Best Flooring Nailers 2020 – Reviews & Buying Guide
Installing a floor properly starts with knowledge. That’s where we come in. We want to match you with the right information to make the right choice to do your job well and with minimal hassle. So, we spent time with some of the nailers on the market and wrote these reviews to aid your journey of self-discovery.
We broke down flooring nailers, from identifying whether pneumatic nailers are better than manual ones, and explored the issue of staples versus cleats. We want you to succeed in putting a good floor, but we also want you to do it with as little strain on your body as possible.
At the end of our reviews, we compiled a buyers’ guide based on how we ranked these flooring nailers. We strongly suggest you read it because it’s important that you make the right choice for your floor. That starts with taking assertive ownership in your choice of nailer. We hope that you find value in what we’ve done and that it helps you get off on the right foot.
A Look at Our Favorite Picks of 2020
|Best Overall||DEWALT DWFP12569||
|Best Value||NuMax SFL618||
The 5 Best Flooring Nailers
1. DEWALT DWFP12569 Floor Nailer – Best Overall
There isn’t a lot of mystery why we gave our top pick to the DeWalt DWFP12569. It’s small, reliable, versatile and clocks in at a price that won’t send you into cardiac arrest. It also outperforms the competition.
Current trends in flooring jobs is to use staples to hold flooring in place. We’re all about following trends, but we still like the longevity that comes with a floor installation using nails. The DWFP12569 can use both, which we like. It’s also reliable enough that years after you buy it, it will keep working as if it were still day one. You might have to drive a stake into this one’s heart to finally end it. It’s also small enough that you can easily and quickly move it around. On a nail-intensive job like putting in a floor, that’s a real plus.
Our only negative is about the O-ring. They are prone to failure, which can lead to lost air pressure.
The O-ring aside, this is a great flooring nailer. You can easily do worse, but you’ll have to put in real work doing better.
2. Freeman PFL618BR Flooring Nailer
As much as we liked our top pick, we liked the Freeman PFL618BR nearly as much. It is a great flooring nailer for DIYers of all experience levels. In fact, if you were to ask us which one is better on a different day, we just might give this one our top pick.
What makes this one so great is that it is super easy to maintain. A few drops of lubricant at the start of the day and you should be good. Jammed nails, an unfortunate reality for every skill level and every nailer, are also a snap to clear. It also does a better job installing hardwood flooring than other kinds. That’s a pretty big deal. We also like its price. It’s a pretty good deal.
We knocked it down to runner-up because while it’s a great nailer, its quality scales pretty dramatically with the quality of cleat you use. We don’t recommend that you skimp on nail quality in the first place — this is your floor we’re talking about — but if for some reason you have to get more budget-friendly nails, this one will jam disproportionately more often with those than will other competing models.
3. NuMax SFL618 Flooring Nailer – Best Value
The NuMax SFL618 nailer really boils down to money. We hate to say that, because putting in a floor should really be an act of love. But, well, there it is. This one is all about the dollars.
We like it, for the dollars. It does a great job for its price. If you have a pretty small job and are contemplating renting something, we’d suggest that instead, you consider investing in this one to enjoy the fruits of ownership. It’s cheap enough and does a good enough job to warrant that transaction.
The bigger the job you have, however, the more this one shows its price. The best way to describe it is that it appears to just get tired and sloppy. It’s also not good on all floorings, and unless you’re paying close attention, it’s kind of difficult to notice when this one runs out of nails. Keep track of that so that you’re not going along, thinking that you’re making great progress only to find that the last row of what you thought were fasteners was just a series of dry firings. No one likes feeling like a chump.
4. BOSTITCH BTFP12569 Floor Nailer
Out of reverence for the Bostitch name, we’ll get right out ahead with why we dropped the BTFP12569 to the number four spot. The magazine does a pretty lousy job of holding cleats in place. That’s a pretty big deal. You’re going along, thinking that because you’ve got a full magazine that you’re installing fasteners, and realize that you’ve been shooting blanks all along.
We dinged the NuMax SFL618 for making it difficult to know when the magazine is empty. What’s worse than the feeling of realizing that you’ve been dry firing an empty nail gun? The feeling of realizing that you’ve been dry firing a full nail gun. Plus, this one is pricey. No one likes feeling like a chump, especially a chump who just dropped a couple hundred dollars.
When you can get this one rolling, it does a great job, though. We won’t deny that. It’s great on hardwood floors. It does Bostitch’s good name well, aside from the dry firing issue.
5. PowRyte 500022 Flooring Nailer
Sometimes, we drop a tool to the bottom of our rankings because they stink up the joint. Sometimes it’s because their price is so high that we recoil in horror. Then, there’s the PowRyte 500022, which just induces in us a case of severe emotional fatigue.
It’s comfortable to use. We will give it that. You can move it around and run nails through it all day, and if you get tired out it’s on you. Maybe try some yoga the next time.
Specifically, the 500022 is tough to get adjusted for specific flooring depths. Your flooring job needs consistency, which means that if you’re doing this in the middle of one something has gone wrong. Where it becomes a problem is when you move from one flooring job to the next with different specifications.
Not a lot of people need to frequently install floors, so it’s pretty understandable that if you’re in the market for a flooring nailer that you have a lot of questions. Time spent researching is time spent making sure you get exactly what you need and at the best price you can find. So, we’re happy to share some of tips and guidelines that helped us shape our reviews. We’ve collected them in this handy little buyers’ guide.
Assess your needs
Your first step is to be pretty clear about why you’re buying a flooring nailer. Your choice starts with an honest appraisal of how often you’re going to use it, how large a floor you need to install and what your budget is. In fact, it’ll help you settle the question of whether to buy or rent a flooring nailing.
