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Avoiding Squeaks and Pops when Installing Down a New Strip Floor

Hi there! This article is for those of you who are installing prefinished or unfinished wood flooring. I will teach you how to select a durable long lasting floor and subfloor. I will show you the best methods to installing and teach you the do's and don'ts from a pro. I will teach you how to avoid the squeaks and pops that you'll live with forever unless you know how to prevent them in the first place.

I'll teach you the types of problems you encounter when using the wrong flooring materials. I'll teach you how to refasten the subfloor to the joists. I'll show you the best hardware and tools for the job, the right screws, nails, fasteners, flooring nailers etc. I'll teach you the tips and tricks so that your floors don't squeak. I will also talk about the nails versus staples debate. All in all, this article will give you confidence to install your floor correctly and have it last.

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In this article I will give you the inside story on how to nail down a new strip floor so that no future squeaks will occur. I will tell you the hidden truths about OSB (oriented strand board) subfloors. Believe me when I tell you that this article goes well beyond the "industry standard".

Let's start out by defining just what strip floor is. My definition may be different from many contractors, but I call strip floor any random length wood floor strips less than 4" wide. They can however, be any thickness, 3/8", 1/2", but the 3/4" strip is the most common in North America. The 3/4" strip floor is also the most stable and durable. When a strip floor is too thin for it's width it will have a tendency to warp, when great variances in indoor relative humidity occur. For instance a 1/2" thick strip that is 3" wide is a very poor choice, but a 1 1/2" by 1/2" strip should be quite stable. So, as a general rule, try not to exceed a 4 to 1 ratio of the width vs. depth, and 3 to 1 would be ideal. That makes the 2 1/4" by 3/4" strip floor the most stable and longest lasting hardwood floor. It has less of a tendency to warp and when it does shrink in really dry conditions, it forms smaller less noticeable gaps.

The 3/8" and 1/2" strip floors have a much shorter life span, because only the top of the grooved layer can be sanded and refinished repeatedly. The 3/4" thick strip floor has a wearable layer of about 5/16". The 3/8" strip floor only has a little less than 2/16" and the 1/2" floors something in between the two, at about 3/16". Given the fact that labor costs for installation are about the same for each material, the thinner floors make little sense. The 3/4" strip floor has 6-8 sanding and refinishing cycles in its life, giving it at least a life span of 150-300 years. Whereas the 3/8" at best is only cycled thrice, giving it a total life of only 60-75 years. Who knows what costs and availability will be like that far into the future? Installing a long lasting floor now is a wise use of the Standing Tree Nation's venerable bones. Not to mention it gives a boost to your property value too.

Strip floors are easy to install and whether they come in prefinished or unfinished they make for a straightforward do-it-yourself project. But you must realize these wood strips are meant to nailed down to wood, and the fastener and subfloor choice is as important as the floor itself. One of my most common questions in the Ask the Expert section of this web site is what do I do about wood floor squeaks? Why not avoid future squeaking by installing your strip floor correctly now? I'll explain how.

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Essentials to getting it done RIGHT...
Il'll teach you:
1. The best sizes of strip floor for your home
2. Determine the best and worst subfloors for the strip floor
3. Nails vs. Staples - which should you use?
4. The inside story on OSB - is it in your house?
5. How to avoid laying the floor in the wrong direction
6. How to install the last three rows of the floor professionally