Taking the squeaks out of old hardwood floors

Q. What can be done to remove the squeaks in an older hardwood floor? We have covered the noisy areas with rugs but this does not work.

* Also, in building a new house is there a model contract which can be signed between the builder and owner? How detailed should the house plans be? Richard N. Frye Belmont, Mass.

A. Subfloor boards and joists shrink as they dry out. The squeaks result as the boards move up and down on the nail shanks or else by the members rubbing against one another under the foot traffic.

On new construction these irksome squeaks are minimized by simultaneously gluing and nailing the subfloor boards to the floor joists. One glue used in such a process is made by Dap Inc., 855 North Third Street, Dayton, Ohio 45401. Phone: (513) 667-4461.

Retrofitting an existing floor with ring or coated finishing nails driven at an angle from above is a possibility. Applying glue, glue blocks, wedges, or shingles from below also may help. But the total removal of the squeaks with these methods is an optimistic expectation and may or may not be worth the effort.

Experiment in a remote room or area to determine the results. Set and fill the nailheads and refinish the hardwood flooring as required.

* Now about a written construction contract between owner and builder:

The American Institute of Architects has contract forms that are well drawn. These contracts are used by member architects for signing by both the builder and the owner.

Building-contractor associations, building-designer institutes, and stationery stores also have construction-contract forms that are suitable for non-architect-prepared plans and specifications.

How detailed should the plans and specifications be for a proposed dwelling?

The answer is this: Altogether complete, if you want maximum assurance of a happy end to the building program.

Owners all too often skimp on plans and specfications to, as they say, ''save money.'' That notion is usually false economy and provides paltry protection for both the owner and the builder.

Thoroughly prepared design documents minutely specify what the owner is to have and what the contract is to provide. Any omissions or inadequacies in these documents are sure to trigger some unnecessary disagreements during the construction period.

Here is an example: When an owner mentally plans to receive a specific quality, model, and color of plumbing fixture in the home, but the builder actually installs inexpensive white fixtures, a turbulent impasse may occur.

If the plans and specifications merely say ''tub,'' ''water closet,'' ''lavatory,'' ''sink,'' etc., then a builder may furnish the fixtures he chooses regardless of the owner's wishes. As a result, the owner's preferred fixtures become an extra-cost item which he has to pay. Multiply this type of unspecification a hundred times during construction and you can see why the wise owner insists on professionally prepared and thoroughly detailed plans and specifications.

Some believe they can save money on the plans and specifications and put the money into construction. But are bottom-line construction costs that are 10 or 20 times the presumed saving really worth the risk?

After 30 years of contracting experience, I can only say: ''No.''

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