Subflooring Secrets for Squeakless Floors

Builders know that squeaky floors are on of the most common reasons for call backs. And they can be real pain to fix. The best approach is to avoid squeaks in the first place by using a few subflooring secrets of the best pro builders.

One of the hidden secrets is that building codes are designed to make sure floor systems can adequately handle the weight in a given design. But a floor that follows those codes to the letter could still have squeaks, bounce or be uneven.

Of course, proper installation plays an important role in flooring performance, but a quiet floor starts with choosing high-performance materials.

While traditional plywood and oriented strand board (OSB) subflooring satisfy minimum standards in current building codes, these basic materials can lead to squeaks due to installation problems, or compromised performance from exposure.

Builders, and clients seeking quality quiet, stiff floors, can use high-performance materials in critical unseen places that will affect long-term flooring performance. Choosing subflooring designed to perform with above code requirements for strength, stiffness and fastener-holding power values can help reduce construction delays and the risk of callbacks for squeaky, bouncy floors.

What makes a quality subfloor panel?

Subflooring is one of those home component that's out of site, out of mind. Most homeowners tend to look at kitchen countertops and cabinets more than their subfloor.

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 is historically known to provide an adequate base to meet the minimum design floor loads from the 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, stone and you.

Stiffness: How much the panel will deflect up and down.

While it’s important that subflooring is strong to resist weight distributed across its surface, panel stiffness helps ensure the subflooring maintains a flat, even consistency. Subfloor panel stiffness plays an important role in how satisfied homeowners are with their finished flooring. Wood density and resin composition in engineered wood panels play a role in panel stiffness just like they do in determining strength. 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 its unique manufacturing process each wood flake used to make AdvanTech subflooring panels is coated with advanced moisture-fighting resins that not only increase its moisture resistance throughout the panel, but also creates a strong material bond in every square inch of the panel. The 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 how squeaks occur.

Choosing screw shank or rink-shank fasteners over smooth shank nails can also help reduce the chance of fasteners loosening and allowing for movement that can lead to squeaks over time. Choosing a panel with a fastening guide to help make sure the appropriate spacing and to avoid “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 that can lead to loosened connections and bonds over time, which increases the chance of squeaks. Sanding swollen, uneven panels during construction is a common practice, but it can cause costly construction delays.

Not all engineered wood panels are the same. AdvanTech® subflooring is the only structural engineered wood panel with documented design values above code minimum requirements (PS 2-10). Evaluation Service Report ESR-1785 reports AdvanTech panels have better strength, stiffness and fastener-holding power than commodity OSB or plywood panels of the same thickness1. In fact it was AdvanTech subflooring that introduced this “third category” of subflooring that performs distinctively differently from commodity OSB and plywood 20 years ago.

1 See Evaluation Service Report published by the International Code Council Evaluation Services Office, ESR-1785 for details.

To glue or not to 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 for 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, because 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 using a polyurethane spray-foam adhesive like AdvanTech subfloor adhesive is quick and easy to use. It can adhere to wet and frozen wood and cover up to eight times more panels per can.

Before applying an adhesive, make sure the surface doesn’t have any standing water and is free from oil and grease. Apply only enough adhesive for 2-3 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.  It’s a great feature for ensuring proper and sufficient application.

Last, but not least

Double check your work. Before frame inspection, walk subflooring looking for missing fasteners and any possible inconsistencies.

Using these building pro tips can help builders take the best steps towards building a quiet, stiff floor. Homeowners enjoy peace of mind with a quiet, high quality home, and the builders can eliminate a frustrating source of callbacks and warranty issues by taking material selection and best practice steps upfront.

This blog was developed by Huber Engineered Woods. All posts, sponsored and un-sponsored have been reviewed and approved by the Sustainable Community Media Editorial Team to ensure quality, relevance/usefulness and objectivity.


Topics: Flooring, Lumber and Structured Panels

Companies: Huber Engineered Woods


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