Manual Vs. Pneumatic Floor Nailer


Anyone who has ever installed a floor will know that owning a floor nailer is a major advantage. Not only does it save time, it's cheaper than having a floor professionally installed. While all floor nailers perform the same function, there is a difference between manual floor nailers and pneumatic floor nailers. Find out the advantages and disadvantages of each, and learn which is the best choice for your do-it-yourself project.


  • A floor nailer is used during floor installation to drive nails into the floor. Using a simple hammer would take too long and could damage hardwood flooring. The floor nailer rests flat against the floor, and a clip of nails or staples is loaded into the magazine. While holding the arm of the tool, the user strikes a piece on the front, known as the hammer face, with a small hammer. This drives the nail or staple into the floor. There are two types of floor nailers: manual and pneumatic.


  • Both floor nailers use a hammer to strike the tool itself instead of the floor, thus protecting the floor from direct contact with the hammer. The nail or staple shoots out the end once the hammer strikes the hammer face. The difference between manual and pneumatic floor nailers is that a manual nailer operates only from the force of the user swinging the hammer, while the pneumatic nailer has an air compressor hooked to it to add power. When you strike the pneumatic floor nailer, the air compressor adds its own power to drive the nail or staple into the floor.

Manual Nailer

  • The largest advantage of the manual floor nailer is the price. Not only is a new manual floor nailer cheaper than a pneumatic floor nailer, it doesn't require an air compressor to function. This instantly saves you money because you'll only need to purchase the floor nailer itself and you're ready to start working. The major disadvantage of a manual floor nailer is the effort it takes to use it. You'll have to hit it a lot harder to drive the nail into the floor. You'll tire much faster, and if you don't use enough force you may have to pull the nail out and try again.

Pneumatic Nailer

  • A pneumatic floor nailer gives you the advantage of driving nails or staples deep into the wood with much less effort. You're less likely to not drive a nail deep enough and you won't tire as quickly. However, you'll need to buy an air compressor for the pneumatic floor nailer. The nailer itself costs more than a manual nailer, and the air compressor adds to the price. You'll need to make sure you purchase an air compressor powerful enough for your specific pneumatic floor nailer, or the nails still won't go deep enough.


  • Consider the project itself first. Is this a small or large project? Will you be using the floor nailer occasionally or often? For those who are working on a large project or will use the floor nailer frequently, a pneumatic floor nailer will allow you to work faster and with less effort than the manual. Test both before purchasing, if possible. A small or one-time project may work best with a manual nailer, but if you don't have the strength to drive more than a few nails it won't benefit you. Consider your budget as well. Calculate the cost of different floor nailers you've looked at, and add the price of an air compressor if you don't own one already.


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