Are you getting ready to begin a hardwood floor project, or are you in the middle of one and find that you just don’t have the right tools?
It’s pretty common to rent a floor nailer and then find that it’s taking much longer than you though to finish. I know it’s hard to swallow shelling out $500 for a floor nailer. Well, I have some good news for you. You don’t need to spend that much.
There are some very nice alternatives that won’t break the bank and you’ll come away owning the tool rather than returning it to the rental store.
What to Look For In a Floor Nailer:
- Pneumatic/Air Powered
- Rent or Buy
- Professional or Home use
- What size nails does it take
- Nail Magazine Capacity
- Jamming Issues
We are going to walk through each of these criteria in a little more detail to help you make the correct choice for your floor nailer.
Manual or Pneumatic
Take my advice and get a pneumatic floor nailer. You will spend so much more energy trying to do the same amount of work with a manual nailer. The only advantage I can see would be with price. Although, that isn’t even true anymore. There are floor nailers made with the DIYer in mind that will do an admirable job and cost about the same as a manual nailer.
To use a manual nailer you will hammer the top of it until it the button pops back out. If you hit it hard enough you can drive the cleat with one hit but that takes practice, good aim, and strength. The other factor to consider is how many cleats you will be using. I read a review where someone who tried to get by with a manual nailer was really surprised when they needed to drive 3,500 cleats for the 1,100 square feet of flooring they installed. Bottom line, buy a pneumatic floor nailer.
In case you are still on the fence here is a video of a manual floor nailer being used. It doesn’t look to bad, just think about doing that about 3,000 times though.
To Rent or To Buy?
The next decision is whether to rent or buy a floor nailer. This decision isn’t very difficult. You just need to calculate roughly how long you will need the nailer and compare the cost to rent as opposed to buying a floor nailer.
You can usually rent a floor nailer for $30-$40 a day. Depending on how long you will be using it you may want to explore this option. To give you an idea, an experienced installer can do a 400 square foot room in 10-12 hours. If you are inexperienced I would add a significant amount of time. There are many, many comments online for various nailers where the customer had tried renting a nailer but they severely underestimated the amount of time it would take them to finish the job. They ended up returning the rental and buying a nailer because in the long run it was cheaper. I figure might as well buy it in the beginning if you may end up buying one in the long run.
Professional or Home use
This question is similar to the rent or buy question. The quality of floor nailer you should get is directly related to how often you will be using it. For a home owner or hobbyist a less expensive model may be more than adequate.
However, if you are a contractor that will be using the tool frequently the cheaper residential model is probably not an option. Homeowners give very high marks to the less expensive models. If you are only laying 800-1,000 square foot the residential nailer may work flawlessly. If you try to lay 1,000 square foot of flooring in 5 homes, it may be a different story. The residential models aren’t made to be used and abused on a job every day. Make sure you get the tool to fit your need.
What size nails does it use?
Two inch cleats are standard size nails for ¾ inch hardwood flooring. However, depending on the type of wood you are using you may need a different size. Make sure that your chosen floor nailer fits your needs. If you may use it on multiple projects it is nice to get one that accommodates varying sizes. Most do.
You are going to be driving hundreds of nails into your flooring. Make sure your magazine holds at least 100 nails so you don’t have to stop every couple of minutes. You will be driving a nail every 6-8 inches. Depending on the size of your room 100 nails should get you through about 4-6 rows. It’s also important to get one that is easy to load. Time loading is wasted productivity.
Depending on how much you are using your floor nailer you will inevitably have a jam. The important thing is to make sure that the nailer you are using keeps them few and far between. When it does jam you want to be certain that the jams are easily cleared.
How Much Should I Pay?
How much you pay depends on what you get. The popular brands are Bostitch, Senco, Porter Cable, and Porta-Nail. Many people rate the Bostitch MIIFN as the top pneumatic nailer. It is a fine flooring nailer, but it comes with a heafty price tag too. You can expect to pay $450-$500 or more for a Bostitch. Those other brands are similarly priced. Some are significantly more.
If you are a professional and will be using the a hardwood florr nailer frequently then you can justify the money on one of these professional grade tools. If you are a weekend warrior the Akuzuki Floor Nailer is a nice alternative. It’s selling for roughly $200 online. It has been rated very highly, meets all of the criteria we have discussed, and the price is right.
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However, for a little bit more, you could get a better nailer. If you are installing hardwood flooring for a living though, you will need a higher quality model.
