How to use a pneumatic finish nail gun for hardwood floors

Written by mark morris
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How to use a pneumatic finish nail gun for hardwood floors
Wood floors can be nailed, glued or installed floating. (hardwood floor texture image by GoodMood Photo from

Pneumatic, or air-powered, finish nail guns are charged by the pressurised air from an air compressor. They fire metal brad or finish nails in various sizes at 56.7 to 68kg. per square inch. Nailing is one of three common methods of installing hardwood floors. While it used to be the only method for installing hardwood, it is becoming less common. Today's floors are generally glued or installed as floating without any attachment to the subfloor. Nailing requires some skill and special equipment, making it less affordable than the other methods, particularly for do-it-yourself installers.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Pneumatic nail gun
  • Finish nails
  • Compressor
  • Air hose with quick coupler fitting
  • Nail punch

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  1. 1

    Open the clip of the pneumatic nail gun and load it with 1 1/2-inch finish nails and attach the gun to the compressor hose. Pull the brass ring on the connectors back toward the hose and slide the fitting up onto the nozzle on the bottom of the gun handle.

  2. 2

    Set your compressor to at least 63.5kg. per square inch and turn it on to charge. Wait for it to shut off before firing your first nail. If the gun is equipped with a depth dial near the tip of the nail port, turn it to set the nail as deep as possible.

  3. 3

    Align your flooring boards in the correct position on the subfloor. Finish nails can only be used on wood or manufactured wood subfloors such as plywood or chipboard. Do not attempt to shoot finish nails into concrete or other masonry surfaces. Locate the corner where the top of the tongue of the tongue-and-groove fastening system meets the body of the floorboard. This is where you will shoot your nail.

  4. 4

    Press the flooring firmly down against the subfloor and align the nail port, or barrel, of the nail gun with the handle of the gun parallel with the length of the board so that it points directly into the corner you located in the last step at a 45-degree angle toward the body of the board.

  5. 5

    Press the tip of the gun port firmly into the corner so that the safety is depressed and pull the trigger. Move the gun along the length of the board 10 to 12 inches from the first nail, realign the gun and pull the trigger to drive a second nail. Continue along the length of the board, driving a nail every 10 to 12 inches.

  6. 6

    Set any nail heads raised slightly below the surface for a proper fit, using a nail punch. Install the next board end to end with the first and nail in place. Continue adding boards until the row is full. Align the first board of the second row against the first so that the groove fits over the tongue of the first row. Nail as for the first row.

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