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Creaking Floors in New Build Houses

What is Micro Cracking?

Creaking floors are a common complaint among homeowners of new build properties. The phenomenon, often referred to in the construction industry as “micro cracking,” signifies a defect within the floor or ceiling construction. This defect leads to the cracking and creaking of floors and the plasterboard ceilings below, sometimes to an extreme degree. Understanding the causes, implications, and solutions for micro cracking is crucial for homeowners and builders alike to ensure the longevity and comfort of new homes.

Micro cracking results from the differential movement of materials against one another, specifically the underside of a timber joist and the backside of a ceiling plasterboard. Timber can stretch under load, whereas plasterboard is a stiff material that does not. The friction between these two materials causes the noise known as micro cracking. This differential movement, though minor, is significant enough to cause noticeable noise, often described as akin to “cap gun shots” or a pencil snapping rather than a mere creak.

 

Causes of Creaking Floors

Several factors can contribute to the creaking of floorboards, making it challenging to pinpoint the exact cause without a thorough investigation. These factors include:

  • Improperly installed hangers
  • Poorly connected partition walls
  • Floor panels installed wet
  • Nails rubbing against the joist
  • Mechanical systems in contact with the joist

The causes of creaking floors in new build homes are varied and often complex, stemming from both the construction phase and the materials used. One significant factor is improperly installed hangers, which can lead to inadequate support for the floor joists, causing them to move or flex more than intended when under load. This movement can result in audible creaking or cracking sounds, particularly as the timber adjusts to the weight and shifts over time. Similarly, poorly connected partition walls can contribute to the instability of the floor structure. If the walls that are meant to provide lateral support to the floor joists are not securely attached, the additional movement can exacerbate the creaking noises.

Another common cause is the installation of floor panels while they are still wet. Timber and other materials can expand when they absorb moisture and contract as they dry out, leading to gaps between the floor panels or between the panels and the joists. These gaps can cause the floor to creak as pressure is applied. Nails that rub against the joist are also a culprit, often resulting from nails that are too long or improperly positioned during the construction process. As the floor is used, these nails can move slightly, creating a creaking sound.

Mechanical systems, such as heating, ventilation, and air conditioning ducts or plumbing, that are in contact with the joists can also be responsible for noise. As these systems operate, they can expand, contract, or vibrate, transferring these movements to the floor joists and causing creaking sounds. Furthermore, the installation and fixing of floorboards are critical to preventing creaking floors. Insufficient gluing of floorboards to the joists or the incorrect use of nails can lead to the boards becoming loose over time. Loose boards are prone to moving under foot traffic, resulting in the annoying creaks and squeaks that can plague new build homes.

 

Investigating and Addressing the Issue

A full investigation by the builder is essential to identify the root cause of creaking floors. This may involve:

  • Checking for improperly installed hangers or poorly connected partition walls.
  • Ensuring floor panels were not installed wet and are correctly fixed.
  • Investigating mechanical systems for any contact with the joist that could cause noise.

Depending on the findings, remedial action may include:

  • Reinstallation or adjustment of floor components.
  • Addition of supports or use of resilient bars to mitigate noise.
  • Localised repairs to stud walls or joist hangers.

Investigating the root cause of creaking floors in new build homes is a meticulous process that demands attention to detail and a thorough understanding of building construction and materials. Builders or qualified inspectors start by examining the structural components of the floor, including the installation of hangers and the connection of partition walls. These elements are critical for the stability and support of the floor system; any shortcomings in their installation can lead to movement and noise. Additionally, the condition of the floor panels is assessed to ensure they were not installed while wet, as moisture can cause wood to expand and then contract as it dries, leading to gaps and, subsequently, creaking. The investigation also extends to mechanical systems to check for any unintended contact with the joists, which can transmit vibrations or cause displacement that results in noise.

Depending on the outcomes of this comprehensive investigation, the builder or structural engineer will determine the necessary remedial actions. These might involve the reinstallation or adjustment of floor components to ensure they are correctly aligned and secured. In some instances, adding supports to the floor structure or incorporating resilient bars can significantly reduce noise by dampening vibrations and providing a more stable base. Localised repairs may also be required, such as tightening or replacing loose joist hangers or reinforcing stud walls to prevent movement.

Addressing creaking floors can be both disruptive and costly, especially if extensive remedial work is required. Homeowners may find themselves facing the inconvenience of having to vacate their homes temporarily to allow builders to carry out the necessary repairs. This not only involves the physical work of fixing the issue but also the potential emotional and financial strain on the homeowners. Therefore, it’s essential for builders to communicate clearly with homeowners about the scope of the work, the expected timeline, and any implications for their living arrangements. By understanding the investigation process and the potential remedies for creaking floors, homeowners can better prepare for the steps needed to restore peace and quiet to their new build home.

 

Preventative Measures and Solutions

To minimise the risk of creaking floors, builders and homeowners should consider the following measures:

  • Ensure floorboards are fully glued down and correctly fixed to joists.
  • Apply glue to the top of joists before installing tongue and groove joints.
  • Use screws rather than nails for fixing floorboards to prevent loosening.
  • Install resilient bars and acoustic insulation to reduce noise transfer.

To ensure the longevity and structural integrity of new build homes, adopting preventative measures and solutions for creaking floors is essential. This proactive approach not only enhances the comfort of the living environment but also prevents potential disruptions and additional costs down the line. Builders and homeowners can implement several strategies to minimise the risk of floor creaking effectively.

Firstly, it is crucial to ensure that all floorboards are fully glued down and correctly fixed to the joists. This involves applying a sufficient amount of adhesive to the top of each joist before laying down the floorboards. For added stability, the tongue and groove joints of the floorboards should also be glued together. This method significantly reduces the likelihood of movement between the boards, which can lead to creaking noises over time. Furthermore, using screws instead of nails to secure the floorboards to the joists provides a more durable and long-lasting hold, as screws are less likely to loosen under the natural expansion and contraction of the wood.

In addition to securing the floorboards, the installation of resilient bars and acoustic insulation between the joists can dramatically reduce noise transfer. Resilient bars work by creating a decoupled layer between the floor and the ceiling below, effectively absorbing and dissipating vibrations that cause sound, including creaking noises. Acoustic insulation adds an additional layer of soundproofing, further dampening any noise generated from foot traffic or the natural settling of the building.

When micro cracking is detected, indicating a more complex issue within the floor structure, more intensive structural remedies may be required. Installing additional timbers or noggins between the joists can provide the necessary rigidity to the floor, preventing the differential movement that leads to micro cracking. However, before undertaking such measures, a thorough investigation by a qualified professional is imperative to ensure that the correct solution is applied to address the specific cause of the creaking. This careful approach prevents unnecessary expenditure and disruption, ensuring that the remedial actions taken are both effective and efficient.

By implementing these preventative measures and solutions, builders and homeowners can significantly reduce the incidence of creaking floors, ensuring a quiet and comfortable living environment in new build homes. Moreover, these strategies contribute to the overall quality and satisfaction with the property, making them a wise investment in the long-term value and enjoyment of the home.