Few things can make as dramatic a change in a room as a new floor. Sure, a new coat of paint, or getting custom-framed Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus posters, can give your space a fresh new look. Ripping out that 30-year-old lime green shag rug and replacing it with some beautiful maple, oak or cherry hardwood flooring is likely to give you WAY more satisfaction, though. If you have some flooring to install, whether you’re a pro or a serious DIY enthusiast, join us while we take a look at the new Senco SHF200 Flooring Nailer.
The Senco SHF200 is a mallet-actuated, pneumatic 2″ flooring cleat nailer. It uses 16-gauge 1-½ – 2” L-shaped cleats that are designed to hold the wood securely, yet allow for seasonal expansion and contraction. The housing is made of strong, lightweight die-cast aluminum, and the tool has a non-marring base. The Senco’s magazine holds 107 fasteners, and the nailer’s long handle is ergonomically designed to help minimize user fatigue. This review is somewhat of a tag team effort. For an overview from HomeFixated’s editor Marc Lyman, check out the video review below. I’ll then dive into more details and insights in the full written review that follows the video.
The adjustable base plate is one of the more innovative features on the Senco SHF200. The nailer can handle hardwood or engineered hardwood flooring in either ½” or ¾” thicknesses; having the nailer positioned properly relies on changing the thickness of the base plate. Rather than having to change out the plate when switching from ½” material to ¾”, you simply pull down on the plate and rotate it 180°, and it snaps back into place, ready to smack your new flooring into submission. It’s a great time saver, and it eliminates the probability that you’ll misplace the plate you’re not using.
The nailer requires a single strike to drive a fastener, and the mallet-actuated firing simultaneously sets floor boards (tongue into groove) and drives home the cleat nail at an ideal 45-degree angle. Delivering 547 inch-pounds at 100 PSI, the Senco SHF200 delivers 5% more power than other nailers in its class. The handle has a safety trigger, which must be depressed to allow a fastener to fire. The normal grip you get on the handle causes the trigger to depress, so it doesn’t require an extra step, but it means you don’t have to worry about accidentally impaling someone if the unit gets knocked over or bumped. The Senco SHF200 comes in a sturdy case, and includes a mallet, oil, wrenches, ¼” air fitting and safety glasses.
The Senco SFH200 Meets Some Oak
I have a project underway in our old farmhouse, where I have roughly 1,400 square feet of hardwood flooring to install. I started out putting 2-¼” wide planks in with a Porta-Nailer brand manual nailer that belongs to a buddy of mine. We’ve both used it several times before, and it actually works pretty well. After I finished up the first room, though, my knees and back were already half-shot—and that was the smallest room in the house!
At that point, I decided to A) take a brief hiatus from the flooring installation portion of the project, and B) switch to a wider plank for the remainder of the flooring. (Since I already had 59 cases of the narrow stuff on the job, making the switch was quite a pain in the butt, but NOT making the switch would have been a pain everywhere else). Anyhow, we got the narrow stuff all loaded up and returned, but I was having a tough time getting motivated to load up the new, wider stuff, and resume the project (I have plenty of alternate ones to choose from).
I manned-up eventually, and loaded up my truck with a batch of wider flooring. The new stuff is the same tongue and groove oak, but it’s 5” wide, which, theoretically, should speed up the installation enough that it can be completed in my lifetime. That is, assuming I actually STARTED the installation – I was still a tad reluctant to get going on it. Then a few days ago, a big red box showed up from the folks at Senco, with a big red Senco SHF200 flooring nailer for us to evaluate. This actually made me (almost) eager to get back to the flooring. I was very interested to see what a difference there would be between using the manual nailer and the sporty pneumatic Senco. So I headed off to the farm to bang in some flooring.
The first thing I noticed in my head-to-head nailer showdown was the height of the handle. I measured, and the top of the Porta-Nailer handle was 18” off the floor; the Senco SHF200 was 21-½” . Yeah, it’s only 3-½”, but every little bit helps lessen the chance of a “Help me, I bent over and I can’t get up!” moment. Yep, gettin’ old sucks. In another area where size matters, the nail magazine on the Senco doesn’t protrude nearly as far as the one on the Porta-Nailer, which means you can start using it a lot closer to the wall.
