Installing beautiful hardwood floors that will last requires having the right tools for the job. A quality flooring nailer is essential to efficiently and accurately attach hardwood planks to the subfloor. With so many models on the market, choosing the best nailer for your needs can be tricky.
In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know to pick the perfect hardwood flooring nailer. We reviewed the top-rated nailers and highlighted the best options for DIYers or professionals. Whether you’re installing 3/4″ oak or exotic woods, we’ll help you choose a nailer that makes achieving professional-quality results a breeze.
What to Look for in a Hardwood Floor Nailer
When evaluating nailers, there are several key factors to consider:
Flooring material compatibility – Make sure the nailer is designed for your specific flooring type – solid hardwood, engineered, or exotic materials. Flooring that is pre-finished also requires a nailer made for that purpose.
Flooring thickness capacity – Will you be installing standard 3/4″ flooring or thicker exotic planks up to 1″ thick? Thicker floors require a more rugged nailer.
Nail size – Most residential hardwood floors can be nailed with 18 gauge cleats. For thicker exotic floors, 16 gauge is needed. Nail length is also important for proper penetration into the subfloor.
Nail depth adjustability – Models with tool-free depth adjustment make it easy to calibrate the perfect nail flushness for consistent, blemish-free floors.
Ergonomics and maneuverability – Nailers should be lightweight and have rear exhaust, pivoting connectors, and other features to reduce fatigue over long jobs.
Safety features – Look for no-mar tips, tool-free adjustments, jam release mechanisms, missing nail detection, and automatic nail lockouts to prevent accidents.
Durability and warranty – Magnesium or aluminum bodies stand up to job site abuse better than plastic. A 3-5 year warranty is ideal.
Brand reputation – Stick with proven brands like Bostitch, DeWalt, or NuMax that contractors rely on. Read reviews to compare real-world performance.
Top Hardwood Floor Nailers Reviewed
After extensive research comparing the options, these are our picks for the 5 best nailers for flawless hardwood floor installation:
1. NuMax SFL618 3-in-1 Pneumatic Flooring Nailer
The NuMax SFL618 pneumatic nailer is purpose built for hardwood installation with a durable magnesium housing and weighs only 8.5 lbs for reduced fatigue. It can handle all solid hardwood flooring up to 3/4″ thick as well as engineered floors.
Notable features include:
- Tool-free adjustable nail depth from 0 to 0.12″ for perfect top nailing
- Interchangeable actuator allows for nail-down or staple-down installation
- Rear exhaust directs air away from the user
- Ergonomic grip, pivoting dust connector, and low profile nose for excellent maneuverability
- Pairs with any compressor – converts easily between quick connectors or 1/4″ fittings
We found the SFL618 drives 18 gauge cleats with excellent power and precision. The missing nail feature prevents accidentally missing planks. At just 85 dB, it’s quieter than most competitors. This model combines versatility, ergonomics, and professional-grade engineering for beautiful floors.
2. BOSTITCH Flooring Cleat Nailer MIIIFN
BOSTITCH is renowned for tough, dependable construction tools, and the MIIIFN flooring nailer delivers top performance for solid or engineered 3/4″ hardwood installation.
- Drives 18 ga. L-shaped cleats from 1″ to 2″ in length
- Tool-free adjustable nail depth for perfect flush nailing
- Rear exhaust directs air away from the user
- Lightweight magnesium housing – only 9.3 lbs
- Furniture protectors prevent surface marring
This nailer consistently sank cleats with minimal effort. The selectable trigger lets you switch from sequential nailing to contact nailing for faster operation. With BOSTITCH’s reputation and 7-year limited warranty, the MIIIFN is one of the best pneumatic flooring nailers for the money.
3. DeWalt Flooring Nailer DWFP12231
DeWalt’s DWFP12231 flooring nailer is a premium cordless battery-powered option that gives you total freedom of movement without hoses or compressors.
- Brushless motor provides cordless convenience without loss of power
- Two 20V MAX lithium ion batteries for up to 800 nails per charge
- Drives 18 gauge cleats from 1″ to 2″ long
- Tool-free nail depth adjustment from 0 to 0.12″
- Low 8.45 lb weight and compact size
This nailer can install 400 sq. ft. on one battery charge. We found it provides plenty of nailing force even in denser exotic hardwoods like Brazilian Cherry. The missing nail lockout is a great safety feature. With DeWalt’s reputation for quality, the DWFP12231 is one of the best cordless flooring nailer options.
4. NUMAX SFN64 3-in-1 Pneumatic Flooring Nailer
For a pneumatic nailer with all premium features at a very affordable price, the NUMAX SFN64 3-in-1 flooring nailer is an excellent value.
