Floors so nice, we laid ‘em twice

Posted by on Jun 16, 2011 in House Stuff | 6 comments

Floors so nice, we laid ‘em twice

I had a long post drafted about laying our bamboo floors, but reading the post was almost as painful as living through the experience first-hand. Installing our own hardwood floors has been the hardest do-it-yourself task we have taken on so far.  It sucked.  And will continue to suck for three more rooms.  It went like this:

1. Spent a week preparing the office, including leveling the floor with self leveling compound.

2. Installed the floors and to our horror, they snapped crackled and popped like one was walking on bubble wrap.  They even made noise when Goa was walking on then!  Take a listen:

3. Cried.  Googled.  Repeat.

4. After learning that a non-flat sub-floor is the typical culprit for noisy floors, dropped $100 and four more bags of self leveling compound in order to do a more through job of  leveling the floors.  Installed a section of floor to hear that the sound is exactly the same.

5. Googled until I reached the end of the Internet.

6. Spent another week leveling the floors brute-force style, with a taut string, roofing shingles and 30-pound roofing felt.  Installed a section of floor.  Same crackling sound.

7.  Tried lubricating the boards with paraffin wax.  Same sound.

8. At Ray’s insistence, tried lubricating the boards with talcum powder.  NO SOUND.

No sound, I tell you!

Take a listen now:

It’s been a long few weeks.  Despite my awareness that this is a total cry-me-a-fucking-river, Privileged Person Problem, I had not been able to stop fretting over this project and it was causing me a lot of anxiety.  The money, time and hardwood dreams we had put towards this project had us very deeply invested in something that seemed dead set on not working out.  Who knew it would be a $4 bottle of baby powder that would do the trick? While I had read about this method online, the feedback was that it was only slightly effective for older hardwood floors. Nowhere did I read about trying this on a new floor install. I gotta’ hand it to Ray for making us try this idea.  I was at my wit’s end and not willing to try anything else.

A few photos from our epic journey:

Ripping up the old carpet, carpet pad, carpet tacks, staples and nails.  Lots of quality time in my knee pads.

Mapping out the low spots on the floor.  I think I know the contours of this floor better than the back of my own hand.

Self leveling compound application #1.

Cutting off the bottoms of the door jambs with a Japanese handsaw.

Installation #1

The results of having ripped up installation #1.  Polar Bear and Goa think the “new floors” are just great.  They both spend lots of time in there lying on their backs.

Filling the “moat” around the room with expanding insulating foam.  The moat was left from when we removed the baseboards that were sandwiched between the delicate plaster walls and 85 years of layered floors.

Self leveling compound installation #2.



Using the string method for leveling.

Our complicated high/low marking system.

The roofing materials were much more forgiving to work with than the compound.

Our job site supervisor looks on.

Almost ready for flooring!

Installation #2

I needed some help from Jon Stewart this time around.

Finished,beautiful and silent!

The leveling was worth it, although this crooked photo exaggerates the original curve of the floor.

Installation #1:

Installation #2:

Working on this room sucked, but we’ve learned a lot of valuable lessons for the next rooms.  Wish us luck!


  1. Dudes. I am so sorry. I’m even MORE sorry about my original “that will be easy!” comment. Yikes. You are both heroes in my book. First-world-problem heroes.

  2. If at first you don’t succeed….try try again !!!! Way to go in the persevering department…..You two will be ready to change professions pretty soon !!!! Beautiful job guys !!!!

  3. Arrgghhh, I’m having the same problem!!! How does the talcom powder work? Do you pour it down on the floor before you put the hardwood down? How much?


    • Hi Troy – sorry for the delay! The talcum powder worked like a charm. We brushed it onto all 4 sides of each board before installing. It made a huge dusty mess and took way longer than a regular installation, but 8 months later the floor is still quiet. The talcum powder never crept up onto the floor surface, nor did it “wear off” and start squeaking again. The floor is pretty quiet now, except for the normal creaks that you’ll find on any floating floor.

  4. Have the same problem. Did you sprinkle the talcum powder before you laid the floor or on top after you put the floor down?


    • Hi Paula,

      Sorry for the delay, you’ve probably solved your problem by now! We dusted talcum power on all four sides of each board before laying it down. We just used a paintbrush and brushed it on pretty liberally onto the tongue/into the groove. I recommend you wear a mask since things can get pretty dusty.

      FYI, many months later the floor is still quiet. There are certainly some creaky places where the subfloor flexes a bit, but overall there is no noise.

      I hope this is helpful!

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