Both nailers operate in basically the same manner: you set the nailer on top of the piece to be nailed, with the overhanging edge tight to the tongue edge of the board. Then you just take the mallet and smack the plunger on the nailer. This does two things: it snugs the board up against the adjacent one, and it sinks a nail at a 45-degree angle through the tongue and into the subfloor. Depending on how hard you hit the plunger on the manual nailer, it can take anywhere from one to three whacks to fully set the nail; on the pneumatic models, such as the Senco SHF200, one whack does the trick. One thing I was concerned about was whether the one whack required by the Senco would be enough to fully set the board in position, since not all flooring is perfectly straight, and some boards need to be “persuaded” into alignment.
I established a straight line for my starter course, and nailed it in. The flooring nailer can’t be used for the first row; the nail magazine sticks out too far. I used a finish nailer on the first row on the edge nearest the wall to first face nail it, then put several nails carefully through the tongue. Thanks to the design of the Senco’s magazine, and the use of the 5″-wide flooring, I was able to begin using the nailer on the second course. This was a HUGE improvement over the first room I did; using the manual nailer and 2-¼” boards, I couldn’t use the nailer until I had put in several rows. Finally, hammer time! I fired up the compressor to just over 110 psi (the Senco SFH200 is designed to operate between 70—120 psi), dropped a few drops of oil into the fitting on the nailer, and connected the hose. Then I grabbed a strip of nails, dropped it into the back of the magazine, pulled the feeder shoe back until it engaged behind the nails, and off I went.
Never having used a pneumatic nailer before, I wasn’t sure how much force to use to smack the head cap. The instructions say to hit it lightly, and the board was pretty well set, so I just gave it a little girly tap. Turns out it needed a bit more oomph; the nail didn’t set completely, and I gave it a second, more authoritative whack. That did the trick, and I moved along giving further whacks hard enough to set the tongue firmly into the groove, and get the nail fully buried.
Once I got the rhythm of using the new nailer, I made amazing progress. Thanks to the combination of wider boards and the Senco SHF200 flooring nailer, I had several rows installed in a very short time. To test the Senco’s performance on a warped board, I found one with a slight bow, and set one end of it with a couple of nails. I then “persuaded” the other end into the groove as far as possible with a scrap of flooring, then drove the nail with a particularly manly whack. It did a good job of setting the boards together, and I added several more nails along the length to make sure it stayed in place.
Although my previous experience using the Porta-Nailer wasn’t bad, using the Senco SHF200 was a huge improvement. The more upright nailing position, along with consistently needing only one swing of the mallet to set the nail, made for a much faster and less painful flooring experience. It was akin to changing from a cassette player to an MP3 player.
Fortunately, the Senco operated smoothly during my test, with no jamming. If you do get a jam, it’s a bit of a production to clear it; after disconnecting the air supply and removing the fasteners, you have to first remove four screws to separate the base and magazine assemblies from the main body. Then you remove four more screws, to separate the guide body from the magazine assembly. Finally, you remove two more screws to separate the guide body plate from the magazine assembly, remove the jammed fastener, and then put it all back together. In all the times I used the manual Porta-Nailer, I never had a jam; the Senco SHF200 is a much beefier tool, so hopefully it will follow suit.
Is The Senco SHF200 Right For You?
If you install floors for a living, or do a lot of remodeling that includes new flooring, the Senco SHF200 is definitely worth a look. It’s very solidly constructed, and built to take the rugged daily use this type of tool is subjected to. The manufacturer obviously is confident the product will hold up: the folks at Senco back it with a five-year limited warranty. It’s well designed, with features like the rotating base plate, and it’s fairly comfortable to use for long periods. If you just have one project to do, or only install flooring occasionally, you can very likely find the Senco SHF200 for rent at a lumber yard or tool rental place. So skip the flaky celeb posters, pick out some sporty new flooring, and put the Senco SHF200 to work. Got a flooring project you’re proud of? Tell us about it!
Where to Buy
The Senco SHF200 is available from many Senco distributors and via the links below. We’re listing the Acme Tools option first below since the Amazon price is (at the time of this article) higher than at Acme. The lowest street pricing we’re currently seeing is around $299.