We have had multiple areas of our house done in hardwood floors over the last 5 years. We tend to do certain rooms when we get enough money and each time I have used the same company. The first time they did our family room and bedroom and the next time it was our dining room and living room space. We got used to hearing the air compressor going and having the hardwood flooring nailer power through all those pieces of wood. The flooring nailer is an essential power tool needed if you are installing hardwoods. Both crews were nice enough to share what type of floor nailer they used and what they thought of the tools. The two types of flooring nailers are manual nailers and pneumatic nailers. The older, manual flooring nailer requires more brute strength since no compressor and air hose are used. The modern pneumatic floor nailer still requires that you hit the driver head to get the nail inserted properly, but less effort is exerted. You will often hear the term flooring cleat nailer and the cleat is what the nail is called. The flooring cleats are driven through the hardwood and into the subfloor at just the right angle so that you get straight boards and secure tongue and groove flooring.
Which flooring nailer is best? We found the most popular brands are Bostitch, Senco, Porter Cable, and Porta-Nail. The Bostitch MIIIFN is top rated on several websites and in reviews most professional hardwood floor installers chose this model. A close second is the Porter-Cable FCN200 pneumatic floor nailer which in reviews performed exceptionally with hickory, Brazilian cherry, bamboo, and red oak hardwoods (that's what we have). The top ranked manual flooring cleat nailer is the Porta-Nails 402P which is cheaper than the other two but requires a little more brawn to run. The big advantage with the manual types is that they are lighter than air nailers and you don't have the hose to drag around. What should you look for in a flooring nailer? Experts agree that you need power (to drive the cleats), loading nails should be smooth and easy, look for those that come with nail shoes and a face nailer, and nail jams should clear easy. Keep in mind also that these power tools are not cheap as the pneumatic models are $400+ and even the manual floor nailers are over $200. You can rent them for about $30 to $40/day but most people who did that said it would probably have been wiser just to buy one instead. We found no head to head reviews of flooring nailers on the web or in magazines. However, there are dozens of individual reviews on websites like Toolcrib.com, Sears.com, Woodsthebest.com, Toolbarn.com, and Epinions. You can browse all the most popular flooring nailers online here.
Bostitch Flooring Nailer:
RECOMMENDED - The Bostitch MIIIFN 1-1/2- to 2-Inch Pneumatic Flooring Nailer is definitely the tool of choice amongst those that lay down hardwood floors. The first crew that did our bedroom used this Bostitch and they've been using it for years without a problem (that's 100's of completed jobs). The pneumatic flooring nailer drives L-shaped flooring cleats 1 1/2 to 2 inches with 420 inch pounds of driving power. Owners say the MIIIFN ran best between 70 and 90 psi. The magazine has a capacity of 110 fasteners. What professionals like about this model is that it's made with aircraft grade aluminum making it both lightweight and extremely durable. For $400 you definitely want your moneys worth and you will get it. Comes with a 7 year limited warranty, a graphite mallet, and pre-finished flooring adapter foot. Flooring-nailers.com gives this Bostitch top position in it's picks and owners say things like "great flooring nailer", "way better than manual nailers", and "great tool and timesaver".
Porter Cable Flooring Nailer:
RECOMMENDED - The Porter-Cable FCN200 Pneumatic Flooring Cleat Nailer is a sure fire winner from PC. The FCN200 is slowly taking market share from the more popular Bostitch. You want to talk about customer satisfaction, just read the reviews for the Porter Cable flooring nailer on Amazon. Some 72 of 74 owners gave this 4 stars or better, so we know that it will probably overtake the Bostitch sometime soon. This flooring cleat nailer works with L shaped flooring cleats measuring 1 1/2 to 2 inches in length assuring your that any size hardwoods can be installed. The Porter Cable uses a compressor that will provide 70-100 psi of operating pressure and it weighs in at just over 11 pounds. It's made from lightweight die-cast aluminum and owners say it's very durable. Consumers also mention they like the rear load gravity feed magazine that has the bypass pusher. The 2nd crew that did our dining room and living rooms had the FCN200 and they too had been using this to install hardwood floors for almost 5 years with minimal issues. These professionals described the floor nailer as "a high quality nailer that is balanced and installs all types of hardwoods with ease". It's priced at over $400, but many say it's a better value than the Bostitch which is slightly less.
GOOD VALUE - The Porta-Nails 402P Porta-Nailer Manual Flooring Cleat Nailer is considered a top ranked manual model. Lots of DIYer homeowners turn to the Porta-Nails 402P when they need to do a smaller section of their house with hardwood floors. Owners say there are very few nail jams, the tool works great, and the performance is consistent with what experts say about the 402P. It's designed to drive 5/8 inch to 1 inch tongue and groove flooring. The ram does not return until the nail is seated properly. Some users say you have to hit the ram multiple times to get the nail to set which can tire you out compared to the pneumatic flooring nailers. You still get a tight fit for the floors but it requires much more work. Other comments include "made in the USA", "works great and cheap to buy", and "reliable nailer". Definitely not meant for a professional installer, but certainly a product that a homeowner might consider if they have a small amount of hardwood floors to install. Several reviews note that buying this model and doing the work over several days (or even weeks) sure beats paying the daily rental fee.