- Drives cleats and staples from 3/4″ to 1-1/2″ long
- Easily adjustable nail depth settings from 0 to 0.1″
- Lightweight at only 8.2 lbs
- Ergonomic multi-grip handle and rear exhaust
- Dry fire lockout prevents blank shots
- Nail lockout mechanism for safety
While not made in the USA, the SFN64 has very solid aluminum housing that handles thick exotic flooring up to 1-1/4″ thick. For the price, it includes every key feature you need for executing professional flooring jobs. We’d highly recommend this nailer for value seekers.
5. Freeman PFBC940 Flooring Nailer
As a more budget-friendly pneumatic option, the Freeman PFBC940 gets the job done on 3/4″ solid or engineered hardwood flooring without costing a fortune.
- Drives 18 gauge L-cleats from 1″ to 2″ long
- Adjustable nail depth settings
- Rear exhaust and ergonomic handle
- Tool-free jam clearing mechanism
- Compatible with all compressor types
While not as feature-packed as the premium brands, the PFBC940 has proven durable and reliable in real-world use. For DIYers doing the occasional flooring project, it provides big value. Just be prepared for more noise and vibration. For professional use, we suggest spending up for one of the higher models on our list.
Frequently Asked Hardwood Flooring Nailer Questions
Installing hardwood floors yourself can save thousands over hiring a professional, but only if you have the right knowledge. Here are answers to some of the most common questions about choosing and using hardwood floor nailers:
What size nailer do I need for 3/4″ solid oak flooring?
A 18 gauge nailer like the models above will work for most 3/4″ thick solid oak floors. Make sure the nailer specifies solid hardwood flooring compatibility.
What gauge staples should I use for nailing hardwood flooring?
For most solid 3/4″ floors, 18 gauge 1-1/2″ to 2″ L-cleats are recommended. Thicker exotic floors may require 16 gauge. Always consult the flooring and nailer manual.
How do I adjust nail depth on a hardwood floor nailer?
There will be a dial or other tool-free adjustment on quality nailers that lets you set the proper nail depth for flush driving. Read the manual for the exact procedure.
What safety steps should I take when using a flooring nailer?
Always wear safety glasses. Never point it at yourself or others. Make sure no nails remain in the nailer when not actively nailing. Engage any trigger locks when not in use.
What causes nail jams in my hardwood floor nailer?
Improper nail length, worn-out nailer parts, incorrect nail gauges, or failure to lubricate the nailer properly can all cause jams. Use the recommended cleats.
How can I unjam a nail that’s stuck in my flooring nailer?
Most models have a release mechanism to clear jams – consult the user manual for the proper procedure. Trying to pry a stuck nail with a screwdriver can damage the nailer.
Why would my nailer damage my hardwood floors?
If the nail depth isn’t properly adjusted, the nails may not seat flush in the flooring. Letting the nailer slam forcefully onto the floor can also mar or dent the floor surface.
How often should I oil and clean my flooring nailer?
For occasional DIY use, yearly oiling and cleaning is sufficient. Professional contractors may need to clean and lubricate weekly or more when seeing heavy use.
Can I rent a hardwood floor nailer? What should I look for?
Rental is an option, but beware of potential issues like worn parts or damage from previous renters. Inspect it closely and test in scrap wood before use. Buying your own gives you better quality control.
How long should a quality hardwood floor nailer last?
With proper care and maintenance, the magnesium or aluminum models on our list should provide 5+ years of service life. Plastic models may last only 2 – 3 years with heavy use.
Do I need an air compressor or are battery powered nailers just as good?
Battery nailers give complete freedom of movement but may lack power for thicker exotic floors. Air compressors supply consistent power but limit your movement with hoses. Both work well for standard jobs.
What kind of warranty should I look for with a hardwood floor nailer?
A minimum of 1 year, but 3 – 5 years is preferable for full coverage of parts and labor. This protects you if any manufacturing issues arise.
Should I use cleats or staples to install my hardwood flooring?
18 gauge cleats are less likely to squeak versus staples. Make sure the fastener gauge matches your flooring thickness. Read the flooring manufacturer’s instructions.
Which brand makes the best hardwood flooring nailer?
BOSTITCH, NuMax, DeWalt, and Freeman are proven brands – buy the model with the right features for your needs. For occasional DIY use, an affordable Freeman or NuMax model should suffice. Professionals may want to invest in DeWalt or BOSTITCH for their reputation and support.
Choose the Right Nailer for Perfect Hardwood Floors
Installing beautiful hardwood floors takes having the proper flooring nailer for the job. Pay close attention to nail compatibility, flooring thickness, ergonomics, durability, and features like tool-free depth adjustment and jam release mechanisms. For DIYers, we recommend the NuMax SFL618 or BOSTITCH MIIIFN pneumatic nailers for their balance of performance and price. Professionals will appreciate the power and freedom of DeWalt’s DWFP12231 cordless nailer.
Whichever model you choose from this review, follow all safety advice, test in scrap wood first, and check the flooring manufacturer’s installation guidance. With the right knowledge and tools, you can achieve gorgeous hardwood floors that will enhance your home for years to come.