Flooring, perhaps more than any other design element, sets the tone for what an interior feels like. Whether it’s the kitschy charm of terrazzo or the sleek modernism of concrete, the floor is quite literally the foundation upon which every design decision is made. But the most timeless option, by far, is wood flooring. If you want to renovate your home for your own sake or you’re looking to add a little extra value before you sell, installing your own wood flooring can be an economical way to greatly improve the look and feel of your home.
Installing wood flooring is a serious undertaking, even for the most seasoned DIYer. But if you’re armed with the right equipment and information, you can tackle your flooring projects without having to drop too much money in the swear jar. One of the most important tools you can have in your kit is a flooring nailer. They’re basically powerful staple/nail guns that allow you to quickly lay floorboards without having to do too much hammering.
The biggest thing to know about flooring nailers is that, unlike some tools, they won’t be ready to go out of the box. Many flooring nailers are pneumatic, meaning that they rely on pressurized air to produce force. That means that you will need to invest in an air compressor, too. Additionally, you typically don’t use an automatic trigger to dispense fasteners. Rather, you have to use a rubber mallet to hit the bumper on the back of the flooring nailer to staple the floorboards. The rubber mallet is typically included.
Another important thing to note is that the size and shape of flooring nailers prevent them from being able to be used for the first floorboards and the last floorboards. For boards near the walls, you’ll need to either get a finishing nailer or do it manually to complete the task.
There’s clearly a lot of work that goes into doing your floors yourself. But even if you’re starting from scratch and have to buy all of the necessary equipment, you can save a lot of money by handling the renovation yourself. And of course, it’s a whole lot more fulfilling that way. We’ve picked out our favorite flooring nailers, plus a finishing nailer to get the job done.
1. Freeman Pneumatic 3-in-1 Flooring Nailer
Freeman is one of the top makers of flooring nailers, and this pick from the brand comes with almost everything you need to get started. There’s the nailer, a rubber-end mallet, adjustment tools, oil, a carrying case, and even safety goggles. The nailer has a long, curved handle, making it comfortable to hold. It’s listed as a 3-in-1 option, and that’s because it can be used for various kinds of fasteners. You can use L-cleats, T-cleats, and 1.5-inch to 2-inch staples.
Pros: Suitable for various kinds of fasteners. Good value, because it comes with various accessories, including a carrying case, adjustment tools, a no-mar mallet, and even safety goggles.
Cons: Can potentially leak air, may not be as durable as some of the top brands like Bostich.
2. NuMax 3-in-1 Flooring Nailer
Like the top pick from Freeman, NuMax’s flooring nailer comes with a curved long-reach handle which makes using it while standing easier. The 3-in-1 design allows you to switch between T-cleats, L-cleats, and staples, ensuring versatility. It works with 15 and 16 gauge fasteners. The nailer comes with a mallet and two replaceable base plates.
Pros: Good value, comes with helpful accessories like replacement base plates. 3-in-1 design allows it to be used with T-cleats, L-cleats, and staples from 1.5 inches to 2 inches.
Cons: Doesn’t come with a carrying case.
3. WEN 18-Gauge Pneumatic Flooring Nailer
WEN makes a lot of affordable power tools, including this convenient and affordable pneumatic nailer from the brand. It’s designed for 18-gauge nails ranging from 5/8 inches to 2 inches in length. It’s compact and lightweight, but it still has a generous capacity — it can hold up to 100 nails in its magazine. The nose features a quick-release design, allowing you to open it up and easily clear any jams.
Pros: Affordable, lightweight, versatile tool for driving various kinds of nails and fasteners.
Cons: Not as durable as some of the top nailers.
4. DEWALT 2-N-1 Flooring Tool
You may not need a top of the line tool if you’re just going to be using it once for a room with small square footage. But if you need something you can depend on for long term use, consider this pick from DeWalt. Yes, it’s more expensive than many of the other options, but it delivers on the DeWalt name. Its 2-in-1 design makes it suitable for use with L-cleats and staples. It has an ergonomically designed long-reach handle. Included are interchangeable non-marring base plates, a rubber mallet, adjustment tools, and oil.
Pros: 2-in-1 use for L-cleats and staples. Includes replaceable no-mar plates, a mallet, and oil. Long-reach ergonomic handle. The 10-pound weight is lighter than many of comparable sizes.
Cons: Expensive. 2-in-1 is less than other 3-in-1 picks.
5. Bostitch Pneumatic Flooring Nailer
Bostitch is one of the most well-lauded brands when it comes to flooring nailers. This pick from the brand works with 1.5-inch to 2-inch cleats. The flooring nailer comes with a mallet, an adapter foot, and two base plates. The base plates vary by size — there’s a 1/2-inch and a 3/4-inch option for various board types. The elongated curved handle makes it comfortable for bigger jobs, reducing the need to kneel or hunch to get the job done.
Pros: Powerful and professional option for tackling larger jobs. Curved handle for ergonomic use. Comes with extra base plates. Fits 110 cleats in the magazine, making it a higher capacity than most of the other picks.
Cons: Expensive. Not a 2-in-1 or 3-in-1 tool like some other picks.
6. Bostitch 2-in-1 Flooring Tool
A solid option from Bostitch is this 2-in-1 pneumatic flooring tool. It works with staples and L cleats. It’s compatible with staples that are 15.5 or 16 gauge or 1/2-inch to 2-inch cleats. The ergonomically curved handle features a rubber grip, making it comfortable for long-term use. It comes with useful accessories, too. There are interchangeable base plates, a mallet, adjustment wrenches, and a dust cover. Bostitch is one of the most trusted brands for flooring tools, so this will be a dependable pick for bigger jobs.
Pros: Dependable Bostitch quality. Comes with replaceable base plates, a mallet, and other accessories. Ergonomic handle.
Cons: Magazine doesn’t hold cleats as well as it does nails.
7. NuMax Pneumatic 16-Gauge 2-1/2" Straight Finish Nailer
If you don’t want to manually hammer in the start and finish boards, then you’ll also want a finish nailer in addition to a flooring nailer. Finish nailers are small enough to go where bulky flooring nailers can’t, and this option from NuMax is affordable and well-designed. It works with 16-gauge fasteners of various sizes, between 1 inch and 2.5 inches. Unlike flooring nailers, this finish nailer is suitable for other, non-flooring tasks. You can use it on cabinets, furniture, and for other tasks.
Pros: Affordable. No-mar tip to prevent damage. Works with 16-gauge fasteners of various lengths. Quick-release to quickly deal with jams.
Cons: Can have trouble completely sinking some nails.