If you have plank flooring of any type, you might expect the floorboards to squeak as you walk over them. Maybe it happens so often that you’ve gotten used to the sound. Or perhaps it’s getting worse, and you’re looking into a quick fix. 

One option that may have come to mind is throwing a rug over the squeaky spot. But will a rug help a squeaky floor? 

A Rug Can Help or Hurt

To answer the question “will a rug help a squeaky floor,” you need to identify your goals. If you just want to get some peace and quiet as you search for a permanent solution, a rug will make the squeak sound softer. 

Especially if it’s made of a thick, dense material, the rug will muffle sound vibrations that come from the squeak. A thick, firm rug might even displace some of the direct pressure from each footstep, putting less force on the source of the noise. Use a high-quality pad beneath the rug for even more sound-canceling capabilities.

Ultimately, however, a rug won’t fix the problem that’s causing the squeak. If the rug displaces some pressure, it can delay the progression of the problem. 

But concealing a squeak with a rug could make the problem worse. If the squeak is caused by moisture, placing a rug in the affected area could increase the humidity in the flooring. This can deteriorate the subflooring, adhesives and size of the floorboards, making the squeak worse.

Some rugs aren’t effective in minimizing the sound anyway. Soft throw rugs don’t absorb much of the squeak. Moreover, they can become a tripping hazard. This is especially true if the source of the squeak is uneven flooring.

What Makes Your Floor Squeak?

Many types of flooring can develop squeaks. Hardwood floors commonly experience this issue. But so do laminate and engineered flooring. Squeaks can also happen in the subfloor of a tile or vinyl floor.

A squeaky floor is usually an indicator of a minor problem. If the squeak is new, it probably doesn’t mean that your floorboards are about to give out. But if you’ve been dealing with it for some time and have other signs of structural issues, you could be awaiting a cave-in.

Squeaks in your floor are usually caused by movement. Houses settle as they age. This moves the angles in the construction slightly, throwing things slightly out of square. 

Slight shifts in the shape of the house can cause the floorboards to rub against each other when you walk on or near them. This makes a noise, much like the sound of a cricket rubbing its wings together. 

The sound also happens because porous flooring expands and contracts with temperature and moisture. Over time, this creates gaps. Even if your flooring is a non-porous material, it often has a porous underlayment. If this is soft or uneven, it could emit a squeak when you step on it. Gaps between the joists and subflooring will also cause movement and creaks.

If you’re on a concrete slab, you’re less likely to have a creaky floor. However, certain types of flooring can still be noisy. This is especially true if they’re not installed correctly. 

For example, floating floors are held together by pressure. If the measurements aren’t right or the underlayment is uneven, floating floors may creak. Homeowners may also have issues with squeaky floors in the kitchen if their cabinets aren’t installed correctly with the flooring.

How to Locate the Squeaky Spot

Squeaky floors can be tricky. The problem area isn’t always directly underfoot. Pressure in one spot can make the floor creak a few feet away. 

If you can see the joists beneath the squeaky floor, send someone to observe as you walk on the floor above. Look for spaces between the joists and the subfloor. 

Sometimes, the squeak is caused by the hardwood and subfloor rubbing against each other. In this case, you wouldn’t see a gap in the joist. In fact, you might not be able to observe the issue directly. But if you see movement in the subfloor in the area of the squeak, you might just need to reinforce the connection between the subfloor and main floor.

Finding the squeaky spot is more difficult if you can’t get beneath the floor. When seeking out the creak from above, look for bulging or warped boards. Feel for movement, bounce or softness beneath your feet. If there is significant sagging or movement, you might be dealing with rot in the subfloor.

How Else Can You Help a Squeaky Floor?

A minor squeak doesn’t necessarily indicate that you have a problem; it could be the result of the house settling. But you don’t have to put up with it if it bothers you.

Some quick ways to help a squeaky floor include the following:

  • Sprinkle a lubricating powder into the seams – Baking powder, graphite powder and baby powder reduce friction and minimize the squeak. This solution is only temporary, however. If you rely on this technique too much, you could end up with gunky residue between your floorboards.
  • Shims – Place shims in gaps between the joist and subfloor. Tap them in with a hammer if necessary. Be careful not to widen the gap by pushing the shim in too far. Add some wood glue to keep the shim in place.
  • Construction adhesive – For long gaps, multiple shims are not usually the best solution. These can quickly shift, causing the squeak to come back. A more stable solution involves applying construction adhesive to the space between the joist and the subfloor. The squeak should stop after the glue has dried. You can also use this method to fill hollow spots between the flooring material and a concrete slab.
  • Screw it down – If the subfloor is squeaking against the primary flooring, try driving a screw through the subfloor from below. It should be long enough to connect with the main flooring material without puncturing the top surface. This will tighten everything and prevent movement. Be careful not to over tighten the screw, though. This could cause warping and buckling, which could generate a squeak down the road.

Minimizing Squeaky Floorboards

If you want to avoid waking up your family when tiptoeing to get a midnight snack, you can take the following steps to prevent squeaky floorboards altogether:

  • Have your floors installed properly – It’s often best to leave flooring installation to the experts. They’ll be familiar with flooring problems in your area and can give you tips on keeping your floors well-maintained. 
  • Deal with moisture immediately – Wipe up spills and deal with leaks so that water doesn’t warp your flooring. Eventually, moisture can rot the floor, causing structural issues in addition to creaks.
  • Maintain consistent humidity levels – Dramatic changes in temperature and humidity can cause certain types of flooring to expand, contract, shift and crack. As it moves, the flooring creates gaps beneath and around it. Prevent this from happening by keeping the air in your home conditioned and using humidifiers or dehumidifiers when necessary.

If you can’t get to these suggestions right away, you can use a rug to help a squeaky floor. Just don’t look at it as a permanent solution. It would be especially disadvantageous to install carpeting over a squeaky floor. Deal with the creak from the source to fix the problem for good.