Cleats vs. Staples: Making the case for cleats


We’ve previously weighed in on a particularly hot topic in the hardwood flooring industry: cleats vs. staples—which is the best fastening method to use when installing hardwood floors?

Today, we’ll be making the case for cleat nails.

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The conclusion we drew in our previous post was that the quality of an installation ultimately comes down to the use of proper procedures. If your technique is shoddy—for example, if you use a staple that’s a higher or lower gauge than the floor can handle—the final product will reflect those mistakes.

However, we also noted that there are a number of advantages to using cleats because they have been specifically designed to use with tongue-and-groove flooring without splitting out the planks.

(This is not to suggest that cleats are the only fastening option you should consider using. Staples are more common than cleats, so they can be a more cost-effective option. And some people just prefer to use staples rather than cleats for their own reasons.)

Here’s a quick roundup of the benefits of using cleats to install hardwood floors.

Cleats are versatile and generally more worry-free than staples.

Cleats come in a variety of sizes. You can pick a different size of cleat depending on the type of floor that you’re working with to ensure a smooth and problem-free installation process.

While 16-gauge cleats may not be suitable for engineered flooring, smaller gauges of cleats, such as 20-gauge Powernail cleats, are designed specifically for fastening thin flooring without splitting out the tongues.

Although staples are usually okay to use with soft density wood like oak because the risk of splitting the tongue isn’t as high with these species, they may split the tongue of high-density wood like American or Brazilian cherry.

The design of cleats minimize the risk of splitting the tongues of planks during installation, so they can be used with any type of hardwood flooring.

Cleats allow wood floors the flexibility they need to avoid damage.

Most contractors agree that it’s easier to remove floorboards that have been fastened with cleats than those that have been fastened with staples, so using cleats to install hardwood floors can be more considerate to any contractors who come after you.

We said in our “Cleats vs. Staples” blog post that staples might “do their job a little too well” because they fasten the hardwood floor planks to the subfloor so tightly that there’s little room for the wood expand and contract sufficiently. This can lead to problems like split tongues in the floorboards and squeaky or loose boards.

Fastening a click-lock floor

Cleat nails, on the other hand, are designed to allow hardwood floors the flexibility to expand and contract as they need. The top side of the cleat is smooth, which allows the wood to move just the right amount without risking a crack in the tongue of the floorboard.

Cleats also feature a small gap between the barbs and the “L” part of the cleat, which allows the floor to expand and contract.

This flexibility is especially important in areas when installing engineered hardwood flooring or exotic wood species that are more prone to expanding and contracting than other species.

Powernail cleats are made from high-quality steel, which prevents them from bending when they’re driven into hardwood floors. Their smaller gauges of cleats are also perfect for use with click lock flooring.

Regardless, if you’re a fan of staples rather than cleats, City Floor Supply still has a ton in stock for you. We cater to staple and cleat fans alike.

For more information, call the City Floor Supply at (800) 737-1786 or email us at

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