How To Nail Hardwood Flooring By Hand?

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Hardwood flooring is a popular choice for many homeowners, and for good reason. It’s durable, long-lasting, and adds a beautiful touch to any home. However, installing hardwood flooring can be a daunting task, especially if you’re doing it by hand. But don’t worry, with the right tools and techniques, you can nail hardwood flooring by hand like a pro. In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know to nail hardwood flooring by hand.

Tools You’ll Need:

Before you start nailing, you’ll need to gather the right tools. Here’s a list of what you’ll need:

  • Hardwood flooring
  • Nails (preferably 2-inch or 2 1/2-inch nails)
  • Hammer
  • Nail set
  • Pry bar
  • Chalk line
  • Tape measure
  • Circular saw
  • Table saw
  • Safety glasses
  • Ear protection


Before you start installing your hardwood flooring, you’ll need to do some preparation. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

1. Acclimate Your Flooring:

Wood is a natural material that expands and contracts with changes in temperature and humidity. To prevent gaps or buckling in your hardwood flooring, it’s essential to acclimate your flooring to your home’s environment. This process involves storing your flooring in the room where it will be installed for at least 48 hours, so it can adjust to the room’s temperature and humidity.

2. Prepare the Subfloor:

Your subfloor needs to be clean, dry, and level before you can install your hardwood flooring. If your subfloor is concrete, you’ll need to lay down a moisture barrier first. If your subfloor is wood, you’ll need to ensure that it’s free of any nails, staples, or other debris.

3. Mark the Centerline:

To ensure that your hardwood flooring is installed straight, you’ll need to mark a centerline down the middle of the room. To do this, measure the width of the room and divide it in half. Then, snap a chalk line down the middle of the room.


Now that you’ve prepared your flooring and subfloor, it’s time to start nailing. Here’s how to do it:

1. Lay the First Row:

Starting at the centerline, lay the first row of hardwood flooring with the tongue facing out. Make sure to leave a 1/2-inch gap between the flooring and the wall to allow for expansion.

2. Nail the First Row:

To nail the first row, place a nail every 6 to 8 inches along the length of the board. Make sure to angle the nails slightly towards the tongue of the board, so they’re hidden by the next row of flooring.

3. Lay the Second Row:

Once the first row is nailed down, lay the second row of flooring, using a pry bar to snug it up against the first row. Make sure to interlock the tongue and groove of the two boards.

4. Nail the Second Row:

To nail the second row, place a nail at a 45-degree angle through the tongue of the board, approximately 2 inches from the end of the board. Then, place a nail every 6 to 8 inches along the length of the board, angling the nails slightly towards the tongue.

5. Continue Installing Rows:

Continue installing rows of hardwood flooring, making sure to stagger the end joints of the boards. Use a circular saw to cut the last board in each row to the correct length. Use a table saw to rip the last board in each row to the correct width, leaving a 1/2-inch gap between the flooring and the wall.

Types of Nailers and Staplers for Hardwood Flooring:

1. Pneumatic Nailer:

A pneumatic nailer is a powerful tool that uses compressed air to drive nails into the hardwood planks and subfloor. It is fast and efficient, and it can help you complete the job quickly. However, a pneumatic nailer requires an air compressor to operate, which can be an additional cost if you do not already own one.

2. Manual Flooring Nailer:

A manual flooring nailer is a hand-held tool that requires a mallet to drive the nails into the hardwood planks and subfloor. It is an affordable option for DIYers and small-scale projects. A manual flooring nailer can be challenging to use, and it requires more physical effort compared to a pneumatic nailer.

3. Stapler:

A stapler is another option for nailing down hardwood floors. It uses staples instead of nails to fasten the hardwood planks to the subfloor. A stapler is easy to use and can be an affordable option, but it may not be as strong as a nailer. Staples may also have a higher risk of causing splits or cracks in the hardwood planks.

4. Cleat Nailer:

A cleat nailer is a specialized tool that uses cleats, which are small, barbed nails, to fasten the hardwood planks to the subfloor. A cleat nailer is easy to use and creates a strong bond between the hardwood planks and subfloor. However, a cleat nailer can be more expensive compared to other options.

