Hot Topics: Types of Nail Guns

A man uses a nail gun on floors.

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Original post: Buying Advice: Pneumatic or Electrical Nail Gun?

Petethebuilder Member

I'm looking to tear up a tile floor and replace it with a solid wood floor matching the rest of the floor. With this project, I'll need to lay down about 300 square feet of red oak flooring.

But the reason for this post is I'd like advice on what kind of nail gun to buy. I'm very comfortable using a variety of powered woodworking tools, but I've never owned or really used a nail gun. Primarily, I'd be buying this tool for the job at hand, but it might be nice for other small woodworking projects or doing trim work. I'm not a pro, just a household DIYer. I currently don't own any pneumatic tools, so I don't own or really want to store a compressor. My interest is primarily woodworking and doing home projects. I don't work on cars or do mechanical work.

That said, I'm considering pneumatic, but leaning against it. In fact, I'm not even seriously considering a cordless nailer because I don't expect to use it much beyond this job and even if I do, much of what I'd use it for would be inside my shop where outlets are always in reach.

So, anyway, I'm planning to go with a corded nail gun. If anyone here can make a strong case for going pneumatic (and having to invest and store a compressor), please let me know.

That said, let me confirm that for this flooring (3/4 inch by 2 1/4 inch sold red oak), I should be using 2-inch cleat nails. My subfloor is 3/4 inch by 7 1/4 inch wide plank, running diagonally. Considering I might use it for woodworking, I guess I'd want the gun to be able to shoot staples as well. I'm assuming I should buy a "flooring" nail gun that shoots at a 45-degree angle to secure the tongue, or at least get a model that supports that angle.

Anyway, advice is welcomed. Shoot me a brand or model if you can, but I'm mostly looking for general advice.


Czizzi Forum Topic Moderator

For your flooring project, you will need a floor nail gun which both set cleats. As you hit the piston with your hammer, it drives the pieces of flooring tight together. This is the only function that this gun will do. It will not be suitable for any other job, be it finish nailing or framing.

As a one-off job, you may look into renting or look into Harbor Freight as they have the most affordable floor nailer, I have one and it works great.

From time to time they have combo packs where you can get a compressor and 3 nail guns for a decent price. That will satisfy all your other nailing needs.

Petethebuilder Member

Thanks. On your advice, I checked out Harbor Freight, but all things considered, I think a rental is the way to go. Are 2-inch cleats correct considering the thickness of the wood floor and subfloor?

Czizzi Forum Topic Moderator

A general guide to cleats. You want the most grab you can get. If the subfloor is plank set on the 45, then you risk sending a cleat down a void which may result in a squeak down the road. Hope you can read the diagram.

A forum user posted photo.

Petethebuilder Member

Thanks. I didn't realize the answer would be so nuanced.

I've watched a few videos by now on the topic. After the unfinished floor is in place, is it general practice to go over the cracks with some kind of wood putty before finishing? I always assumed the finish would fill those in without issue.

Marksr Forum Topic Moderator

There is a wood paste that you can smear over the floor before your final sanding. It's easy to apply and once sanded the only filler that remains is what's in the cracks.

Petethebuilder Member

Thanks for the reply. Okay, I can handle that, but is it necessary or common practice? In my case, I'd be using it with new, unfinished flooring. Is there any issue with hindering expansion? I'm having a little trouble identifying the actual product.

Marksr Forum Topic Moderator

I don't remember the product's name but you can buy it at most hardwood flooring stores.

It's a fairly common practice when finishing new flooring.

Czizzi Forum Topic Moderator

All the floors I've installed have been the pre-finished variety. From that experience, I noted that not all the boards are exactly the same width. It varies a 1/16 inch in either direction. If you put a board next to one that is a 1/16 inch narrower, then when the next course of wood goes in, you will have a small gap. What I do is measure each and every board and separate into piles by width. Each row only comes from the same pile of like widths. The result is no gaps. This works for pre-finished wood, I imagine it would also work for unfinished wood and negate the use/need for fillers.

Marq1 Member

I checked out Harbor Freight, but all things considered I think a rental is the way to go.

Rentals are iffy. When you're doing a project, you're trying to get the job done so you can get the equipment back and you just run out of time and have to rent for a second, or third day.

Take my advice: look at Craig's List or eBay. Find a good quality nail gun, not Harbor Freight nailer, like a Porta Nailer, use it at your leisure, then resell it.

I've done this many times with specialty tools and in the end the cost is almost nothing.

Second, skip the pneumatic. Manual nailers are best to really set the boards tight with the hammer strike.

It varies a 1/16 inch

Z3, I have to ask what brand of floors you have used that you find this level of variation with. I've installed many floors, all prefinished, and never found this kind of situation.

To be honest, if I did, I'd probably pack it all up and return, it's not acceptable.

Czizzi Forum Topic Moderator

Marq, it was more on the short side than the wider side but frustrated me none the less and feel it worthy to mention as something to watch out for during your install. Particularly if purchasing from a box store which may not carry the highest end materials. You don't find out about it being off until you set the next row. Then you have to cut out the nails and waste time getting it right.

I've also seen brand new, unfinished, put in by others with filler everywhere, waiting to be sanded. To me, if there wasn't a variation in widths, fillers wouldn't be needed.

Another thing that gets me is tile that is not square. It is then impossible to hold a grout line. Had one batch where tiles were mixed in that were 3/16 inch out of square. I swear, I will never do another tile job where the tiles are not bought from a tile distributor.

XSleeper Group Moderator

I've got the Freeman flooring nailer, it works great and was fairly inexpensive. Just part of the cost of doing a floor.

Petethebuilder Member


Thanks for the reply. When I consider cost it's more about my cost versus the cost of hiring a pro. At least that's how I justify buying new tools when I present it to SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed). For me, after this, I don't see myself laying down another solid wood floor, but I'll check the rental price vs. purchase price before deciding as you do make a good point. Generally, I do a very good job on projects and keep to code, etc, but I'm slow and don't like the deadline of a rental return.

Counting walls and floors, I've done 7 tile jobs and I've never had a problem with big box store tiles, but I can see how I'd be once bitten twice shy if even one time I got burned.

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