Guide on Nailing Tongue and Groove Flooring

September 18, 2022

Installing the tongue and groove hardwood floor with nailer.

Are you spending time trying to figure out how to nail the tongue-and-groove flooring? Well, the same thing happened to me several years ago when I was trying to work out how to install the 3/4″ tongue-and-groove prefinished oak flooring. For this reason, I am putting together this simple guide on how to nail tongue-and-groove flooring so that you can benefit from what I learned several years ago.

The tongue-and-groove nailing process of flooring also gets referred to as blind nailing. To install the tongue-and-groove flooring, you need to drive nails onto the tongue of every board. Then, cover the board with the adjacent panel. You might think that you can do this manually using a hammer. But I would instead suggest that you use a pneumatic nail gun or a floor nailer to speed up the installation process. Either of these tools can drive nails with ease while wedging the boards together as you fasten the panels to the subfloor.

Things You Must Consider

If you admire the looks of hardwood floors, you might be asking too about how to install those lovely tongue-and-groove floorboards, and you might be contemplating as well a DIY project requiring the installation of tongue-and-groove floorboards. You won’t need a truckload of tools to accomplish this job. As long as you got the tools necessary to accomplish the task, you can remodel every inch of your floor. 

For a new house, installing the tongue-and-groove floors should be the last thing you should do after you’ve set the doors and windows of your home. In that way, no paint spill will ruin your floor. 

Moreover, if you put the flooring as the last process, everything has already settled down inside the house, which means you already get a relatively consistent heat and humidity level inside it. Besides, the preparation for the weekend project is already a project in itself, for you need to remove any furniture and appliance inside the room where you will install the floorboards.

Procedure on Blind Nailing

Before the invention of powerful nailers, floorboard installers had to engage in blind-nailing all the boards manually. This process requires them to drive nails onto the floorboard tongue at a 45° angle. This angle lets each nail push the board tight against each other and holds each board down the floor. You set each nail when you flush the head with the tongue. Since the nail is angled, it does not interfere nor obstruct the groove of the next board as it affixes itself around the tongue and obscures the nails on the tongue.

The Value of Predrilling

The modern power nailers got enough power to drive nails through the board’s tongue at the correct angle sans splitting the board. Yet, if you would do it manually in the absence of a nailer, you can’t produce enough force even if you are muscular. 

Furthermore, setting the nail at the correct angle doesn’t come automatically. Hence, you need to predrill the nail holes if you do it manually. Such a predrilled hole can prevent the nail from bending and will serve as a guide for your nail.

Drawing Boards Together

In the absence of a power nailer, you lose the advantage of the powerful impact afforded by the power nailer to connect the boards. Hence, it will be best to compensate when you do it manually. If the panel you install is warped and doesn’t snugly fit the next one, you can use a flat-head screwdriver to draw the boards tight against each other. 

Position a wood scrap between the screwdriver and the one you intend to install. Then, you can pound the screwdriver onto the subfloor and leverage the drawing of boards together. Ensure that the holes already get predrilled to enable you to nail the board while clutching the screwdriver.

Setting Nail Heads

When hand-nailing floorboards, you should have a nail set. You need to use this nail set once the nail head is out for about 1/2.” If you attempt to nail deeper without using a nail set, you might hit the board’s surface and chip it. So, you need to use a nail set to avoid this issue.

The nail set will also come in handy when you top-nail the boards against the room’s walls. You will find it hard to blind-nail the boards since there is no longer enough room for blind-nailing. Besides, it will help if you drive those nails perpendicularly through the boards. You can sink the heads enough to fill them using the nail set.

How Would You Install Tongue-and-Groove Flooring?

Installing tongue-and-groove flooring can be a daunting task if you’re a newbie. Thus, if it is your first time installing tongue-and-groove flooring, it will help if you know the following steps:

  1. Ensure you mark the first row by positioning the board’s groove side against the wall adjacent to the corner. Leave a gap of about 3/16″ between the wall and the board. Make a mark on the subfloor on the side of the tongue. Then, measure the distance between the wall and your mark. Afterward, transfer this mark onto the other side of your room. Use a chalk line to snap a mark between those points. 
  2. Run a construction adhesive bead between the wall and the chalk line. You will only need this adhesive on the first row. 
  3. Lay those board pieces on the floor, ensuring the tongue’s outside lining up with that of the chalk line. Utilize a finish nailer for nailing through the board’s face along the board’s groove side. 
  4. Set the shims in the space in between the walls and the flooring to hold the boards in place. 
  5. Once you’ve set the finish nailer at the desired angle, you can shoot nails through the board’s tongue every eight to ten inches intervals. 
  6. Afterward, you can install the next board against your chalk line. Align the tongue-and-groove together between those two pieces. It will be best to use a rubber mallet to push the two pieces together snugly before you nail through the tongue and face of the board. Continue until you get to the corner.
  7. Make sure you continue with this method until you get far enough from the far sidewall. At this point, you can lay down the new board. Using the rubber mallet, you can tap the new panel onto place. Then, nail through the tongue using a flooring nailer. 
  8. Proceed with laying and nailing the board every eight to ten inches. Make sure that you keep the seams at six inches from one another. 
  9. Once you’ve reached the end of the room, you can no longer use your rubber mallet to push the board to its proper position. You can utilize a flooring jack. Press it against the wall to get the board to the proper place.
  10. Once you’ve reached the wall on the far side of the room, you can switch back to the use of the finish nailer and begin nailing through the board’s face every eight to ten inches. Then, fill out the holes using wood putty. Afterward, buff the surface. Lastly, you can install the baseboard moldings.


Tongue-and-groove flooring was first developed in the 1800s when manufacturers began the mass production of this type of flooring. It solved the nagging problem of warping, shrinking, and working loose. Since tongue-and-groove boards do interlock, they don’t tend to show gaps or heaves. Hence, the tongue-and-groove flooring boards become a perfect option compared to the non-groove planks. 

When installing tongue-and-groove flooring, you should ensure that the room you intend to work on is empty. In this way, you can move around without any snag. You also must plan access to that room as well as the other areas of the house. Besides, if you have a general knowledge of the steps on how to install tongue-and-groove flooring, you can breeze through the installation process with ease and confidence.

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1 thought on “Guide on Nailing Tongue and Groove Flooring”

  1. What happens when the power nailer cleat hits a subfloor screw?

    I put new 1/2″ plywood down over the old T&G subfloor…lots of screws!

    I am putting down bamboo.



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