How to nail hardwood flooring?

the steps you need to follow to nail your hardwood flooring installation and ensure that your flooring looks and performs perfectly for years to come.

Step 1: Choose the right hardwood flooring:

The first step in nailing your hardwood flooring is choosing the right type of hardwood. There are many different types of hardwood flooring available, and each has its own unique properties and characteristics. Some of the most popular types of hardwood flooring include:

  • Oak: One of the most popular and durable hardwood flooring options.
  • Maple: A hard and durable wood that is known for its pale color and fine grain.
  • Cherry: A warm and inviting wood that is often used for its beautiful color and grain patterns.
  • Walnut: A luxurious and elegant wood that is known for its rich, dark color and beautiful grain patterns.

When choosing your hardwood flooring, it is important to consider factors such as the style of your home, your budget, and the level of durability you require. You should also consider the installation method you will be using, as some types of hardwood flooring are better suited to nail-down installations than others.

Step 2: Prepare the subfloor:

Before you can begin nailing your hardwood flooring, you need to prepare the subfloor. This involves removing any existing flooring, such as carpet or tile, and ensuring that the subfloor is clean, level, and free of any debris or protrusions. You may also need to install a moisture barrier, particularly if you are installing your hardwood flooring over a concrete subfloor.

Step 3: Install the first row:

Once your subfloor is prepared, you can begin installing your hardwood flooring. Start by laying out your first row of boards, making sure that they are straight and parallel to the walls. You can use spacers to ensure that there is enough room for expansion and contraction of the wood.

When you are satisfied with the placement of your first row, you can begin nailing the boards into place. To do this, use a flooring nailer or a pneumatic stapler to secure the boards to the subfloor. Be sure to place the nails or staples at an angle to ensure a secure hold.

Step 4: Continue installing the rest of the flooring:

Once your first row is in place, you can continue installing the rest of your hardwood flooring. Be sure to stagger the boards so that the end joints do not line up, as this will help to create a more natural and seamless look. Remember to use spacers between each row to allow for expansion and contraction.

As you install each row, be sure to check that it is straight and level before nailing the boards into place. You may also need to cut boards to fit around doorways or other obstacles using a saw or a jigsaw.

Step 5: Finish the edges:

Once you have installed the bulk of your hardwood flooring, you will need to finish the edges. This involves installing baseboards or molding around the perimeter of the room to cover any gaps between the flooring and the walls.

You may also want to consider installing transition strips between different types of flooring, such as hardwood and tile, to create a seamless transition between the two.

FAQs about Nailing Down Hardwood Floors

How many nails should I use per plank?

The number of nails per plank will depend on the width of the plank and the spacing between the joists. As a general rule, you should use two nails per plank for planks that are less than 3 inches wide and three nails per plank for wider planks. You should also space the nails 8 to 10 inches apart along the length of the plank.

How should I prepare the subfloor before nailing down the hardwood planks?

Before nailing down the hardwood planks, you should ensure that the subfloor is clean and level. Remove any debris or loose material from the subfloor, and use a leveling compound if necessary to ensure that the subfloor is flat and even.

Should I use adhesive in addition to nails to secure the hardwood planks to the subfloor?

Using adhesive in addition to nails can create a stronger bond between the hardwood planks and subfloor. However, it is not always necessary, and it can be an additional cost. If you decide to use adhesive, make sure that it is compatible with both the hardwood planks and subfloor.

How do I prevent the hardwood planks from splitting when nailing them down?

To prevent the hardwood planks from splitting, you should pre-drill the nail holes before nailing them down. Use a drill bit that is slightly smaller than the diameter of the nails to create a pilot hole. This will reduce the risk of splitting and ensure that the nails are driven in straight.


Installing hardwood flooring by hand can be a challenging task, but with the right tools and techniques, it is a rewarding and fulfilling experience. Choosing the right hardwood flooring, preparing the subfloor, installing the first row, continuing with the rest of the flooring, and finishing the edges are the essential steps in nailing hardwood flooring by hand. Paying attention to the details and ensuring that the boards are straight, level, and securely nailed in place will result in a beautiful and long-lasting hardwood floor that will add warmth, character, and value to your home for years to come. So, if you are up for the challenge, grab your hammer and nails, and start nailing your hardwood flooring today!

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