Squeaky floors are about as common as old homes. Laminates have been known to bubble on occasion. It doesn't mean you have termites.
But you might.
Termites can damage a house's floors just as they can its walls and foundation. When the bugs find food in flooring, the most typical point of attack is actually the structures holding the floor up, not the stuff you walk on every day. The softer woods of floor joists and subfloors are more appealing targets than hardwoods and more plentiful than the backings of laminate or tile floors. By the time they get to the superficial flooring you can see, structural damage in the form of weakened substructures can be extensive.
Early signs are easy to miss -- squeaking, slight sagging, floor boards that seem to have lifted up a bit. Later signs are more obvious, when the sagging becomes dramatic, the squeaking is too loud to ignore, boards or tiles loosen and pull away from the subfloor, and areas start to buckle.
Were you to tap with a screwdriver on a buckled area of a hardwood floor, the wood might sound disturbingly, shockingly hollow. It might even crack under the pressure.
Other signs you may have a termite problem include laminates that bubble up as if water-damaged, though no water damage has occurred, and spots of discoloration (a sign that can go unnoticed if you spill a lot) or blistering, and inexplicable piles of sawdust.
Once you do start to suspect something's up, the first step is to call a pro to confirm or rule out termites, and immediately begin treatment if infestation is found. Before you can fix the flooring, you need to eradicate the source of the problem. Then, once your home is termite-free, the repair work begins.
Wood and tile floors can often be fixed, while laminate flooring typically needs to be completely torn up and replaced -- which is not necessarily a bad thing, as it provides easier access to any wooden substructures that need to be repaired, replaced and possibly treated with termiticides to prevent a recurrence.
For most people, this is not a DIY project, since damage to substructures can be difficult to assess, and extensive damage may require the kind of hydraulic equipment that can lift your entire house off the ground. It's a serious and expensive undertaking, but it's better than the alternative: watching termites turn your floors, and your home, into a hollow, sagging mess.
On the up side, when all is said and done, you won't have to live with the squeaking anymore -- probably not worth the ordeal, but still, a nice benefit.
For more information on termites, home damage, and reducing your risk, check out the links on the next page.