February 1, 2015
Face nailing is the common practice used to nail the first few rows of boards in place because it is difficult to maneuver hardwood floor nail guns close to the wall. The proper way to face nail is to countersink the nails with a nail punch and fill the remaining hole with coordinating wood putty.
Why do I have them? The nail guns used today for installing hardwood flooring are made to seat the nail just above the tongue and countersink it at approximately a 45-degree angle so the next board engages fully. To allow room for the 45-degree angle, the nail gun must set out in front of the actual board that is being nailed. The needed placement of the nail gun is an issue when one is securing the rows of boards that are close to a wall.
A common practice for nailing the rows that are close to the wall is that the nail gun cannot fasten is to “Face Nail” them. Nails are driven through the face of the board, countersunk and the nail holes are filled with putty.
Can face nails be avoided? Yes, they can be avoided but it is going to slow down the job and the installer may need to buy a specialty tool. He will need to know when bidding the job that this is what your expectations are so he can make sure to accommodate you. If baseboards and shoe molding or quarter round are used then the last row can be face nailed close enough that the molding covers the holes. The worst-case scenario is that instead of numerous rows being face-nailed you just have the last row face-nailed.