Staples or Nails for Hardwood Flooring?

September 18, 2022

Deciding to use nails or staples to install hardwood floor.
It’s pretty hard to decide whether to use staples or nails when installing hardwood flooring, as both have pros and cons.

Most of us love the natural beauty of hardwood floors. Yet, hardwood floors can be squeaky and creaky over time, which can be a bit annoying. Of course, there are reasons why they squeak and creak. One reason might be that the floorboards rub against each other or slide against nail shafts. This issue happens when the subfloor shrinks or dries out due to weather changes. It might also be because of improper installation wherein the wood rubs against nails. 

This last reason might be due to poor job nailing because of the wrong choice of fasteners or nails. So, if you would ever have your hardwood floor installed, it will be best to consider which fastener is best for attaching hardwood flooring.  

When choosing fasteners to install hardwood boards, you might fall into the dilemma of whether to use nails or staples. Your choice, of course, between these two, will depend on certain factors. For example, you may find using staples more convenient. But nails, of course, like cleat nails, last longer. Besides, you might as well consider the pros and cons of using each of these two options.

Comparative Analysis of Staples and Nails

Since the technologies for driving both nails and staples are at par with each other, you need to consider which between the two provides a more robust holding capacity. Staples, of course, can provide you with a less forgiving and stronger hold because they constitute a two-pronged design. 

Since staples attach the floorboards tighter, the hardwood floorboards don’t get much leeway for expansion and contraction, making the boards susceptible to cracking and splitting. This issue might eventually lead to the creaking and squeaking of floorboards. On the other hand, nails allow for natural contraction and expansion, and their use comes with less problematic issues. 

Another thing is it will be best to consider the area you would like to cover with your hardwood flooring. When nailing hardwood, you would need longer nails that could penetrate deep within the subfloor. But to give you a good idea of which is better between the two, let me discuss the pros and cons of using staples and nails.


You will find the staples a more friendly option if you’re a DIYer, for they are easy and convenient to use. Moreover, many users claim that they provide the sturdiest fastening materials out there. So, let’s look closer at the staples and assess them based on their holding capacity and efficiency. Let’s also check out the pros and cons concomitant with the use of staples.

Holding Power

Staples, as mentioned earlier, have a stronger hold on a hardwood floor. So, initially, you will find the staples an appealing option because of this stronger hold. Yet, this advantage can become disadvantageous in the long run. Of course, initially, they could fasten the hardwood flooring too tightly to its underlay. But we all know that wood expands and contract depending on the amount of moisture at hand. So, if there is no leeway for wood expansion or contraction, it may lead to warps, creaks, and untimely connection collapse. 

Moreover, staples might not complement the flooring bases made of plywood since plywood has a larger surface area. Hence, it doesn’t match well onto the nail pocket, causing the splitting of the wood tongue over time.


Using staples allows you to save time and effort. Additionally, it is less expensive than using cleat nails, and for this reason, it is a viable, appealing, and very efficient option. Furthermore, it is easy to use and operate, and you can quickly buy them from retail stores. 

Besides, you can rent pneumatic staplers daily, allowing you to save on your expenses. Plus, you can fasten up to 500 square feet of materials within eight hours. So, it seems that using staples is a perfect and efficient option when attaching hardwood floors.


  • Allows for quick and easy installation of hardwood flooring
  • Can install up to 500 square feet of hardwood flooring within eight hours. 
  • Reasonably priced, and you can rent it as well. 
  • It comes in a length range of 1-1/2″ to 2.” 


  • Might cause hardwood splitting over time because of the attachment is tighter.
  • Doesn’t allow for wood expansion and contraction which could lead to splitting of the wood over time.

Nails or Cleats

Nails or cleats, of course, are the usual choice of most professional hardwood floor installers. But before you imitate the professional installers in choosing nails or cleats, you might as well know more about the use of nails or cleats and its holding capacity and level of efficiency of its use:

Holding Capacity

If you haven’t seen the cleat nails, you might not think it’s better than staples. Yet, once you see it, you will think it has an unusual design. Cleats are more suited for assuaging the contraction and expansion of wood over time. 

Its long body comes with a barbed design. These barbs insert with ease into the fibers of the hardwood. Besides, their length penetrates deeper than the staples. At the top of the cleat is an un-barbed section. 

So, once this part rests on the floor top, it would allow for better contraction and expansion of the wood. It doesn’t affect the floor fastening or the wood tongues. Thus, cleats become a more practical option relative to the wood expansion and contraction.


Cleats, of course, excel when it comes to functionality. But when it comes to the costs and prices of cleats, you would surely think twice about using cleats relative to staples. Besides, cleats are more likely less available than staples. Plus, you will need more time using cleats to install hardwood floors compared to staples. 


  • The nail design allows for ease of insertion and deep penetration
  • Allows for better contraction and expansion of wood over time. 
  • Works well with more complicated wood and thicker profiles of materials


  • Less available than the staples 
  • Allows for longer installation period than staples

Which is Better: Flooring Cleats or Staples?

Having read the pros and cons of using staples and cleats, you are now in a better position to decide which is better to use for your hardwood floors installation. The space recommendation for staples and cleats are somewhat similar. Yet, it would not be advisable to use both in the same installation due to their difference in holding strength and allowance for wood expansion and contraction. 

Cleats, of course, are more durable and longer-lasting than that of the staples. Yet, they cost about twice the price of staples. Cleats come in T and L shapes of heads, and both types come with a series of ribs. These ribs run around two-thirds way down the shank of the nail.

Staples, of course, offer a snugger grip compared to cleats. Yet, as the floor expands and contracts over time, they will probably loosen their hold on the floor and cause the floors to squeak and creak. They are also more likely to cause the flooring tongues to split, especially if the floor is below 3/4 of an inch. So, it will help if you consider these factors when deciding which between these two options to choose.


It will be reasonable to think that your decision on choosing between the cleats and staples will likely boil down to your preference and the assessment of the pros and cons of each of these options. Your budget, too, will factor well in your choice as well as the availability of the cleats. Moreover, your choice would depend on which type of flooring you would install. 

The only clear thing is that the installation of hardwood floors is not like the carpet installation. So, you would surely need something that is hard-working and efficient. Your consideration of the essential factors will also have a bearing on the longevity and integrity of your hardwood floors over time. If you carefully think of your options, you are more likely to make a good decision as to which you would use to install your hardwood floor.

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