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Dear Jim: The floors in several rooms have annoying squeaks. We are selling the house, so we want to fix them cheaply. When we build our new efficient house, how can we avoid squeaky floors again? - Johnny D.
A: Every home seems to have squeaky spots here and there throughout the rooms. The problem is generally worse during the winter when the humidity level is lower making lumber shrink. This shrinking often creates tiny gaps between the subflooring and the joists causing the squeak when someone steps on them.
There are several inexpensive do-it-yourself kits available to stop floor squeaks. They all work by securing the subflooring to the supporting floor joists. When installed correctly, they will eliminate squeaks and help prevent new ones from forming. You can find them at most home center stores.
If you do not have access to the underside of the floor, use a no-squeak kit that drives screws from above through the carpeting and subflooring and into the joist. This permanently fixes the subflooring to the joist.
These kits include an aluminum jig that rests on the carpet. Using a cordless drill, special long screws are driven down through the carpet. After the screws are installed, bend the exposed screw head with the jig. The head is designed to break off slightly below the surface of the subflooring.
If you have access to the joists and subflooring from beneath, use brace-type no-squeak kits. One is a small cast aluminum brace that screws to the subflooring and joist and draws them together. Another design is screwed to the subflooring and a nut is tightened drawing it down against a joist.
When you build your new house, maximum stability will eliminate squeaks and maintain its airtightness for energy efficiency. Using engineered lumber instead of standard board lumber will result in the most stable house.
Engineered lumber is made from smaller pieces of wood that are combined to form large support pieces such as joist and beams. This is good for the environment because less virgin wood is needed. Smaller wood pieces can be used which might otherwise be discarded as scrap or used less effectively.
When building your new house, you should use several types of engineered lumber - laminated veneer lumber (LVL), glulams and I-joists. LVL and glulams are produced by permanently laminating several thin layers of lumber together.
I-joists are similar to steel I-beams with LVL boards separated by a thin vertical web. They are ideal for floors to eliminate squeaks and settling. When the kids jump in a room with I-joists floors, everything will not rattle.
Instant Download Update Bulletin No. 407 - buyer's guide of 12 manufacturers of do-it-yourself floor "stop-squeak" kits and engineered lumber showing installation instructions for several stop-squeak kits, descriptions of various engineered lumber products (LVL, glulams, I-joists, rim boards), specifications, maximum lengths of the lumber, features/uses, and prices of the stop-squeak kits.
Dear Jim: We are getting ready to have a house built. Is it more efficient to run round or rectangular ducts from the furnace/central air conditioner to the individual rooms? - Kyle W.
A: The size of the heating and cooling ducts is more important than the shape. There is an optimum size (cross-sectional area) to provide the best efficiency with the least noise.
Technically, a round duct should be slightly more efficient because there is less surface area for a given cross-sectional area. Rectangular ducts are often used because they can be shallow and wide to fit inside the floor joists.