Subflooring Secrets to a Quiet Floor
Squeaky floors can be a jobsite nuisance or a frustrating callback. Learn how choosing the right subflooring material can help prevent the pain
Building products innovator Huber Engineered Woods LLC has a reputation built on consistent product performance and commitment to people. Fueled by on-the-jobsite analysis and building science principles, AdvanTech® subflooring and ZIP System® sheathing and tape product solutions have changed the way construction teams build better buildings. AdvanTech and ZIP System products streamline installation, while providing dependable performance as critical components of quiet, stiff floors and weather-resistant, tight building envelopes. With headquarters in Charlotte, NC, manufacturing facilities in Maine, Georgia, Virginia, Tennessee and Oklahoma, and a national sales team of over 100 members, Huber Engineered Woods provides specialty building materials to residential, multifamily and light commercial projects nationwide, through a national network of lumberyard and distribution partners.
Squeaky floors are a common complaint – just do an online search of floor squeaks and remedy after remedy, in posts by everyone from homeowners associations to Tom Silva on This Old House, come up in search results. What if you could take a few important steps during construction that would help prevent squeaky floors from developing later on? Here are a few subflooring secrets that can reduce the chance of squeaks in your next home.
Current building code standards are designed to make sure floor systems can adequately resist weight of a given design. However, they are not necessarily written to specifically eliminate squeaks, bounce or uneven floors. Proper installation plays an important part in flooring performance, as does choice of material. When it comes to selecting the support for your finished floors, typical plywood and traditional commodity oriented strand board (OSB) subflooring satisfy minimum standards in current building codes. But by using high-performance materials in critical unseen places, builders and their clients can improve long-term flooring performance. Choosing subflooring with above-code strength, stiffness and fastener-holding-power values can help reduce construction delays and minimize the risk of callbacks for squeaky, bouncy floors.
What makes a quality subfloor panel?
Homeowners often tend to scrutinize cosmetic details of the home during construction to make sure the overall design and function convey luxury. Taking the time to discuss the importance of using high-performance materials in unseen places can be a little more challenging, but can lead to a long-term difference in the comfort of a home. Remember, luxury you can see may be pretty, but luxury you can’t see is quality. Here are a few qualities you should look for in subflooring to help ensure quiet, stiff floors:
- Strength: How much weight a panel can hold
Subflooring comes in a variety of materials. Typical commodity plywood and OSB are historically known to provide an adequate base to meet the minimum design floor loads specified by building code at the time the home is built. To be sure the structural subfloor can support any loads put on it for years to come, builders can choose subflooring products that are stronger and warranted for the lifetime of the home. Today’s high-performance engineered wood panels have advanced “recipes” of high-wood density and sophisticated resin technology that help them provide an exceptionally strong foundation for hardwoods, tile and stone.
- Stiffness: How much the panel will deflect up and down
Subflooring must be strong enough to resist weight distributed across its surface, but another important factor is panel stiffness, which helps ensure that subflooring is consistently flat and even. Subfloor panel stiffness plays a key role in how finished flooring feels underfoot. High-performance panels like AdvanTech® subflooring also have a specially engineered wood strand orientation pattern used in manufacturing for optimal stiffness to help eliminate bouncy, sagging floors.
- Fastener Holding Power: How well subflooring holds nails, screws or staples
Some commodity subflooring products may lose their ability to hold fasteners in place over time, especially if exposed to moisture during construction. During a unique manufacturing process, each wood flake used to make AdvanTech subflooring panels is coated with advanced moisture-fighting resins that not only increase moisture resistance throughout the panel, but also create strong material bond in every square inch of the panel. This kind of panel design and manufacturing process helps AdvanTech panels grip and hold fasteners in place to reduce the risk of movement between subflooring, joists and floor coverings, which is what causes squeaks.
Choosing screw-shank or ring-shank fasteners over smooth-shank nails can also help reduce the chance of fasteners loosening and allowing for the movement that can lead to squeaks. Choosing a panel with a fastening guide that indicates the appropriate spacing and helps prevent “shiners,” or misplaced fasteners that may miss the joists, is another best practice.
- Moisture Resistance: Standing up to jobsite conditions
Lower-quality subflooring can swell or delaminate when exposed to water during construction. This can create uneven panels, which can lead to loosened connections and bonds over time, increasing the chance of squeaks. Sanding swollen, uneven panels during construction is a common practice, but it can cause costly construction delays. Panels engineered with next-generation ingredients and processes make these high-performance panels so moisture resistant they’re backed by a 500-day No Sanding Guarantee.
To glue or not to glue?
The simple answer: Glue. Although using a subfloor adhesive is not required by code, it is a standard practice that can help prevent floor squeaks by reducing the chance of movement at the panel-to-joist connection. A quality subfloor adhesive will also increase the overall stiffness of the floor.
Weather can play a major role in how well traditional cartridge-applied adhesives work. It’s important to store glues at the correct temperature, especially during the colder months. Adhesives should be kept warm during the winter; when cold, they do not adhere as well and become difficult to use, which can lead to bad application. Traditional cartridge adhesives can be harder to use during cold weather – slowing down the installation process and making the job harder than it needs to be. But a polyurethane spray-foam adhesive like AdvanTech™ subfloor adhesive is quick and easy to use. It can adhere to wet and frozen wood and can cover up to eight times more panels per can.
AdvanTech subfloor adhesive starts as a foam and settles into a high-strength gel adhesive. It creates a bond that goes beyond industry performance standards and is so strong that when used with AdvanTech subflooring as part of an AdvanTech™ Subfloor Assembly, it’s backed by a Squeak-Free Guarantee.
Before applying an adhesive, make sure the surface has no standing water and is free from oil and grease. Apply only enough adhesive for 2 to 3 panels at a time. With AdvanTech subfloor adhesive, you have a 20-minute open time to install panels. AdvanTech Subfloor Adhesive is fast and easy to install. This is important because easier installation means better application, which leads to stiffer floors. The unique blue color of AdvanTech subfloor adhesive lets you see exactly where the adhesive is and how much has been applied. It’s a great feature for ensuring proper and sufficient application. Watch the full application instructional video at AdvanTechSFA.com.
Last, but not least
Double-check your work. Before frame inspection, walk subflooring to look for missing fasteners and any possible inconsistencies.
By taking the best steps toward building a quiet subfloor, you can give homeowners the peace of mind that comes with preventing the nuisance of squeaks and creaks.
 Coverage: One 24-oz. can of AdvanTech subfloor adhesive yields approximately 400 linear feet of gel adhesive at ½” bead compared with applying a 28-oz. cartridge adhesive at 3/8” bead. Coverage varies based on bead size and weather conditions.
 Exceeds ASTM D3498; dry, wet, frozen and gap-filling adhesion tests
 Limitations and restrictions apply. See Squeak-Free Guarantee for details on AdvanTech Subfloor Assembly requirements.