Can we fix kitchen floor without removing cabinetry?

Alice JohannenFebruary 3, 2012

Hi there. We are working out a plan to improve our kitchen, one of the most critical elements being fixing the horribly squeaky floor without removing the custom, stick-built cabinets. The squeaks are extremely loud and in multiple "passage" areas, and the kitchen happens to be over the master bedroom so if anyone is walking around up there, there's no sleeping going on down below.

A few years ago we replaced the kitchen floor, which was 20-year old glue-down vinyl tiles. We put in sheet vinyl (because the floor has a hump in it), at which time the installers tried throwing a bunch of screws at the problem in the worst area, but this did nothing. In fact, although the floor looks a whole lot nicer with the sheet vinyl, replacing the glue-down tiles with the vinyl seemed to have multiplied the squeaky areas and made the existing squeaks worse.

So we are wondering ... what is the best course of action? Do we need to have someone replace the subfloor? Can we have someone work/cut around the cabinets to make this fix? Or would the cuts at the cabinets' edge make for new squeaking at the edges? Must we get the whole floor up (including under the cabinets) to adequately address the squeak problem?

BTW, we can't access the underside of the floor without pulling down all the ceilings below the kitchen (it's on the second floor of a split-entry house, with the master bedroom, bathroom, closet and another bathroom under it). We REALLY don't want to do that!

Any guidance you can give on how this could be done would be wonderful. Thank you so much!

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Sophie Wheeler

Pick your poison. There are only two directions from which you can approach this. Rip up everything on top of the floor, or rip up everything below the floor. You have to have access. There is no magic fix with no demoltion involved. Especially with your description of the steps already taken and the "humps". Even though some floors settle a bit over time, "humps" with massive squeaks are indications of potential structural problems.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 12:37PM
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Alice Johannen

So ... no, we can't just cut around the cabinets? Darn it! Because these cabinets aren't "boxes" that can be removed from the wall. They are stick-built right onto the wall/floor with no back (just the wall as the back). If we pull them down, they will be ruined.

Anybody care to differ with holly? (No offense, holly, I'm just totally hoping you're wrong, LOL).

    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 1:29PM
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glennsfc

A professional with a flush cut saw (sometimes called a toe kick saw) can make cuts along all vertical surfaces at your cabinets and pull out all the flooring. Then you have to figure out how to quiet your floor. I know how to do that, but I tell customers to expect a sneaky squeak to appear and disappear from time to time as seasons change (a wood house changes size and shape as the seasons change).

You have to hire an oldtimer carpenter or floor person or a real smart young one who is great at problem solving. There is no excuse for a floor person to give a customer a noisy floor.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2012 at 10:20PM
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Alice Johannen

Thank you, glenn! It's nice to know there may be an alternative for us because I have to tell you, these squeaky floors have made me cranky for 5 years now, and that's a long time to be cranky!! LOL

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 10:04AM
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GreenDesigns

A lot will depend on which way the joists run in the room and exactly what the source of the squeaks and humps are due to. You might be able to get by with using a flush cut saw, but if the cabinets are resting on the subfloor on a joist that will need to be sistered or otherwise beefed up and not sitting the right way, they will have to come out. Yes, you will need to replace the entire subfloor, and that will need to be done from above. I think it's time you cut a hole in the floor and did some exploring as to your joist's unsupported length, depth, and height. Cut a hole where the hump is, and see what you see. A lot of times, that's where a cross beam supports long span joists in the center and they aren't really robust enough so that lets them sag on both sides. That's where sistering the joists may come in. You can't tell until the floor and subfloor is gone.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2012 at 12:20PM
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Alice Johannen

Thanks for the info, GreenDesigns. There's definitely a "ridge" where the floor seems to tilt away though I think it only tilts away on one side of the ridge. We'll have to see what's up. This is actually in an addition that was put on in 1990 or so. It would be nice to get it corrected because it makes it hard to use any non-flexible flooring.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2012 at 5:25PM
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