man drives a snap-off screw into carpeted subfloor
When working to stop floor squeaks, stand next to the snap-off screw to press down the loose subfloor.
Q: On the second floor of our house, the plywood subfloor under the wall-to-wall carpeting squeaks whenever we walk on it. Is there any way to make it quiet?
George Pfaff, Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada



A: Tom Silva replies: Your floor is squeaking because the plywood sub-floor no longer rests on the joists in some places. Every time you step on a loose spot, the plywood rubs against its popped nail, making a squeak. The way to fix it is to fasten the plywood back to the joists.

The easiest way to do that is to remove the carpet, stand on the loose, squeaking plywood, and drive 1 5⁄8-inch-long self-tapping screws into the joists. The old nailheads will flag the joist's location. But that approach makes sense only if you're planning to replace the carpeting.

If the carpet is staying in place, a Squeeeeek No More kit will allow you to drive special snap-off screws right through the carpet. The kit includes screws, a feeler bit to find joists, and a special fixture to set the screws to the correct depth. Here's how to use it:

1. Find the joists: Drive the long, threaded feeler bit through the carpet, pad, and plywood on one side of the squeaky area. If the bit backs out when you reverse the drill, you've located a joist; if it doesn't, pull out the bit, move the drill over 1 inch, and try again. You'll probably find the neighboring joists every 16 inches.

2. Drive the screws: Drive the snap-off screw through its three-legged fixture and into the joists on one side of the squeaky area. The fixture leaves the screwheads sticking up above the carpet.

3. Follow the string: Repeat steps 1 and 2 on the other side of the squeaky area, then tie strings between these screwheads and the ones driven earlier to show the location of the joists. Using the fixture, drive screws into the joist every 8 inches along each string.

4. Off with their heads: Snap off the screwheads using the fixture's notch. They will break flush with the surface of the plywood and be completely undetectable.

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