Can You Use a Brad Nailer for Hardwood Floors?

Brad Nailer for Hardwood Floors
The answer is yes, you can use a Brad nailer to install or replace hardwood floor panels in your home or office. But it also depends on the thickness of the wooden flooring plank and the type of hardwood that you use. The 18G brad nailer works fine for ½” planks and engineered hardwood. But it may not penetrate well through a dense ¾” solid hardwood flooring.

A brad nailer works best for toenailing the rows closer to the walls. Do not plan to do the entire hardwood floor installation with a brad nail gun. For best results, you should use a flooring nailer that will give sufficient grip to your panels. If you do not have a flooring nailer, I would recommend a 16G finishing nailer, which should not have any difficulty in penetrating through thick wooden panels.

Brad nailer for flooring

A Brad nailer is a useful tool that offers a wide range of abilities for shooting in 18-gauge nails without having to use an old-fashioned hammer. The wood planks used for hardwood flooring are strong, but thin and somewhat prone to splintering if you do not use the right size of nail or staple. Should you decide to go for brad nail, shoot two brads around the perimeter for every 6 inches or so.

There some limitations to what a Brad nailer can do, so keep that in mind when approaching your next project.

What Type of Nail Gun for Hardwood Flooring?

A flooring nailer is the preferred type of nail gun for installing hardwood flooring. This is because the flooring gun is specifically designed for punching nails at the correct angle into the thin sheets of hardwood flooring commonly used in homes and offices around the world.

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When doing hardwood flooring, you have to nail at an angle -usually 45-degree downwards- into the joist or subfloor to ensure that the wooden panels are secured with no gap between them. This is called blind nailing which is different from face nailing.
The design of the flooring nailer makes blind nailing an easy task.

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If you do not have a flooring nailer, then a finishing nailer or a Brad nailer is probably the next best hammering power tool to use. However, you will need to use it in the right way to get the same results as a flooring nailer. This means that you will need to choose the correct type of nail and shoot it in at the right angle (45°) if you want the Brad nailer to work properly in securing hardwood flooring.

With a brad or finish nailer, you may also want to increase the depth setting to ensure that the head is not protruding out. If you are using the old fashion hammer and nail, you should use a nailset to countersink the nail head into the material.

Are Staples or Nails Better for Hardwood Floors?

You can use either staples or nails for installing or replacing hardwood floors. Each has its advantages, but the success of either method will depend on the size and length of the nails or staples that are used.

The regular nails do not have the holding power to keep the wood from moving. You need special nails called cleats for flooring.

Cleat vs Staple

As you know wood expands and contracts according to weather conditions and moisture levels. The design of cleat nails is such that it allows for the movement of the wood.


A cleat is a special nail with either an L-shaped head or a T-shaped head, with a smooth body at the top but has barbs or ridges at the lower part (towards the point) of the nail. Once nailed into the plywood subfloor, these ridges provide a strong grip.

16 Gauge L Cleat Hardwood Flooring Nails Nails from Meite

The smooth surface towards the head of the nail allows the hardwood flooring tiles to expand and contract which happens with the seasonal changes. This avoids creaking and squeaking.

The cleats which usually comes in 16-gauge cost more than staples as much as twice the price.


Staples provide a much stronger grip when compared to regular nails as well as cleats. They are also easier to work with and cheaper than cleats. This is why samples are preferred for flooring installation of engineered wood which is less prone to seasonal changes.

Staples are slightly thicker with 15.5 gauge number. But when it comes to solid hardwood cleats are preferred over staples because the cleats allow for expansion and contraction of wood.

Both will have the same effect of securing the flooring to the subfloor so that it stays in place.

Regular Nails vs Cleat

The regular nails with different head designs and smooth body are meant for securing the pieces in position by preventing them from sliding. They do not have sufficient holding power to keep the pieces tight.

On the other hand, the staple and cleat are designed for holding the wood tightly and securely in position.

Hardwood Floor Installation

For most hardwood flooring, you’ll need 1 ½” long nails or staples so they can be secured into the ¾” subfloor.

Start with the first row of boards that are next to one wall and work your way across the room until you reach the opposite wall. Place spacers between the wall and the wood planks to maintain expansion space.

You won’t be able to use the floor nailer for the first couple of rows and the last row since the flooring nail gun requires more space to work. Remember to put in ½” spacers made of solid wood from the wall for the best results.

Always wear safety glasses and gloves to protect yourself from any splintering.

Once you have set the wood plank, fire the nailer at a 45-degree angle. This will help prevent splinters from being created while securing the plank to the floor. Space the nails or staples about 12” to 16” apart. This will provide a secure hold while not using up your nails or staples too rapidly.

Before you nail it, make sure that there is no gap between the rows. Use a tapping block and mallet to push the tongue into the groove of the next piece. You may also want to push the wood down or stand on it while you nail it.

When you reach the far wall and are down to the last row, you may have to do face nailing since there won’t be enough space for the flooring nailer to operate. If the wood plank in the last row is less than 1-inch in width leave it unfastened. The base shoe or quarter round should hold the flooring in place. Plus, it makes it easier to replace the flooring if you have planks that do not have nails or staples in them.

Make sure that you are nailing the baseboard and the shoe molding to the wall and not to the floating wood floor.


You can use a Brad nailer for hardwood floors. Please note that 21G brad nailer or pin nailer (23G) will have really tough time piercing through dense hardwood such as teak or mahogany floors. While it is preferable to use a flooring nailer, an 18G Brad nailer with the right set of nails and placed at the proper angle will work just fine 1/2-inch panels. For 3/4-inch wood planks, go for a flooring nailer that shoots 16G cleats.