Pnematic vs. Manual Nailer on Hardwood (Hickory)

Discussion in 'Hardwood and Laminates Q&A' started by Kevlax2, Dec 5, 2017.

  1. Kevlax2

    Kevlax2 Member

    I am a moderately handy DIYer who has installed several types of floors (laminate, pressure adhesive LVT, and marble tile) before and am preparing to install my first solid hardwood floor.

    Room size is 12x21 rectangle (252 SF) and the product is Homerwood Hickory Saddle 3/4" x 4" prefinished. House is in SE Pennsylvania, we keep the thermostat at 67 degrees and have a humidifier built into the heat pump. Room is on second floor above 3/4" plywood subfloor. Will acclimate it for 10 or so days and run it perpendicular to the joists.

    I will be doing the install under the tutelage of a handy older (and likely wiser) gentleman who has installed 5-6 wood floors in his lifetime (the oak ones I have seen are well done). He is providing me with a manual cleat nailer (not sure of the exact type). He swears the manual one is better because it really gets a tight board fit with the first two hammer blows.

    I have concerns (quite possibly invalid) that the manual nailer may not have enough oomph to get through the hickory, the extra hammer blows could scratch the finish, and that in general using a pneumatic nailer will be a smarter way to go. Which do you recommend for this type of wood? What gauge (18 or 16) cleat is appropriate? If pneumatic is the way to go - which of these options would you recommend?

    A. buy a mid-high end one, hold onto it for this floor and the one we will do next year, then sell on ebay.
    B. buy a cheapy from Harbor Freight
    C. Rent one (remember - planning to do an additional room (similar size) next year).
    D. give the free manual nailer a try first?

  2. Mike Antonetti

    Mike Antonetti I Support TFP Senior Member

    I always say start with the older method, learn it’s characteristics, then later on you may appreciate the easier equipment. You will notice the difference between the two types. One being Dam that’s a lot of pounding.

    You do have a point with pre finished hardwood.
  3. Chris 45

    Chris 45 Director of P.R. on some deserted island. I Support TFP

    Never used a manual nailer so I couldn’t say if it gets things tighter or not. I’d go buy a cheese ball pneumatic before I manually nailed anything though. Tighter schmiter, it’s wood. It will expand and contract so it will end up being what it is in the end anyway.
  4. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain Owner/Founder Administrator

    Dare I say that I started this business before pneumatic nailers were widely available? I would NOT recommend a manual nailer. Your results will be inconsistent and you will have to fight every partial ejection and every fastener that isn't driven home. Set the pneumatic at the correct pressure, test on some scrap, then you will get the best results.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  5. Mike Antonetti

    Mike Antonetti I Support TFP Senior Member

    How are kids to appreciate what they have these days?
  6. kylenelson

    kylenelson You'll find me on the floor I Support TFP Senior Member

    You want the air assist
  7. Steve Olson

    Steve Olson Hardwood/Laminate Guru Charter Member Senior Member

    Not that I am endorsing it, but I have used the harbor freight pneumatic gun, couldn't tell it from the Bostich they cloned it from. Just hang on to your receipt, and packaging. If you break a drive bar while installing, as I did, and need parts, as I did, you'll find out that they offer free replacement, but no parts.
    • Like Like x 1
  8. Chris Mha

    Chris Mha Charter Member Senior Member

    Did this last week. Hickory with pneumatic 16ga. cleats

    Attached Files:

    • Like Like x 3
    • Winner Winner x 1
  9. Jim McClain

    Jim McClain Owner/Founder Administrator

    Got splines? ;) :D
  10. Chris Mha

    Chris Mha Charter Member Senior Member

    Better believe it
  11. Mike Antonetti

    Mike Antonetti I Support TFP Senior Member

    After the 45’s that’s the first thing I looked for in the photo, they’re up front with one wrap of shrink wrap removed. What went in center, hardwood or carpet?
  12. Chris Mha

    Chris Mha Charter Member Senior Member

    Did carpet in the center. Forgot to take final pictures. Back on Friday to do a hallway. Will take more pics
    • Like Like x 1
  13. Jon Scanlan

    Jon Scanlan That Kiwi Charter Member I Support TFP Senior Member

    And I thought you were going to put wood in the middle :)
  14. Kevlax2

    Kevlax2 Member

    That floor looks great! Ya'll have convinced me to go with air assist. I found a Bostitch 16ga. cleat nailer used once on a 10x10' floor on Craigslist for $160 so I am pursuing that.

    It looks like you put the baseboard moulding in first. What size gap do you recommend between the wood floor and moulding? I believe my wife wants me to replace our baseboard with larger you recommend replacing it before or after the floor has been laid?
  15. Chris Mha

    Chris Mha Charter Member Senior Member

    I didn't install the base. It was existing. Manufacturers want you to leave 3/4" expansion on all vertical abutments. On this particular one I did not do that. I only have 4' of width all the way around. It's not physically possible for that little bit of wood to expand that much in 4 feet. You may need to undercut your drywall if you are taking off the base anyway. That gives you a little more room
    • Like Like x 1
  16. Chris 45

    Chris 45 Director of P.R. on some deserted island. I Support TFP

    Install your floor first then put the base up. That way 1/4 round is an option instead of a necessity.
    • Like Like x 2
    • Agree Agree x 1
  17. Kevlax2

    Kevlax2 Member

    Makes sense.

    As far as nailing frequency - I believe the flooring co. calls for every 8". So a 12x21' room with 4" boards should require ~1,134 cleats? Sound right? What length of 16ga. cleats are you using Chris? 1 1/2 or 2"?
  18. Dan Schultz

    Dan Schultz Certified Wood Floor Inspector Charter Member

    I didn't do the math, but your number may be a little on the low side if you didn't account for 1 - 3 inches from the ends of the boards. NWFA recommends 6" - 8" and 1" - 3" from the ends. EX: a 24" board will still require 4 cleats minimum.

    2" fasteners also allow them to hit the floor joists. (The reason the 1.5" fastener is included in fastener guides is for a plywood subfloor over a concrete slab. You don't want the fasteners puncturing the moisture barrier between the plywood and the slab.) Some guys will mark the joist location on bottom of the walls before covering the floor with felt paper.
    • Like Like x 1
  19. Dan Schultz

    Dan Schultz Certified Wood Floor Inspector Charter Member

    I think base shoe, which is taller than it is wide (3/4" x 5/8"), looks much better than 1/4 round. Also, once base starts to get tall, a molding that semi-matches the top of the baseboard looks much better than shoe. More architectural, you might say.
  20. Kevlax2

    Kevlax2 Member

    Now that I got this project underway over the weekend, a quick update...

    First off - the pneumatic nailer is absolutely the way to go. The older wiser gentleman who was advising me wishes he had used one when he did his floors. He also mentioned he had to do 12" spacing between cleats using a manual nailer because otherwise it was too tiring...

    I undercut the drywall to gain a 1/2" expansion gap and will not need shoe moulding. Also nailed it 3" from ends and every 6-8". Thanks for the tips!

    I still have to add hickory registers and add a reducer to the slider but so far so good...

    • Like Like x 2

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