Can You Use a Regular Nail Gun for Hardwood Floors?

Hardwood floors have grown in popularity over the past few years given their classic yet modern style, natural feel, and that warming element that they can bring to any room. But when it comes to installing and repairing your own flooring – can you use a regular nail gun on hardwood floors?

The answer’s complex – you can’t use any nail gun, but a finish nailer or flooring nailer is built for this type of job, so make sure to use either option wherever possible.

Some may assume that any of the various types of nail guns could do the trick on hardwood floors, especially given that the panels stick so close together and that the wood is laid flat on the floor and does not need to stay upright. However, this is a misconception!

Below, we’ll take a look at what makes the perfect nail gun for hardwood floors and why it matters.


What nail gun should I use for hardwood floors? 

When it comes to nailing a hardwood floor, it is essential to use the right gun. Generally speaking, you cannot use a regular nail gun for hardwood floors. Given the thickness of the planks that are usually used in hardwood and the fact that they are usually installed to last for decades, you need an appropriate tool and choice in nails to hold everything together.

When looking at hardwood floors, it is generally recommended that you use a pneumatic flooring nailer. The reason that this nail gun is so perfect for hardwood is due to the fact that it has been specifically designed to fit just over the top edge of a wooden plank and its tongue. This is the thickest part of the wood, and it’s here where you’ll need to insert the nails.

From that position, the nail gun inserts a headless nail into the wood’s tongue and then into whatever is underneath the floor – normally, the joists. This allows for the most accuracy.

However, should you not have access to a flooring nail gun, then a finish nail gun can be used – when used appropriately!

A finish nail gun needs to be carefully positioned to ensure that you get the best angle to shoot at. Unlike a flooring nailer, you’re going to need to be careful with the nails you shoot – headless nails are crucial for this type of job so that they don’t impact the wood in question.

Just as you need to know what size nails for MDF baseboard work best, nail length is crucial here – particularly as finish nails can come in all lengths and sizes. Therefore, try and use a longer variety, so that you’re penetrating up to a half inch of the joist.

In our professional opinion, it’s well worth opting for a flooring nailer over a finish nailer. Even if it means paying more, it will save you incredible time and effort in the long run.

Tips for using a nail gun on hardwood floors 

Using nails on hardwood floors is all well and good, but it really does pay to measure up beforehand. Measure length and thickness before installation, and also account for any sub flooring, too. This will help you to decide if you have the best nails and the appropriate lengths for the hardwood laying.

Of course, it also makes sense to lay everything as flat and as level as you can. Otherwise, you’re at risk of missing your wood and joists completely or even causing an accident. What’s more, not leveling the hardwood could lead to serious damage in terms of wood splitting, too.

Once again, headless nails are a must for hardwood floors. That’s because traditional nails can and will cause damage to this type of wood – and additionally, headed nails can cause snagging or accidents.

Of course, as mentioned, the right nail gun matters. A floor nailer is built for purpose – it’s easy to use, and you’ll find that there’s no need to worry about the right angles. As such, save yourself some time and invest in the best equipment. Sorry, the best nail guns for building furniture just won’t cut it here!

Then again, if you’d prefer not to use a nailer at all, you can go the old-fashioned route, and use a shoe and mallet. However, this is a more accuracy-demanding process, and what’s more, it’s more hassle overall!

Do also consider avoiding the groove in your hardwood – try to aim for the tongue, as this is where you’ll find maximum thickness. Plus, you’ll need to hand nail in a tight spot if you really want to get into the groove.


Hardwood floors can really complete the look of a room or two, and do not have to be difficult to install by oneself. However, you do need to ensure you have the right tools and equipment to hand. 

The correct nail gun and nails will ensure that your hardwood floor looks great and will last you for years to come. Not only that, but you’re ensuring the safety of everyone who walks across it!