Cleat Nails vs. Staples: An Overview

By Kim Milani and Tom Livigne

Photos courtesy of Corus Fastening

Hardwood floors bring elegance and warmth to any space, making them a popular choice for homeowners and designers alike. Yet, beneath the surface of their timeless beauty lies an important decision: what type of fastener should you use to secure hardwood flooring? Two common options are cleat nails and staples. Both have their own advantages and considerations, and the choice made can impact the longevity and stability of the hardwood floor significantly. In this article, we’ll explore the recommendations and factors to consider when deciding between both.

Understanding Cleat Nails and Staples

Before we dive into the specifics, let’s briefly understand the characteristics of cleats and staples when used to install hardwood flooring:

Cleat Nails

Cleat nails are designed and cut specifically for the installation of wood flooring. When the flooring/subflooring shrink or swell from season to season, the ribs/barbs engage the wood fibers and thus increase the resistance to withdrawal.

Cleats typically have serrated edges for better wood grip. These fasteners are driven at a slight angle (usually around 45 degrees) through the tongue of each hardwood plank, securing it to the subfloor. Cleat nails are known for their strength and holding power. Certain types of cleats are designed for more flexibility, offering increased pliancy and reduced susceptibility to breakage due to contraction and expansion of the hardwood flooring.


Staples are a common choice for securing hardwood flooring. They have a flat surface area that provides good holding power.

Staples have a storied history in the installation of hardwood flooring, with their usage dating back to the early 20th century. Initially, hardwood floor installers relied on manual stapling tools, which were labor-intensive and time-consuming. However, the introduction of pneumatic staplers in the mid-20th century revolutionized the industry, offering a faster and more efficient method for installing hardwood. Beyond wood flooring, staples also find application in other types of flooring, including engineered wood and even resilient flooring materials, contributing to the overall durability and longevity of the floor.

Now, let’s delve into a few recommendations and factors to consider when choosing between cleat nails and staples:


Manufacturer’s Guidelines

Always consult the manufacturer’s guidelines for your specific hardwood flooring and fasteners. Manufacturers often provide essential information on the recommended fastener type, size, and spacing.

Minimize Squeaks and Movement

Cleat nails generally are more effective at reducing floor movement and squeaks, thanks to their angled installation that firmly secures the hardwood planks. If minimizing noise and movement is a top priority, cleat nails could be the way to go.

Use the Right Tools

To ensure a successful installation, invest in an appropriate nailer or stapler for the job. Make sure it’s compatible with your chosen fastener type and size. Opting for a lighter nailer or stapler equipped with a roller system also can streamline the installation process significantly, making it easier and faster, enabling you to focus on achieving a quality installation.

Factors to Consider

Installation Speed

Because each staple penetrates the wood at two points, with two prongs, staples can have a tendency to split the tongues of the flooring when the air pressure from the compressor is set too high for the species being nailed.


Consider the long-term durability of your floor. While both cleat nails and staples can provide secure attachments, cleat nails often are considered slightly more reliable in preventing floor movement and creaking over time. This is especially true if the installation is in high-humidity environments.

Personal Skill Level

Your level of expertise and comfort with either cleat nails or staples may influence your choice. If you’re more confident with one method, it may be the better option for your project.

When it comes to choosing between cleat nails and staples for your hardwood floors, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Your decision should be based on a careful evaluation of the specific project requirements, budget, and personal preferences. By following the recommendations and considering the factors outlined in this article, you’ll be better equipped to make an informed choice that ensures the beauty and longevity of your hardwood flooring for years to come. Whether you opt for the robust strength of cleat nails or the efficiency of staples, your hardwood floors will be a source of pride and beauty in a home.

Kim Milani is a content/marketing manager at Corus Fastening, a leading brand and distributor specializing in nailing and stapling products for the flooring industry. She can be reached at Tom Livigne is the director of dealer development at Corus Fastening. For more information about Corus Fastening, call 973.564.9500 or visit

HFM Subscribe

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.