drops. By the time it gets to you, it is pretty cool, having lost temperature from the window itself. Here is a sure way to determine if it is a phantom draft. Buy Mortite, a flexible, soft rope caulk. Press this at the bottom joint of the window. If the draft stops, you know that the window is loose. If the draft does not stop, you know that the window is tight and you can move away from the draft. Or put up thermal shades.

Peter Hotton is also in the g section on Thursdays. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton (photton@globe.com) also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. To participate, go to www.Boston.com.