How to do Hardwood Floor Nail Down Installation

Hardwood Floor Nail Down Installation

Installing hardwood flooring comes in a variety of methods, but one of the most popular ones, despite not being the most sophisticated one, remains the nail down technique. Hardwood floor nail down installation is very straightforward, which is both a benefit and a disadvantage, but for the starting do-it-yourself interior designer, it’s perfect.

Learning how to install hardwood floor using the nail down technique isn’t tough, and you won’t be required to know a lot of stuff about carpentry or have the do-it-yourself building as a hobby.

All you need is some common sense, patience, the knowledge to operate a few power tools and a few other accessories. And speaking of tools and accessories, let’s start by seeing what you’ll need.

Hardwood Floor Nail Down Installation

Here we are going to discuss a complete way about how to do hardwood floor nail down installation. All details follow as below –

Tools and Accessories

  • Simple crayon/carpenter’s crayon – you’ll need this to draw out the exact lines you’re going to have to cut your hardwood panels through, as well as for simple guidelines on your subfloor
  • Chalk – you might have to use this when trying to figure out how to install the hardwood floor in your room, given your existing space.
  • Hardwood floor nailer – this can be either manual or pneumatic. Pneumatic nailers have the advantage of getting the job done faster and more secure, but you’ll have to be careful with them because you can smoothly go deeper in the floor than you might want and ruin the panel(s) you’re trying to nail down
  • Electric drill – usually, the electric drill should be used together with a 3/32 inch head.
  • Rubber mallet – you’ll use this mallet to get the panels to fit better, hammering them gently on their ends. Remember that you should be very delicate about this, because you can easily make the surface of the two panels you’re trying to get to fit better overlap, which creates a very nasty surface “burst” where the panels meet.
  • Clawhammer – you’ll need a claw hammer for areas where the mallet won’t be usable, for example with tiles that are near the wall and you have no room for it.
  • Hardwood flooring nails – 2-inch nails should work great, but it will depend heavily on the type of floor you’re using and the room space you have to work with.
  • Cutter knife – used for small adjustments, cutting the panels out from their box and several other more minor issues. You will also need it to cut the substrate into smaller pieces so that it’s easier to manage.
  • Saw – To cut the panel and fit it perfectly you need to use circular saw or jigsaw.
  • Broom, dustpan, and the piece of cloth – they’ll be used in the end to clean up the mess, but also in between panel connections to eliminate dirt and any glue that might be coming out of the crevice.

Related – List of Power Tools in Woodworking


Even if you’ve done your research on how to install hardwood floor correctly, you’ll still want to be fully prepared before you get your hands dirty. Although it’s not hard work, it’s not hard to mess up wrong time either.

To prepare for the job ahead, try to move all your furniture, if any, to another room. I understand this is not always possible, but even so, get as much out as you can. If you have a more significant piece of furniture, see if it can be dismantled then put back together in another room.

As a last resort, if you cannot or don’t want to move furniture around, gather it up in one corner of the room and start paneling from the other corner. Then when you get to the bit where the furniture at, move it where you already have hardwood floor installed and continue. This is not good for your floor or your back but oh well…

You will also want to remove any baseboards, door sills, old floor panels and so forth. Anything that could interfere with the well being and well installing of your new hardwood floor needs to go.

In case the subfloor is hard cement or some other bumpy material, get a felt floor liner to cover the entire floor. After that’s done, you can start putting to practice what you’ve learned on how to install hardwood floor panels.

Related – Glue down Method

Hardwood Floor Nail Down InstallationHow to Install Hardwood Floor (Nail down Technique) – Step by Step Instructions

  1. Place the felt floor liner on the starting corner area. Cut a piece that covers an entire row of panels vertically and around three rows horizontally.
  2. Place the first hardwood floor panel the same corner of the room, making sure it’s facing the right direction (groove sides towards the walls, tongue sides towards the room)
  3. Continue with the next few panels, to get your first row up. On the last panel, you will notice that the distance is shorter to the wall than a full panel can fit in, so you’ll have to measure it and cut a new panel to match this distance perfectly.
  4. Try to be exact about it, the wall strips can cover an inch or two of the floor that isn’t correctly measured, but that’s about it.
  5. Once you have a full row connected, secure it to the floor using screw shank nails (you might or might not need the drill for this, depending on the floor type, the hardwood type, the nails, your skill and strength, and many other factors)
  6. Secure the strip in place and nail the panels down manually, since you won’t be able to use the automatic nailer due to the wall blocking you out.
  7. Since you most probably had to cut the last panel in the first row down to fit the exact distance, leaving you with a smaller piece of panel, you will have to use this to start the next row.
  8. This will create an alternating effect that is pleasant from a visual point of view, but it’s also suitable for the floor. Otherwise, if you have all the panels matching perfectly and have their connecting joints lined up, the floor’s stability around these joints will be weaker.
  9. Continue with this technique, connecting the panels and connecting each row. You can now use the nailer to pin them down. Use the rubber mallet to adjust the panels and the rows together, so that their connecting joints don’t fall apart forming small trenches.
  10. When you’ve reached the end of a row, thus a wall, you won’t be able to use the mallet to fix the row vertically, so you can use the claw hammer to do so.
  11. On the last rows, you will have to insert the nails down manually, because the side wall will be blocking you again.
  12. The last panel is often the hardest to fit in because you’re obstructed from all directions. Pay extra attention to it, despite the exhaustion or enthusiasm that might have caught on by now.
  13. Clean up and enjoy your floor!

Related – Staple down Technique

Clean Up

And speaking of step 10, let me emphasize the importance of the cleaning up bit. You probably didn’t hear this out when learning how to lay hardwood floors, because most of the guides focus on what to do during the installation process and tend to skip what needs to be done afterward.

When you are done with the installation of your floor, there will be a large amount of sawdust, big pieces of the floor and other stuff lying around.

Using a broom, you can clean up the big pieces, but it’s important not to let the dust settle in either. Clean it up with a bit of cloth, or a mop if your floor permits it. If you used glue to stick the panels’ joints together better, make sure you clean the excess glue properly as well.

Related – Floating Hardwood Floor

Special Tips

  • Be very gentle when installing hardwood flooring. You can easily damage the surface and ruin an entire panel. It goes for horizontal row fixing, although the horizontal surface of a panel is larger, so it’s more resistant to hits.
  • If you’re using a manual nailer, use your rubber mallet instead of your claw hammer to insert the nails.

Video Credit – I Like To Make Stuff


The nail down technique is, to many, one of the most comfortable in hardwood flooring. It’s not as rigid as glued down floors and it’s not as loose as other floating methods.

Also, nail down hardwood floor is extremely easy to install and remove, leaving almost no trace behind if you want to replace it (unlike the glue down hardwood floors for example, which will leave a mess to remember for a while when you try to remove them).

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