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Installing Nail & Staple Hardwood Floors

How to Install

Download Hardwood Flooring Installation Instructions | PDF's
PDF icon for PDF fileQuick Guide on How–to–Install Hardwood Floor – 300kb pdf | Our short installation guide for those with DIY experience.
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Use this method for solid and engineered (if approved by your manufacturer) T&G hardwood above wood subfloors or concrete subfloors overlaid with a plywood underlayment. Always follow your flooring manufacturer's recommendations when choosing between staples and cleats/nails.

Fasten each tongue at the proper intervals:

  • 3"–4" for staples (usually recommended for hardwood)
  • 4"–6" for cleats/nails
  • Within 1"–2" of each end joint

Keep these tips in mind before you begin:

  • Set all staples correctly in the nail pocket.
  • Use the correct type of top and angled stapler with the proper plate. Ensure the plate is covered with felt or plastic so it does not scratch the hardwood.
  • If using a pneumatic fastening device, use the correct pressure setting (usually between 70–80 PSI). Practice fastening a scrap piece of flooring before you begin your installation.
  • Use pliers to remove a staple that did not go in completely.
  • Use wire cutters to cut staples that are partially exposed and cannot be removed.
  • Use a nail punch to drive a staple in completely.

Install First Row

Take extra time when installing the first row of hardwood flooring. It is critical that this row be straight even if the walls are not.

  1. Measure out your expansion spacing in at least two places along the longest wall. Snap a chalk line between the points.
  2. Lay out the hardwood with the groove toward the wall but do not secure yet. Add spacers between the flooring and the wall. Make sure this first row is completely straight. Scribe fit this row (if necessary) so that the flooring matches the contours in the wall.
  3. Once satisfied with the fit, top nail the first row to the subfloor at the appropriate intervals.
  4. At the end of the wall, measure and cut a plank to fit. Use a pinch bar (if necessary) to fit the last plank in place. Place a spacer at the end of the first row.
  5. Evaluate the first row to ensure it is straight and level. Adjust where needed.
  1. Use a short board (it should be at least 8"–10" in length) to start the second row.
  2. Gently tap this board together with the first row. Use an angled stapler to secure in place.
  3. Work your way across the floor until you reach the last few rows.

Install Last Row

You'll will install the last few rows differently as your nailer/stapler may not fit between the wall and your rows of flooring.

  1. Begin using a white tipped mallet (which will not mar the wall) to tap boards in place 5–6 rows out from the wall.
  2. When your stapler no longer fits between the wall and your flooring (about 3 rows out), continuing installing your hardwood, but do not staple. Use the mallet to fit each board tightly to the next.
  3. When you are on your last row, measure out your expansion spacing in at least two places. Snap a chalk line.
  4. Lay out the hardwood flooring with the tongue or cut part of the board toward the wall. Scribe fit (if necessary) so that the flooring matches the contours of the wall. Make sure the last row is completely straight. Tap with the mallet so all boards fit tightly together. (This is especially important since you did not staple the last few rows of flooring.)
  5. Once satisfied with the fit, top nail the last row in place. Add a few extra staples in this row as it is holding 3–4 rows together. Your hardwood floor does not need any time to set. Once you place your last staple, you can remove all spacers and begin using your new hardwood floor.

Hardwood Manufacturers