Installing wood flooring is a big—and sometimes backbreaking—job in home remodeling or construction. Pros can ease the back strain by using ergonomically designed flooring staplers or nailers. These tools can use either staples or cleats, which begs the question: which is better? Here are some things to consider when you’re choosing a side in the debate of flooring fasteners: cleats vs. staples.
Wood expands and contracts according to temperature and humidity. In areas that experience a variety of weather conditions or extreme temperatures, cleats are probably the best choice. Cleats have ridges or ribs along the lower part of the nail, but they’re smooth toward the top. The heads are either T-shaped or L-shaped. The ribs, barbs, or ridges ensure the cleat grips the plywood subfloor tightly, but the smoothness toward the top of the nail allows the finished wood flooring to expand and contract more easily. This reduces the risk that nails will back out of the floor or that the tongue will split or crack. Because they allow the flooring to move the way the wood wants to move, cleats result in less creaking and squeaking. They work well with hard and exotic woods.
Staples, on the other hand, secure flooring very tightly. Thinner, softer, or engineered woods handle staples well. However, staples have a downside in areas that experience wide temperature variances or a lot of humidity: because they hold so well, they don’t allow the finished wood flooring to move naturally in response to changes in temperature or humidity. Their legs are long and smooth, so when the floor expands because of moisture in the air, the staples tend to back out more easily, causing squeaks and creaking in the floor. Staples also hold so well that they can cause the tongues of the flooring to split and crack. Staples’ firm hold also makes it harder to remove and replace flooring.
Cleats are more expensive than staples, so where climate isn’t as big a concern—or if the finished flooring is thinner or softer—they should work fine. For hardwoods or exotic wood species, cleats may be the best choice. The added expense of cleats may save money in the long run by lowering the incidence of creaks and squeaking and reducing the risk of splitting and nail popups or back-outs.
There is really no right answer in the debate between flooring fasteners: cleats vs. staples. One thing is clear, however—with any kind of industrial stapler, you must choose the right staples for the job. Whether you choose staples or cleats, Staple Headquarters has all the tools you’ll need for fastening flooring.