I’ve been increasingly concerned these days by the proliferation of pneumatic floor staplers. In the summer of 2000 I contacted the two major floor nail manufacturers and asked them if they had any evidence to show the drawbacks of using staples to fasten down hardwood floors. Only the Primatech Co. of Quebec, Canada answered my calls. And I spoke at length to Dominique about this matter. He directed me to their web site at www.primatech.ca, and refereed to the article about staples vs. nails. This wasn’t just an ad for nails; it was a summery of a well-researched study on the holding abilities of these two hardwood floor fasteners. Dominique sent me more information on this study and more alarming news came to my attention. The university study spoke of severe cracking and damage in as little as two years when a floor installer uses these staples. I’m going to do a separate article on this, once I get copies of the original research from Virginia Tech itself.
Up until six years ago there have been two reasons for me to avoid pneumatic floor fasteners altogether. One was my assumption that staples don’t hold as well as the traditional flooring nails, so I was never going to buy a hardwood floor stapler. The other was the unreliability of the pneumatic floor nailers so far. Primatech was the first company in North America to produce such a machine, and due to the rush to manufacture the original model was a prone to occasional jamming. This rush was caused in part by the staple industry’s incursion into this market. Dominique informed me that they had ironed out these dilemmas with the improved 210 model – now on the market for six proven years. Being the always-skeptical reporter, I said, “loan me one and I’ll do a review on it, for good or bad”. Much to my delight and surprise Dominique agreed and within a week the new nailer arrived.
Being new to the air driven tool world, I set out to get the best compressors and hoses available, to give my new tool the best chance. My talks with the good people at my local box store set me in the right direction. The 210 needs a specific amount of air pressure and was easily provided by a 2 HP twin tank compressor. I bought the best quality hoses and fittings they had and most importantly an in-line air filter. This is suggested in the nailer instructions and I have since found it in the directions of the framing nailer also. The internal parts of air driven tools are easily worn and jammed by contaminants in the air supply, so always add this filter on the exiting compressed air outlet. It’s not so easy to install on this particular compressor but with swivel couplings and adapters the good folk at your local box stores should show you just how to set it up.
I headed off to my next floor installation with much hope for my new toy. And like most “I-can-figure-it-out-myself-guys” I skipped through the first pages of instructions with the calm assurance that this tool was just like my mechanical driven nailer. What a mistake that turned out to be. The first thing I did was load the nails and pull back the cocking mechanism. I thought I had done the right thing and proceeded to set up the nailer on a board and hit the head cap and one nail was driven and then and nothing, nada, no nails. Not deterred I hit it again and again and my heart sunk. Jammed already. I went back to the instructions and this time read them more carefully. I got to the part about loading the tool and there it said, “pull back the tab until it engages behind the cleats”. Well I had pulled it back alright, but I had not engaged anything. The tool simply wouldn’t fire because I hadn’t cocked it. And now I had jammed this tool and I couldn’t get it to work, cocked or not.
I started to take the nailer apart with the tools I had on hand to check to see if I had broken any major parts. It became clear that the tool was simple to disassemble, and at first glance I couldn’t find anything wrong with it. I finished up that day with the old mechanical nailer and took my poor new 210 home. There, on the work bench with the whole thing dissembled I quickly found that the driving blade had not returned to its ready position and just needed to be pushed back into place manually. It was a result of my repeated dry firing of the mechanism and not the tool’s fault at all. But it all worked out for the better because now I was well aquatinted with the simple inner workings of this nailer.
I returned to the job site the next day and just flew through another wise arduous task of nailing hardwood flooring. All you have to do is a gentle bop on the head cap of this marvelous device and the compressed air does the rest. If you have a really stubborn board you can give it a little more arm power and even the worst warped boards are tamed into place. This feature is a must, as I have seen some staplers that are fired like a gun with a trigger. Some boards need more kick that the nailer can’t provide and it is essential that they be hit a bit harder with mallets to pull the board up snugly. But enough about other poorly designed tools and back to the 210. No matter how hard or soft you hit it; the nail is set at the same depth each time. In fact once I set the air pressure at 95psi for the red oak; I never had to adjust it again until I installed white oak floor. White oak is a little harder so it required a tad more air pressure.
From October to December, I worked my (it’s not actually mine yet) Primatech ® 210 through 2000 ft. of new strip floor and not one more hitch. In fact I often left my old mechanical nailer at home where it now gathers dust after 22 years of service. I only jammed it once more when I double hit the tool on the same spot. The second nail simply went over the first one and screwed up the board, but the nailer suffered no damage. So even in the hands of a klutz like me the Primatech 210 is idiot proof. I took me a little while to get used to the safety assembly sticking down onto the floor. But one I got used to it, it would slide along the tongue of the boards without catching up. I had feared that this safety catch would break or bend but it’s made out of sturdy steel and tolerated my steep learning curve. In fact the whole tool seems well thought out, including its ease of disassembly for repair and maintenance. A good feature for the prefinished crowd is the plastic base plate on this tool. It’s non-marring, so you don’t mess up those perfect prefinished boards. I used to have to cover the base plate of my other nailer with a layer of duct tape to prevent this. Primatech has an accessory that will allow this nailer to fasten 1/2″ thick boards instead of just the 3/4″ strip floor I normally install. And another one to shoot the nail on a shallower angle for subfloors with heating elements under them. They are also the only company I know to make a specialized nailer for laminated floor. You’ve got to check out their web site and see this if you are nailing lots of engineered floor, at www.primatech.ca.
There is a reason I’m sure for the relative complexity and fussiness of these pneumatic floor nailers. The flat serrated nail was invented first and then the air driven tool was built around it. It takes fine machining to make a tool that shoots these flooring nails and not loose air pressure. And it’s just these fine tolerances that can foul up the inner workings and cause a jam. So there are two things I would strongly suggest; get an in-line filter to prevent this jamming, and (do as I say, not as I did) read and follow the directions carefully. I highly recommend this tool and if you are just renting be sure you ask for it by name. And by all means stay away from those floor staples; now there is no reason to use them even of you now own a pneumatic stapler. Primatech has a conversion kit that will convert the most popular floor stapler to shoot flooring nails. Wow, what a versatile and accommodating company! Anyone still using flooring staples is just too lazy to get informed do you really want them installing your floor?