March 1, 2024

Nailing Hardwood Floors With Finish Nailer

Nailing Hardwood Floors With Finish Nailer

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Nailing Hardwood Floors with a Finish Nailer: A Comprehensive Guide for a Professional Finish


Installing hardwood floors can be a daunting task, but with the right tools and techniques, you can achieve professional results. One essential tool in your arsenal is a finish nailer. This powerful tool allows you to securely attach hardwood planks to the subfloor, ensuring a durable and aesthetically pleasing finish. In this article, we will explore the process of nailing hardwood floors with a finish nailer, from the initial preparation to the finishing touches.

I. Preparing for Hardwood Floor Installation:

Before you begin nailing your hardwood floors, proper preparation is crucial. Let’s take a look at the essential steps to set yourself up for success.

1. Acclimating the Hardwood:

To minimize the risk of warping or shrinking after installation, it’s important to let your hardwood planks acclimate to the room’s temperature and humidity. Place the planks in the room where they’ll be installed for at least 48 hours before starting the installation process.

2. Preparing the Subfloor:

Ensure that your subfloor is clean, dry, and level before installing hardwood floors. Remove any existing flooring materials, such as carpet or tiles, and inspect for any protruding nails or screws that could interfere with the installation.


Q: Can I install hardwood floors over an existing floor?

A: In some cases, yes. However, it is generally recommended to remove any existing flooring and ensure a clean and level subfloor for optimal results.

Q: How do I determine if my subfloor is level?

A: You can use a long straight edge or a level tool to identify any uneven areas on the subfloor. If there are significant deviations, you may need to level the subfloor before proceeding with the installation.

II. Selecting the Right Finish Nailer:

Choosing the appropriate finish nailer for your hardwood floor installation is a crucial step towards achieving the desired outcome. Here’s what you need to consider when selecting a finish nailer:

1. Gauge Size:

Finish nailers come in different gauge sizes, typically ranging from 15 to 18 gauge. For hardwood floor installation, a 15 or 16 gauge finish nailer is generally recommended. These gauges provide sufficient holding power without causing excessive splitting or damage to the planks.

2. Nail Length:

The length of the nails you choose should be determined by the thickness of your hardwood planks and the subfloor material. As a general guideline, select nails that are at least two inches longer than the combined thickness of the hardwood plank and subfloor.


Q: Can I use a brad nailer instead of a finish nailer for hardwood floors?

A: While brad nailers are suitable for lighter applications, it is generally recommended to use a finish nailer for hardwood floor installation due to its increased holding power and stability.

Q: Should I use nails or staples for hardwood floor installation?

A: Nails are generally preferred over staples for hardwood floor installation, as they offer better holding power and reduce the risk of squeaky floors.

III. Nailing Hardwood Floors: Step-by-Step Guide:

Now that you’ve prepared the room and selected the right finish nailer, it’s time to dive into the process of nailing hardwood floors. Follow these steps for a professional finish:

1. Lay Out the First Row:

Start by establishing a reference line along one wall where you’ll begin installing the hardwood planks. Use a chalk line or laser level to ensure a straight guideline.

2. Apply Adhesive:

Using a flooring adhesive specifically designed for hardwood floors, apply a thin layer on the subfloor where the first row will be placed. This adhesive will provide additional stability and reduce noise when walking on the floor.


Q: Is adhesive necessary for hardwood floor installation?

A: While adhesive is not always required, using it can enhance the stability and longevity of your hardwood floors, especially in high-traffic areas.

Q: Can I use a nail gun without adhesive for hardwood floors?

A: It is generally recommended to use adhesive in conjunction with the finish nailer to achieve optimal results and reduce the risk of squeaky floors.

3. Position and Nail the First Row:

Carefully align the first row of hardwood planks along the reference line. Ensure that the planks have a 1/2-inch gap from the wall to allow For expansion. Use the finish nailer to drive nails through the planks and into the subfloor, spacing them about every 6-8 inches along the length of each plank. Make sure to drive the nails at a slight angle to ensure they penetrate both the plank and the subfloor securely.

4. Continue Installing Subsequent Rows:

Once the first row is installed, continue laying out and nailing subsequent rows of hardwood planks. Stagger the end joints between rows for a more visually appealing and structurally sound installation. Use a flooring mallet and a scrap piece of wood to tap the planks together snugly before nailing.

5. Trim Planks as Needed:

During installation, you may encounter areas where full-size planks cannot fit. Use a table saw or circular saw to trim these planks accordingly, ensuring a proper fit against walls or obstacles.


Q: Should I acclimate my hardwood planks before installation?

A: It is generally recommended to acclimate hardwood planks to the room’s environmental conditions before installation, as this can help prevent warping or shrinking later on.

Q: How much space should I leave for expansion between planks?

A: A 1/2-inch gap is typically sufficient for expansion between hardwood planks and walls. This gap allows the wood to naturally expand and contract with changes in humidity and temperature.

6. Fill Nail Holes and Sand the Floor:

Once all the hardwood planks are installed, fill any remaining nail holes with wood filler that matches your flooring color. Allow the filler to dry, then sand the entire floor using a floor sander or orbital sander. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and use progressively finer grit sandpaper for a smooth and even finish.

7. Apply Finish:

Finish off your hardwood floor installation by applying your desired finish. Whether you choose polyurethane, oil-based finish, or another type of sealer, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application and drying times.

8. Maintain and Enjoy Your New Hardwood Floors:

Regularly clean and maintain your hardwood floors to keep them looking their best for years to come. Use appropriate cleaning products and avoid excessive moisture or harsh chemicals that could damage the finish.

Remember, hardwood floor installation requires precision and attention to detail. If you are unsure about any aspect of the process, it is always best to consult with a professional flooring installer for guidance.