Q: I’ve got a squeaky-floor problem, but it’s a little bit weird. When people walk along the ground floor I can hear wood squeaking against the pipes that are down in the crawlspace. Is this a risk to the pipes? How can I fix the squeaking noise? – Jim in Buford, Ga.
A: You won’t know for sure without getting into the crawlspace and visually inspecting the pipes and the underside of the floor, including the joists. The pipes running along the crawlspace are likely suspended from the floor joists. If they’re in contact with the joists, then you might hear the faint screech of wood across metal as the joists rub against the pipes.
How serious is the problem? It depends. If the floor and joists are in good condition, then you can reposition the pipe very slightly so it doesn’t contact the wood. Do this by lowering or loosening the existing pipe hanger slightly, or replacing it with another pipe hanger or a plastic pipe strap.
You must support the pipe in place as you do any loosening or replacing of the hangers. It should not move more than a few centimeters in any direction, and it shouldn’t hang unsupported even during a quick rehanging job. Doing so could cause it to work loose at a pipe joint, and you’ll have a much bigger problem than a squeaky floor.
To avoid this you can either rig up a substitute – a sturdy rope or cloth tacked to the joist and wrapped underneath the pipe, for example – or keep the old pipe hanger in place as you attach a new pipe hanger just a little lower. Once you’ve hammered the ends of the new hanger into the side of the joist, carefully work the old hanger loose as a helper holds the pipe in place. Gently lower the pipe into the new hanger. Repeat at other hanger locations along the run where the pipe contacts the joist.
If, on inspection, you see that the joist is not in good condition – it’s sagging, or you detect wood rot or water damage – contact a flooring or foundation specialist. Damaged joists can cause problems throughout the house, so you’ll want that problem addressed immediately.
HOME TIP: Talcum powder can serve as a quick, if temporary, way to stop squeaks between floorboards.
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