Floor staplers vs cleat nailers

Floor stapler or clean nailer? These tools come into play when you install hardwood flooring and also when you have to patch it. And you can pick one of the two.

Whether you choose a floor stapler or a cleat nailer can simply be based on personal preference. Maybe not as personal as “briefs or boxers,” but for the most part, both machines will do the job.

It does appear to be the consensus, though, that cleat nailers have a slight edge when it comes to extremely hard and brittle woods. For example, we’re finding that many bamboo floor manufacturers are deliberately specifying cleats to try to keep tongues (the part of the flooring that fits into a groove, to help boards lay flat next to each other) from splitting.

Bostitch MIIIFS Floor Stapler

Powernail 50P Floor Nailer

Here at Pete’s we’re usually stapler people, but we deliberately carry both types of floor fastening machines since they each have their advantages.

Both cleat and nails will work well on American hardwoods. But if you have a Brazilian cherry, Brazilian walnut, or bamboo floor, we’re going to steer you toward the Powernail 50P, a cleat nailer. Why? Not only because she is a cleat nailer and less prone to breaking off the tongues of those more brittle woods, but also because her cleats are 18 gauge, which is slightly finer than the 15 gauge legs on our staples.

Here’s the summary:

  • Choose a cleat nailer for very hard and brittle woods, like Brazilian cherry, Brazilian walnut, or bamboo.
  • Choose a floor stapler for any wood that is not very brittle.
  • Both tools are great for American hardwoods.
  • Scared to install or patch by yourself? Silly, don’t be! Go through our pre-installation checklist.


Do you need advice for your specific hardwood floor problem?

Get a one-on-one phone consultation with a hardwood flooring expert. For a small fee of $25, we can provide the wisdom and knowledge that you need to complete your hardwood flooring project. When you don’t know what you need to do next, that’s when it’s time to call Pete’s Hardwood Floors Help Hotline.

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