Archive for the ‘noise’ category

Quick Tip #33 – Squeak, Squeak, Squeak in the Hardwood Floor

September 30th, 2014

Flooring of all types has the potential for squeaks. Floor framing dries and shrinks, and squeaks occur as fasteners become loose, allowing movement in the subfloor and framing. Hardwood floors are known for this quality as they dry during the winter.

For a quick fix, try sprinkling a little talcum powder between the offending hardwood boards. This may temporarily quiet the squeak as the talc lubricates the rubbing surfaces.

For a better quick fix, try Counter Snap. This screw fastening system secures loose hardwood floorboards and stops squeaks. You drive the slotted screw through a special bracket into the hardwood and subfloor. (For dense woods, you will need to drill a small pilot hole.) Once the screw tightens the loose board, you break off the screw just below the finished wood surface.

You will be left with a very small hole which you can patch with wood putty or colored filler – or just ignore.

M033C - Counter Snap - Special Screw_300dpi

Quick Tip #14 – Thump, Thump…It’s the Water Heater

May 19th, 2014

Gas Water Heater with Thumps, Gurgles, and PopsIt’s annoying when your water heater thumps, pops and whomps whenever you use hot water. What can you do?

The water heater’s thumping is caused by sediment that has built up in the bottom of the metal tank or around the electrical heating elements. The illustration shows a gas water heater with this problem. The sediment interferes with even heat transfer and allows steam bubbles to form. The bubbles float upward and then implode with a muffled thump.

You could try to drain sediment from the bottom of the tank. Attach a hose to the drain valve and route it to a safe plumbing fixture, such as a floor drain. Be careful; the water will be hot. Drain a few gallons; repeat this several times. Often, though, sediment is difficult to remove from the tank.

The thumping does not cause any damage to the water heater, but it certainly is annoying. Consider installing a water softener to eliminate the hard water sediment.

By Tom Feiza, Mr. Fix-It

Fixing Squeaky Floors

March 17th, 2013


I read your article about squeaky floors. My floors in the upstairs master bedroom squeak terribly. They don’t squeak below your feet – you will hear the squeak elsewhere in the room. The house was built in 2003. I’ve talked to the builder, and he immediately knew about the problem. They used floor-joists that were not large enough for the size of the room. He told me that it will be a costly endeavor to fix, requiring tearing up the floor and strengthening the floor joists. Would that be your assessment, as well?



There certainly could be a structural problem that causes floor squeaks. Undersized floor framing will result in a bouncy floor, squeaks, and potential angle cracks at wall openings. All floors bounce and move under load, but they are typically designed to limit the bouncy movement. Movement does not always indicate structural failure.

See if the builder is willing to do the repair for free or at a reduced cost – apparently it was his mistake. A typical repair could involve:

  • Doubling up on the floor joists
  • Bolting a steel plate to the joists
  • Gluing and screwing plywood to the underside of the joists
  • Adding a beam and post in the center of the span
  • A variety of combinations

S013 - Floor Framing Squeak Fix

The fix is expensive because the floor above or ceiling below needs to be removed. Furniture in the area needs to be removed and there will be a big mess. Fitting the new joists or any repair is also time consuming.


Soundproofing Between the Basement and First Floor

July 30th, 2010


Can you give me any advice on soundproofing between the basement and first floor? My bedroom is directly over the furnace and water heater. I thought adding foam to the basement ceiling might work.


Most sound moves with air through openings, so you need to try and seal any air leaks. Caulk or foam-seal any openings around plumbing, electrical, and heating ducts. Also, put energy gaskets on the electrical outlets.

I am not aware of any foam that will be fire-safe and inexpensive. However, you could try to isolate the furnace using drywall hung with special clips from the framing (the clips dampen sound transmission). If you install drywall, you can also add fiberglass insulation which will absorb sound.

Finally, look at the heating and return ducts. They can be a source of air and sound movement. While you can’t eliminate these ducts, it may be possible to use some type of baffle to make air move around them (where the sound is absorbed).

Finally, consider servicing the furnace. It should not make much noise, and most water heaters are very quiet unless it’s a power-vented unit.

Sones – Sound Level of Fans

March 7th, 2010

What do “sones” refer to in exhaust fan sound ratings? If nearly silent is 0.9, how loud is a 4?


That is a great question. I had to do a little research on this. A sone is a measurement of sound in terms of the comfortable hearing level for the average listener. The lower the sone value, the more comfortable the listening environment will be. For your question, a 4-sone rating is about four times a loud as a 0.9 (~1) sone rating.

Sones are not decibels or volume, but rather how sound is sensed. Sones are a linear measurement, like inches. Doubling the sone value is equivalent to doubling the loudness (i.e. one to two, two to four is doubling the sound level twice). Your 4-sone fan will be more than four times a noisy as a 0.9 sone fan.

One sone is equivalent to the sound of a quiet refrigerator in a quiet kitchen. Typically, the sone level is measured at maximum cubic feet per minute (speed), however some newer products are also being tested at normal CFM settings to provide consumers with typical sound level information.

Always look for a quiet fan, or it will not be used. Broan makes fans below 0.3 (really quiet). If you want more information on fans for the bathroom or kitchen, go to They have a great site with lots of information and the sone ratings.

Mr. Fix-It

Screech at the Shower

February 19th, 2010

I recently bought a new shower head, so I applied plumber tape and installed it. I have a loud screeching sound as the water is running, despite making adjustments in water flow. Help!


In most cases any screech or squeal with plumbing is caused by forcing water through a small obstructed hole. I suspect you have some sealer or tape stuck in the shower head. Dismantle the head and rinse the screen and internal components.

Normally you don’t need plumber putty or tape. The head may seal to the pipe with a small, built-in gasket.