How Many Flooring Staples Do I Need – One of the most common methods of wood floor installation is the nail-down method. This installation method is detailed in the NWFA Installation Guide, starting on page 121, where you can find information on substrate requirements, fasteners, fastener schedules, installation methods, and even when using adhesive when nailing.

Many types of wood flooring can be nailed in many different situations. Arguably, the most important factor to consider when nailing a wood floor is the wood floor and the installation instructions from the nailer manufacturer. The flooring manufacturer will usually specify what type of fastener to use, as well as the location of the fastener, and how many fasteners are needed to hold the floor. This information will dictate which nailer will be needed to install the floor. Once the type of fastener and the type of nailer have been identified, it is important to follow specific instructions regarding the use of these tools.

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A floor nailer is a type of tool used to drive floor nails into wooden floors. There are three main types of floor nails used in the wood flooring industry. These include manual mailers, mallet-actuated nailers/staplers, and trigger-activated nailers/staplers.

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A manual nailer (photo on the left) is a tool that pushes fasteners into the wood floor with a plunger driven through a blunt force. Manual nailers are available as a single-hit plunger or multihit/ratcheting-mechanism, which allows the user to strike the plunger multiple times to drive the fastener.

A mallet-driven nailer/stapler (photo at right) uses compressed air to drive the fastener. The plunger in the nailers is triggered by striking the plunger of the nailer with the flooringm mallet. Each model has a different magazine capacity and cartridge for use with special fasteners.

The nailer this article will focus on is the trigger-activated nailer/stapler (photo left). Trigger-activated flooring nailers/staplers are operated by a trigger and can drive floor fasteners into the tongue of a piece of wood flooring. Each model has a different magazine capacity and cartridge for use with special fasteners.

Trigger-activated floor nailers can drive staples or narrow (¼”) crown cleats. These fasteners typically range from 1″ to 1 ¾” in length. (Each fastener is specifically designed for use with a specific tool. Only use fasteners recommended by the nailer manufacturer with the tool. used.)

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These nailers usually drive fasteners into 3/8″ to 5/8″ thick engineered wood flooring, and are easily adjustable to accommodate the thickness of the installed flooring. To set the nailer to the floor, use the wooden floor sample, slide the foot back into the channel, and insert the nose of the stapler securely into the nail pocket. Orient the board as you intend to install it, with the surface of the floorboard facing up. Always fire test the floor piece to make sure the nail is properly seated in the nail pocket of the board.

The use of this type of trigger-activated nailers actually puts the installer out in front of the floor being installed, as opposed to when using a mallet-actuated nailer, where you stand on the board you are nailing. When you position yourself out in front of the installed floor, you reduce the potential for marring, or damaging the installed floor surface. This is good, and allows the installer to evaluate the installed flooring, as it is being installed, more easily.

However, there are some items that should be taken into account when using these floor nails to avoid installation-related failures:

» The bottom of the floor can come out, lifting the board from the floor. These explosions often cause a loud “snap, crackle, pop” sound on the installed wood floor (photo at left).

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» Fasteners can also remove subflooring materials as they go in, creating lumps where the wood floor comes in contact with the subfloor in that location (photo at right).

Both of these problems can be minimized, if not completely reduced, by applying downward pressure to the floor while nailing the board, or by standing on the board while nailing.

2. If you apply an adhesive together with a mechanical fastener (i.e. glue aid), you also need to apply downward pressure to the board when fastening. In this case, the adhesive becomes smooshed against the subfloor and the underside of the wooden floor, running next to both surfaces, and alleviating any potential for raised points under the wooden floor. Again, without the pressure drop during glue-assisted installation, the floor can be noisy.

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3. When using a trigger-activated nailer, you also need to know the air pressure of the compressor. Set the compressor pressure regulator to the proper pressure. Normal operating pressure should be adjusted between 70-120 psi based on the fastener and wood used. Normal air pressure should not exceed 120 psi to avoid damaging the nailer. Always use a tool with the minimum operating pressure that allows the fastener to fit into the nailing pocket properly. Higher pressure may be required, for example, to use tools with different harder wood species. Do not continue to use tools that are leaking air or not working properly.

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Another consideration to take into account when using this type of nailer is the condition of the subfloor. The most common subfloor installed over wood floors today is OSB; commodity OSB subfloors, in particular. As manufactured, these subfloors can be a suitable substrate under most wooden floors. However, during the construction process, and where the builder does not implement an adequate moisture control plan to protect the subfloor materials, they can lose some of their ability to hold the fasteners.

New construction carries the highest risk. Moisture supplied to the subfloor through the construction process soaks into the wood. Swollen wood fibers. Then, when the building begins to dry out, the wood fibers lose moisture, and begin to shrink. When we drive fasteners to this subfloor material, we try to moisture, and hope that all construction moisture has been removed from the subfloor. In the case of absence, the binder no longer holds the wood fibers; in essence, creating an empty pocket around the shank. Without an alternative way to hold the board in place, you can get movement throughout the system, causing squeaks, pops, or crackles. There, builders and flooring contractors must work together to ensure all components of the building are adequately protected and prepared prior to the installation of a new wood floor. Most flooring manufacturers simply do not guarantee against squeaking, popping, or crackling when using the staple-down or nail-down installation method.

Typical fastener spacing for this type of flooring is 3″-4″ intervals on each board. And at 1″-2″ from each end-joint of each board, with a minimum of 2 fasteners per board. The type of fastener used is usually a floor cleat 18g-20g 7 or a narrow crown (1/4 “crown) 18g staple. The fastener must not be less than 1 1/4” long. Some manufacturers (and even old NWFA Guidelines) used to allow for fasteners as short as 1 “in length. This is no longer acceptable (unless required by the flooring manufacturer) as the penetration of the fastener into the subfloor, and the withdrawal capacity is not enough with the short fastener.

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A study from the USDA’s Forest Products Lab found that in OSB fillers, in many cases, the binder’s recoil strength can be as much as 25 percent. This reduction is proportional to the reduction in nail penetration depth into the main solid wood member. Nail lengths should be added at joints where composite wood filler materials such as those used in commodity OSB are used in nail joints. The increased depth of nail penetration can restore the capacity of the joint to retreat in the presence of this type of filler material.

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The longer the fasteners’ embedment in the wooden subfloor or the larger the diameter of the shank of the fasteners, the greater the capacity of the fastener. This is a balance that the installer must make, between what fasteners are required by the floor manufacturer to attach the floor to the board, and what is required for the site conditions of the board. Do not deviate from the manufacturer’s requirements, but be careful. For example, if the flooring manufacturer states, “floor nails every 3″-4″, consider placing fasteners every 3”. Fasteners are placed at intervals less than the required blind-nail distance that is acceptable as long as the language and the core material of the floor are not compromised or separated during installation.

Trigger-activated nailers are great tools that have been developed for specific installation methods and for specific types of wood floors. When used correctly, it can help installers provide customers with beautiful, long-lasting floors. However, as with any tool, it is important to know the tool you are using, and fully understand its capabilities and limitations.

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