Warped Joist Causes Floor Squeaking

Over the life span of a home, joists will change shape, warp, twist. Cut wood is essentially a living breathing thing, in the sense that it will react with it’s environment. Humidity levels rise, wood will expand, humidity levels drop, wood will contract.

How it behaves is largely down to the way it’s been cut during the sawing process. Different cuts will behave, well, differently. However, regardless of the way wood is cut, they’ll all move or change shape in some fashion over a life span.

For example, plainsawn or flatsawn (Names given depending on the wood type – hardwoods or softwoods) will typically warp or cup/crown (In the context of joist – cupping or crowning is dependent on which side you’re looking at the timber from).

Now, without going too far down the road of science, how exactly can this warping/twisting effect a sub-floor to the extent of making it squeak? Firstly, take a look at the picture below..


Here you can see a void on the right hand side of the joist. There’s only a very small surface area where the joist is actually in contact with the chipboard flooring above (on the left side).

You can imagine (and you’d be right) that the chipboard flooring is going to drop down on the right hand side when somebody walks by. Any mechanical fixing like a screw or a nail will stay put. In other words, the chipboard will move up and down but I guarantee you the screws or nails won’t. What happens then is the chipboard or even floorboards will wear away around the screws or nails. Resulting in one of the god awful noises you might well be experiencing. I say ‘one’ as it’s never just one noise, but in the context of this article, warped or even poorly set joists WILL cause floors to squeak.

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