Q. We have wall-to-wall carpeting throughout our home. However, in some areas the floor makes a noise when we walk on it. Is there some way to eliminate these squeaky noises without removing the carpeting? -- F.J.S.
A. Squeaky wooden floors can be relatively easy to fix. Whether you will be able to fix the problem without removing the carpeting will depend on your access to the flooring construction from below.
If the floor is open underneath, as with an unfinished basement ceiling, then it is easier and more effective to work from below. Typical suspended wood floors are supported by beams called joists. These are usually spaced 16 inches apart.
Running across the joists is the subflooring, which can be made of lumber or plywood sheets. On top of this is the finished wood floor, and these boards are nailed or screwed into the subfloor.
Squeaks result when two loose floorboards are stepped on and rub together. A common cause of squeaks is loose subflooring that has dried out or warped and has pulled away from the joist.
This may be your problem if you have carpet installed over subflooring rather than over a finished wood floor, a common practice in today's construction. Have a helper walk on the floor above, while you stay below and try to find the squeak. Look for any movement in the subflooring.
The loose subflooring will most likely be near or directly over a joist. To fill the gap between the subfloor and the joist, drive a thin wedge of wood -- cut from a wooden shingle -- into the space. The wedge will eliminate movement in the subflooring, which causes the squeak.
If a board for the finished floor has come loose, this can also be fixed from below. To tighten the board back into the subflooring, drive 1 1/2-inch wood screws up through the subfloor and into the board.
Have someone stand on the loose board so it is held down tightly while the screw is going in. Don't use a screw that will go all the way through the finished floor.
If the ceiling below the floor is finished, you will have to remove the carpeting and do repairs from above. A loose floorboard can be nailed back into subflooring with finishing nails.
Have a helper assist you by walking on the floor while you watch for the loose board and listen for the squeak. Hammer two nails in at an angle crossing each other, so that they form a V. This technique is called toe-nailing, and it gives the nails a much better grip than if they were driven in straight.
The nails should be spaced an inch or two apart. Hammer the nails most of the way in, then use a nail to countersink the nailheads.
When a floorboard is badly buckled, it is better to secure it with long wood screws, since this pulls the flooring and subflooring together more effectively.
Drill pilot holes, then drive in the screws so they are toe-nailed, and countersink the heads. The pilot holes prevent splits. Once the screws are countersunk, fill the holes with plastic wood.
A loose subfloor can be tightened using the same technique, but in this case the nails or screws must be driven into the joist.
A simple way to locate a joist is to use a block of wood and a hammer, and tap along the surface of the floor. The sound will be dull and hollow, but when it sounds more solid, you are over a joist.
After locating the joist nearest to the loose subfloor, drive in nails or screws as described above. When finished with floor repair, simply restretch and retack the carpeting to the wood carpet strips.
Q. When we repainted our kitchen, the painters were careless and dripped latex paint on the Formica counter top and splashboards. It has dried, and I have been unable to remove it. Do you know of any product that will remove these unsightly dried paint spots? -- S.F.
A. There are two products on the market recommended for the removal of dried paint.
Goof Off from Atlanta Sundries, 6480 Chupp Road, Lithonia, Ga. 30058, is available in a four- and six-ounce can and a seven-ounce spray can.
Klean-Clean also is effective in removing dried paint splatters. It comes in pint, quart and gallon sizes, a seven-ounce aerosol can and a four-ounce flip-top can, and is available at hardware stores or from Klean-Strip, Box 1879, Memphis, Tenn. 38101.
Both cleaners also are effective in the removal of other types of stains, such as gum, glue, lipstick or crayons. It's a good idea to test any product of this type in an inconspicuous area to make sure that it does not mar or damage the finish of the surface you are trying to clean.
Send inquiries to Here's How, Copley News Service, P.O. Box 190, San Diego, Calif. 92112-0190. Only questions of general interest can be answered in the column.