Wood Floors: Stop the Squeak and Keep ‘Em Looking Good
Faced with squeaks or water stains on your hardwood floor? Make the fix and protect your investment
Refinished wood flooring in Jessica and David’s apartment
Hardwood floors can be majestic. They bring an Old World charm to any home. Walk on them with bare feet and the quality is undeniable. Nothing man-made can ever quite replicate it.
Hardwood floors can also be enticing; more than 50 percent of people in the market for a home are willing to pay more for a place that has hardwood floors, according to National Association of Realtors. The average amount of that “more” is $2,080. And the younger the buyers are, the higher they rate hardwood floors on their list of desirable features.
As wonderful as they are, hardwood floors can come with some hiccups. They can squeak and creak. They can stain and buckle. The materials and installation can get pricey. But all that might be worth it when you gaze upon those gorgeous floors (and later sell your home faster and for a slightly higher price). Sweeten, a free service matching homeowners with vetted general contractors, illustrates how to navigate those few hardwood floor obstacles.
Why do hardwood floors squeak?
Contrary to popular belief, it’s likely not the wood that you’re walking on that is making all that racket, according to Scott, a general contractor with Sweeten, a free service connecting homeowners with vetted contractors. The culprit is often the subfloor and joists underneath. The material can become loose, causing friction between two pieces of wood, which emits the squeak. “It’s caused either by people walking on it for a hundred years or it hasn’t been installed properly,” said Scott.
Humidity can also be a major factor, according to Tom Jennings from the World Floor Covering Association. That is especially the case in places like New York, where temperatures “can vary 100 degrees between July 4thand January 4th,” he said. As the floors expand and contract with the humidity, hardwood floors can shift and become loose. At times they can even begin to buckle.
Maple floors in Ana and Leo’s apartment
How to fix the squeak
Herringbone patterned oak in Kasey’s prewar apartment
Patching a hardwood floor
If you have a water stain or some floorboards in need of repair, it will be difficult to fix just that one patch. The damaged section would need to be sanded back and then restained. However, “the only portion of the job that is difficult is matching the existing stain,” said Scott. He is referring to the stain that you apply and not the damage.
Cost to refinish a hardwood floor
Even if your hardwood floor isn’t damaged, giving it a sand and refinishing it will make it feel like new. It’s a good idea to do this every 15 to 20 years, according to Tom. That interval will be determined by the quality of your finish and how much traffic the floor gets. For example, your home entrance would wear faster than an upstairs area.
Restained maple flooring in Lauren’s studio apartment
Cost of a new floor
The average cost of installing a new hardwood floor including the subfloor is $4,000 for 200 square feet, according to Fixr. That price will move up or down depending on the area you want to cover. It will also depend on if the contractor will have to work around unusual room shapes. Material cost is another factor. Pine can cost $1 to $3 a square foot. At the other end of the scale, walnut costs $6 to $9 a square foot, according to Fixr. Add to that a subfloor, which is between $8 and $16 a square foot. Labor can range from $8 to $12 a square foot, depending on the difficulty of the install.
Wood floors look great in any space—and with the right care and maintenance—just get better looking over time. Check out 5 Sweeten homes with classic wide-plank flooring.
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