The most common type of hardwood flooring now involves tongue and groove boards. That means each board has a projection on one side and in indentation on the other side. The boards fit together to form very tight seams. The hardwood planks are affixed to the floor by nailing into the groove at a forty-five degree angle. This Is called blind nailing the floor. Since the nail goes into the groove, it never actually protrudes from the surface of the wood. That means that you never see the nails once the floor is installed, hence the name. However, tongue and groove boards did not become popular in the United States until the late 19th century and early 20th century. Before the time of tongue and groove boards, the most common were straight boards.
Straight boards are simply planks of wood that have square sides. To install the flooring, the crafter would lay the wood down and then simply nail through the top of it. The nails were visible above the surface of the wood. Typically, the nails would have rounded heads. The look is very iconic of colonial and antebellum homes. It is not very common today but it is growing in popularity. Everything that was once done out of necessity and eliminated by technology, eventually becomes popular once again. The same is happening with top-nailed flooring.
The look is very rustic and iconic. If you want to get the look, you have several options.
How to Get the Look
To get the look of top-nailed floors, you can actually top nail the floor or you can just mimic the style. If you want to just mimic the style, you will install tongue and groove boards as per usual. You’ll even have them blind nailed to the subfloor. Then, you’ll drill tiny holes in the surface of the planks. You’ll nail into the floor the nails you want to be visible. They’ll likely serve no practical purpose, but they will look great. If you’re not nailing them all the way into the subfloor, you might need to use some wood putty in the drilled hole to make sure they stay in place.
Alternately, you can actually top nail them in a functional way. You’ll likely still use tongue and groove boards since those are by far the most common boards. You’ll then choose nails long enough to nail all the way into the subfloor. Make sure you choose ones that have nail heads to match your decor. Tiny pilot holes keep the wood from splitting. Nail them to the floor, and you’re done.
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