How to Use Flooring Nailer

How to Use Flooring Nailer

Installing hardwood floors can be a rewarding DIY project, but it requires the right tools and techniques to ensure a professional-looking finish. One essential tool for this job is a flooring nailer. It is designed specifically for driving nails into the tongue-and-groove joints of hardwood planks.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll illustrate how to use flooring nailer to achieve a seamless and sturdy installation and explore their different types, essential features, and safety considerations. 

You’ll be provided with step-by-step instructions on how to properly set up, load, and operate these specialized tools. This way you’ll ensure that you can confidently tackle your hardwood flooring project with precision and efficiency. 

How to Use Flooring Nailer

Using a flooring nailer involves preparing the surface, positioning the first board, and driving nails through the tongue of each subsequent board into the subfloor. This process continues until the installation is complete. 

Ensure proper acclimation of the flooring, tight joints between boards, and refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for precise guidance. Finally, finish by installing trim along walls and transitions between different flooring types for a polished look.

How to Use Flooring Nailer

Source: / Photo Contributor: Steve Heap

What Is a Floor Nailer?

A floor nailer is an essential tool for installing various types of flooring, available in manual and pneumatic varieties. Manual floor nailers are hand-operated tools that rely on physical strength to drive nails. This makes them affordable and portable choices for smaller projects or tight spaces.

On the other hand, pneumatic floor nailers are powered by compressed air. This offers increased power and efficiency by driving nails with consistent precision and speed. These are ideal for larger-scale installations by professionals.

Manual nailers work well for DIY enthusiasts tackling minor projects, while pneumatic nailers are favored by contractors and flooring installers. The latter shine in extensive hardwood, laminate, or engineered flooring projects, offering productivity and efficiency advantages.

Setting Up the Flooring Nailer

Setting up a flooring nailer correctly is crucial for efficient and safe operation. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to properly assemble the nailer. For pneumatic models, connect it to an air compressor using the appropriate air hose and pressure range.

Loading the right nails or cleats is important. Refer to the flooring manufacturer’s recommendations and carefully insert the correct size and type of fasteners into the designated loading area. 

With manual nailers, ensure proper alignment and seating of the fasteners, while pneumatic nailers require disconnecting the air hose before loading.

Using incorrect fasteners can cause improper installation, surface damage, and compromised flooring integrity. Therefore, it’s essential to double-check the recommended fasteners for your specific flooring project before proceeding. Now, let’s see how to use a hardwood floor nailer.

Steps to Using a Flooring Nailer

Before you begin

  1. Wear safety glasses, ear protection, and gloves. Make sure the nailer is unloaded and disconnected from the air supply (if pneumatic).
  2. Choose the correct size and type of nails for your flooring material. Consult your flooring manufacturer’s recommendations.
  3. Adjust the depth of the nails to ensure proper penetration without damaging the flooring. 
  4. Before starting on the actual floor, practice using the nailer on scrap pieces to get the perfect setting and get comfortable with the technique.

Laying the floor

  1. First row – Since the nailer can’t be used right next to the wall, you’ll need to face-nail the first row using a finish nailer.
  2. Subsequent rows – This is where the flooring nailer comes in. Position the nailer at a 45-degree angle on the tongue of the board you’re placing.
  3. Nail placement – Maintain a consistent distance (typically 3-4 inches) from the wall for the first nail, and then stagger the nails on subsequent boards in that row.
  4. Driving the nails – Press the nailer firmly against the tongue and activate the trigger (or strike the mallet on the designated spot for actuation).

Overcoming challenges

For tight spaces where the flooring nailer won’t fit, use a trim nailer. In corners, pre-nail the tongues of the boards before positioning them, or use a right-angle attachment on the nailer for some models. If needed, manually drive nails in restricted areas using a nail punch and hammer.

Other strategies that can help in challenging areas include pre-nailing tongues and using right-angle attachments.

Throughout the process, maintain consistent air pressure (for pneumatic nailers) and check for protruding nails to ensure a seamless and even installation.

Steps to Using a Flooring Nailer

Source: / Photo Contributor: Steve Heap

Common Mistakes to Avoid

When using a flooring nailer, common mistakes to avoid include improper nail spacing and neglecting to check for levelness during installation. Insufficient nailer maintenance is another mistake to avoid. Nails spaced too far apart or too close together can lead to an unstable or cracked floor.

Failing to check for an uneven subfloor before installation can cause squeaks, gaps, and an overall uneven appearance. It’s crucial to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for proper nail spacing and use a straightedge to check for levelness periodically.

Additionally, regular maintenance of the nailer is essential. Clean it regularly and ensure the correct air pressure is maintained for pneumatic models. Being mindful of these potential pitfalls can help prevent costly errors and achieve a professional-looking, long-lasting flooring installation.


In conclusion, mastering how to use flooring nailer is a game-changer for any flooring project. By following the techniques and guidelines outlined in this article, you’ll be well-equipped to tackle installations with precision and efficiency. 

Remember to prioritize proper preparation, positioning, and maintenance to achieve flawless, seamless results. We hope this comprehensive guide has helped you understand the intricacies of using a flooring nailer.

With this knowledge, you should feel empowered to approach your next project with confidence. With practice and patience, you’ll soon be nailing it like a pro, ensuring your floors are a source of pride and lasting beauty.

Mark is a seasoned home services contractor and now serves as the Director of Market Research for Services Curated.