It used to be that installing a floor was a matter of banging away with a hammer over long hours. Today’s alternatives do away with that and guarantee a nice, consistent angle of fastening. They also mostly do away with the need to go back over your work and trim down nail heads sticking up above the boards you installed.
A floor is a pretty big investment in time and money and is part of a comprehensive interior design plan. The floor you install today is going to be the floor you’re still walking on a few years into the future. Maybe we’re talking about replacing the floor in your bedroom because it’s warped and scuffed from water damage and there’s not a lot of work. But, maybe you just bought a house that was dirt cheap because its decor harkens back to the glory days of Disco, and has a lot of rooms to replace the shag carpet with something befitting a more dignified age. So, you’ve got several floors to replace and some of them are quite large.
Finally, you’ll want to set a budget for what you can afford or are willing to spend. If you have just a little work to do once every several years, don’t be afraid to go for maximum economy. But, if you’ve got that Disco-era job, spending a little more now could mean the difference between a clean, quality job that leaves you feeling satisfied and an uneven job that leaves your back aching from strain.
Staples or nails
You’ve assessed your work requirements, now and into the future, and set your general budget (if possible, always leave room to adjust your budget, of course). You’ve also got a pretty good idea what kind of flooring you’re going to install. The next question is just what you want to use to fasten the floor in place, cleats (nails) or staples.
If you’ve got a specific flooring in mind, consult the manufacturer’s instructions. That’s the fastest way to answer this question. Your manufacturing will provide guidance based on how they’ve assembled their flooring products. Maybe you are smarter than the manufacturer when it comes to their product. Probably not.
But, you ask, why is the manufacturer recommending one over the other? That’s a good, smart question. You’re spending a lot of money to put a floor in. You should know as much about it as possible.
Staples are today’s most fashionable way to set flooring in place. Their two prongs hold flooring faster in place than does the single prong of a cleat. But, a cleat has a pretty significant advantage in that it will allow more give and take as the flooring contracts and stretches over the years. The same quality that holds flooring more firmly in place could also allow some stretching and contracting that when you walk across the floor produces creaking. If you want that Haunted House feeling that’s probably pretty great, but most people prefer to forget about the floor they’re walking across.
There are two basic kinds of cleats, L-shaped and T-shaped. They are a metal shaft with a top shaped to their respective letter (a T-shape’s shaft is in the center, an L-shape’s shaft is to one side). They permit more play when your flooring stretches and contracts. They are also a lot more expensive, sometimes twice as expensive, than a staple.
Once you figure out which kind of fastener you need, you can make a smarter decision about what to use to drive that fastener in. And, by the way, if you foresee several flooring jobs in your future, by all means shop for maximum versatility.
Pneumatic versus elbow grease
The next step is deciding whether you want to use a pneumatic nailer or a manual one. Pneumatic drives nails in with the help of compressed air. Manual is all you.
There are two things about this that are probably about as surprising as that tomorrow morning the sun will rise. The bigger the job, the thicker the flooring, the harder the wood you’re working with, the better the option is the pneumatic. It doesn’t just deliver more power in driving in the nail, it’s also less stressful on you physically. Fatigue leads to carelessness and sloppiness. It’s also consistent.
Manual nailers, on the other hand, cost about half of what a pneumatic one does. If you don’t have a lot of work to do, will only install a small floor and are young enough to want a workout, a manual can be a fine option to explore. That’s especially so if you don’t have a lot of money to spend.
Installing a floor means spending considerable time stooped over. This can lead to back pain, sore knees, fatigue, and other related conditions. To some degree, it’s unavoidable, but you can do things to minimize it. The obvious first step is to wear proper padding to reduce wear and tear on your knees. But, you can also do things in purchasing a flooring nailer to help cut down on discomfort.
Most nailers these days come with padded handles to make use less stressful. Definitely whatever model you buy should come with one. You should also look for a longer handle to reduce the amount that you have to stoop to drive in fasteners. We recommend that for this, you visit a local hardware store and handle some of their flooring nailers personally because you’ll want to match what you buy to how you will actually hold it as opposed to just going by what looks right on paper.
Getting a good bargain is more complicated than comparing prices and going with the lowest number. In fact, you started with pricing as a guide in setting a basic budget. Probably by now, you’ve adjusted that budget a little to make room for the right kind of nailer. If you’re smart, if you started this process by thinking you’d be okay with going cheap for a manual flooring nailer that you’ve amended your budget after realizing that would be, in the words of Saruman, electing the way of pain.
The trick is figuring out what you need and what little extras you are willing to spend extra on. We think it’s always a good idea to consider getting something that can handle future jobs that you might not have imagined will come down the pike. But, that’s just us.
When considering price, it’s important and usually overlooked to consider the cost of the fastener. Staples tend to be a bit cheaper than cleats, for instance.
Installing flooring is a pretty big deal. You don’t do it very often, but when you do you definitely want to do a great job. We appreciate your interest in our reviews, where we went with the DeWalt DWFP12569 as our top pick. It was a near thing for the Freeman PFL618BR, which was runner-up because its performance scales too closely with the quality of fasteners you use. For the money it cost, we liked the NuMax SFL618 purely as a financial transaction. Bostitch’s BTFP12569 could have contended for a top spot, but it does a pretty awful job holding the nails in the magazine. Meanwhile, we’d prefer to just not talk about the PowRyte 500022 because it just wears us out thinking about it.
We hope you found these reviews useful. We also hope you stuck around to read our buyers’ guide, because more than taking our word for it, we think flooring is an important enough job to warrant spending time researching the right nailer. We wish you the best of luck in finding it and happy flooring.
- A Look at Our Favorite Picks of 2020
- The 5 Best Flooring Nailers
- Buyer’s Guide