2 in 1 Magazine
Air Powered Operation
Non-Marring Base System
Bostitch Floor Nailer
The Bostitch MIIIFN Flooring Nailer is one of the industry standards. During our research we found that this is the model that most rental outlets use. What’s that tell us? That the Bostitch is durable. If you are renting tools they are going to get used and abused and you certainly do not want to incur needless repair costs.
The Bostich floor nailer operates between 70 and 120 psi. Reports are that it works best between 70 and 90 psi though. This nailer provides up to 420 in/lbs of impact. This is an important specification. If you are installing harder woods you need to ensure that you have adequate force to drive the nails. If your nailer doesn’t have enough force to drive the nails you could end up with split tongues or nails that bend or do not go in all the way.
This floor nailer is designed for every day use by professional floor installers. It will not bug out on you after one or two rooms like some of the other models. This durability does come with a price tag though. It’s probably going to run you double what some of the other models do. Can you put a price on quality though?
Another advantage that comes with the Bostitch floor nailer is it’s ergonomic design. Because it is designed for every day use it has a long handle designed to keep the user in a more comfortable posture to reduce back aches and other problems.
Now, the Bostitch floor nailer does not double as a stapler, and it does not shoot both L and T cleats. The reason for this is that it is not designed to be an all inclusive tool for short term use. It is designed for one purpose, to shoot L-cleats into hardwood flooring. It serves its purpose very well. You can try one of the all-in-one tools but I doubt it will drive L-cleats nearly as well as the Bostitch.
Freeman PFL618BR 3 in 1 Pneumatic Floor Nailer
The Freeman PFL618BR is a 3 in 1 floor nailer. It shoots T-cleats, L-cleats, and staples for installing various hardwood flooring. It will shoot 15.5 and 16 gauge staples with lengths of 1 to 2 inches. For nails it will shoot 1-1/2 inch to 2 inch nails using either the T-cleats or L-cleats.
It will hold a little over 100 nails/staples. As discussed in another review, 100 nails will cover about 60 feet or 5 rows on a 12 foot room. This is important because the more time you spend loading, the less time you are working.
The gun is constructed of die-cast aluminum to keep it light but durable. It comes with two base plates similar to other models. Simply install the base plate that is correct for the depth you need.
One feature I really like about this nailer is its 7 year warranty. The floor nailer is distributed in the US by Prime Global Products. Another very popular budget floor nailer is the Akuzuki floor nailer. It gets high marks from customers, is priced similarly, but all I was able to find for a customer service contact was an email address. Freeman on the other hand provides a phone number and uses a US company to handle their service and distribution in the US. It makes it much more convenient and moves the Freeman to the top of my list for budget floor nailers.
Hardcore Tools Hardwood Flooring Nailer
The Hardcore Tools Floor Nailer is a budget nail gun. Priced under two hundred dollars it wasn’t manufactured to complete with professional quality tools. Or, was it?
A common complaint with the less expensive floor nailers is that they begin to leak air, jam, or break down after the first or second job. Often people needing to lay 600 to 800 square feet of flooring find the budget nailers will meet their needs but when put to more serious use they generally don’t hold up.
I was a little surprised by the many positive reviews by customers. I did see some of the usual problems with air leaks and bolts that needed tightened after just a little bit of use. However, most people reported not having any major problems and were very happy with their purchase. One guy that did have problems with air leaks bought an overhaul kit but was unable to find a washer the right size. After many days of searching unsuccessfully he finally took two thinner washers and super glued them together. I’m not sure how long that will last but it was definitely a creative solution.
I did notice that it does not come with an adjustable base plate or additional base plates to accommodate smaller nails. If you will not be using 2 inch nails be aware that you may have to modify the base plate to get it to work. Several users inserted washers above the base plate to space it out so they could use smaller nails (not a bad idea at all).
Porter Cable Floor Nailer
The Porter Cable Floor Nailer is the arch rival to the Bostitch floor nailer. Both are professional grade quality and come with a hefty price tag for the do it yourselfer. I must say, it is money well spent though. You simply cannot match the quality of these nailers with the less expensive models. If you have a small room to do, one of the knock offs might be just what you need. If you want a floor nailer that is made to last then look no further.
The Porter Cable Floor Nailer is light weight and durable. It was designed to have a small footprint which allows it to get closer to the wall than other nailers. This means that you can spend less time on your starting rows because you can put this floor nailer into action much sooner than other models. Given the pain it saves me in my knees and back, this feature alone makes the Porter Cable one of my top choices.