Keeping squeaky floors from scotching sales
That creak may sound like home to you, but it sounds like work to a potential buyer. Here's how to stop the squeak and increase your home's sales potential.
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Q: While walking through our house, our real-estate agent noticed that our floors squeaked in several spots, and urged us to repair them. We have lived with the squeaks for many years — they are worse in winter — but don't want to pay a contractor to rip up our floors. Is there anything we can do to make them less noticeable?
— Chantilly, Va.
A: One of the most humbling aspects of selling a home is learning how many of the things that we've learned to live with — or may count among our home's endearing quirks — are truly annoying or alarming to buyers. Squeaky floors fall into that category.
The good news: You don't have to rip up your floors or spend a lot to fix them.
Shrinkage in wood floors, subfloors or joists causes squeaks. The contracting wood pulls nails loose and the loose spots flex and rub up against each other. Squeaks are often most noticeable in the winter because wood loses more moisture then, when indoor air is drier.
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Minor squeaks in hardwood floors can sometimes be eliminated by dusting a little talcum powder or powdered graphite into the spaces between the boards.
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If that doesn't work, you can try different strategies to correct the problem, depending on whether the area beneath the floor is unfinished or finished. You can buy materials for the fixes at any big-box hardware store.
If the area is unfinished basement space, have a helper stand over the squeaky spot and rock back and forth, so you can locate the source of the noise from below. Mark it with chalk.
If the problem is a sagging subfloor, you may be able to secure it by driving screws directly upward into the hardwood. Remove a floor register and measure the depth of the floor and subfloor, then buy screws about a quarter-inch shorter than the depth so the screws won't be visible from above. If the subfloor is badly supported, you can reinforce it with a scrap board secured to the subfloor by diagonally driven nails and construction adhesive.
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If there's a gap between the subfloor and joist, push some wood shims into the gap until they fit tightly. Mark the depth of the shim so you can cut them to fit. Remove the shim and cut it, butter it with a water-based construction adhesive, then reinsert it into the gap. Run a line of construction adhesive along the gap to reinforce the fix.
If the area below the floor is finished, buy a kit with some breakaway screws and a tool that can be used both to measure the proper depth to drill the screws and to snap them off. Different kits are available for carpeted and hardwood floors.
You can finish this project in an afternoon, so don't overlook it. Even a small squeak implies that something in your home isn't solid and secure, and in this market that can be a deal-breaker.
Another article, usually encouraged by real estate associations, on how to cover up things in your home that may possibly turn off potential buyers. If something needs repairs, fix it or openly ensure buyers are aware of a needed repair so that it can be discussed/resolved before any closing. Cosmetic cover ups, where things are made brighter, cleaner, dryer, quieter, etc. than they really are, are downright deceitful. Ditto for cheap/quick/temporary fixes. As for squeaky floors, who cares? That’s the nature of wood floors. You can minimize the squeaks but sooner or later they usually come back. If the squeaks haven’t bothered you enough to fix them just leave them be. If the buyer is troubled by them than that’s something that can be negotiated in the final closing.
So how about a little honesty here? Tell the listing agent not only your home’s good points, improvements, recent repairs and upgrades, but also its short comings. The worst thing is for a buyer to discover multiple bad surprises a month or two after they move in or when they encounter their first major rain storm or cold snap. And we already know counting on home inspectors is a roll of the dice - especially one recommended by the realtor.
There are specialty nails available through most lumber yards, granger, etc that are specifically for nailing down squeaky floors; they are manufactured with criss-crossing grooves instead of ringshanks to they screw in when nailed and have small heads. You can just drive them through carpet.
Hardwood floors themselves are sometimes the culprit, not the sub-floor; humidity (or lack of it) can cause hardwood floors to swell (or shrink) and the pieces rub against each other.
There are a LOT of causes for floor squeaks as well as remedies for them...this article is fluff, at best.
That's advice at least as good a talcum powder or powdered graphite between the boards as the writer suggests.
Doing a repair that's really just a temporary coverup and is not actually a better method of attachment just points out the fact that the seller knew of the problem and tried to hide it. That, added to any other buyer complaints like mildew and fungus spots wiped with bleach will send you into a legal argument that a seller probably can't win. The fact that you saw it, did a coverup, and then failed to disclosed the problem and your temporary solution just points out your guilt.
Lawyers love stuff like that.
3 levels of misrepresentation:
1. innocent. seller legitimately did not know of problem
2. negligent: seller had a responsibility and duty to know of problem but failed
3: fraudulent. seller knew of problem, covered it up and failed to disclose it to the buyers detriment and harm.
The first two are simple enough assuming everybody believes you. The penalties might just be for actual cost of repairing it correctly.
The last one (fraud) can also carry punitive damages. Those are hefty, and no insurance is going to cover you for a criminal act of fraud. If they win that kind of case, you'll be declaring bankruptcy to try to get away from the huge judgement, and they still might collect a good deal of it.
Best bet: disclose EVERYTHING you can think of. Saying 'various wood floor squeaks throughout-- suggest buyer obtain a 3rd party professional home inspection'' probably won't stop a buyer, and you'll be absolved of any further responsibility for representations 1,2 and 3.
You still may be called upon to provide a repair. But that's up to negotiation before the sale agreement is finalized.