Many people love their hardwood floors, but a drawback of this kind of flooring is the noise it can make, especially as it ages. The wood will gradually change in shape a little as it wears with use, and this can lead to creaking, which may make your house noisy. This can be particularly annoying if you are someone who likes to walk around at night without disturbing others.
You might have noticed that your hardwood floor seems to creak more when the weather is cold. If so, you’re probably wondering if this is actually a thing, or if you’re imagining it. Can wood creak more just because it’s cold outside?
Do hardwood floors creak more in the winter? Hardwood floors may creak more in the winter. The wood will shrink as temperatures drop, and this causes more gaps and more movement between the boards. That movement results in squeaking, as the wood rubs against itself, and the friction produces a sound. A lot of people find this frustrating, but it’s a normal part of wooden floors.
Do Hardwood Floors Creak When It’s Cold?
In general, hardwood floors are much more likely to creak when temperatures drop. In the summer, when the boards are warm, they will swell slightly, and this will make them fit more tightly against each other, reducing movement. However, when the boards can move more freely due to cold weather, they will squeal and creak.
A lot of people notice that their hardwood floors creak when winter comes, and this is fortunately nothing you need to be concerned about. It’s not likely to be a fundamental problem within the floor, and it doesn’t mean you need to get it replaced. It’s simply that the boards have a little more wriggle room than usual, and this is resulting in more movement.
It’s worth noting that the squeak may not be emitted just by the wood. Other floor components may squeak in response to the cold, and it’s slightly more likely that things will pop out of place. You may see the odd loose nail or trim popping up. This is perfectly normal.
If you do notice a particularly bad squeak, you may want to call somebody out to look at it, especially if a board feels loose or weak underfoot. It’s always better to get these things checked than to leave them until something breaks.
Do You Need to Repair Floors That Creak?
A creaky floor will sometimes need repairing, yes. Constantly expanding and shrinking due to temperature changes can cause your floor to come away from the subfloor, leaving you with boards that are loose and not properly supported. In theory, this shouldn’t happen frequently with a floor that was properly installed, but it’s worth checking nonetheless.
If one or two boards tend to come loose in the winter, or every few winters, there’s generally nothing to worry about. You can simply get those boards reattached, or even put up with the squeak if it doesn’t bother you (although this may gradually cause more wear on the wood).
However, if large sections of the wood come loose or this happens every single winter, there is likely a bigger issue. In these cases, you will need to get some professionals out to make sure the floor is correctly spaced. If it isn’t, parts of the floor or possibly the whole floor will need to be relaid to solve the problem.
Can You Stop Hardwood Floors From Creaking in the Winter?
It can be hard to prevent hardwood floors from creaking, but there are a few things you can do. Firstly, making sure the floor is installed correctly by a reputable firm should help. Secondly, you should keep the room warm and not too dry. This will reduce the amount of contraction each board does.
Ideally, you should keep the temperature as stable as possible. You don’t want it to be either hot or cold. Temperature fluctuations will do the most damage to the floors, as contraction and expansion will eventually wear them out, so try to stabilize the temperature and humidity where you can. This isn’t always easy, but it’s the best way to prevent creaking.
Some people recommend putting talcum powder under your floorboards to prevent creaking during the winter. This is because the powder will fill in gaps that have been left by the contracting boards, stopping them from moving as much, and therefore reducing the squeak.
However, this usually only works very briefly, and it’s likely that your floor will start creaking again after just a few days. This can also cause a mess if it puffs up when the floorboard is compressed, so it is far from an ideal solution.
You should avoid hammering the boards down with new nails, too; this is also likely to be a very temporary fix, and may result in the floor making more noise once those nails work loose.
It’s better to get an expert in to actually fix the issue and reattach the board properly to the subfloor, or you’ll end up with a floor that’s dotted with nails – and probably one that still creaks.
Are Wide Boards Worse Than Narrow Boards?
It may not surprise you to learn that wide boards shrink more than narrow boards, and a narrow board floor is therefore better for preventing creaking. A lot of people choose narrow boards for this reason, although some prefer the appearance of wide boards.
A floor can shrink whether it’s made of wide or narrow boards, so bear in mind that a narrow board floor may still creak in the winter. Don’t choose narrow boards just to avoid this issue. Instead, use a professional installation firm and get experts out if you are having problems.
Hardwood floors do tend to creak more in the winter, when the air is cold and dry, because the boards contract under these conditions. This opens up gaps and causes more movement, and this results in the boards creaking as they shift against each other and other floor components, such as nails and screws.