floorboard renovation

26 Jul 2019
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United Kingdom
I have an 1800's cottage and have to put new floors in the attic room. Elm joists and am replacing square edge floorboards. The ceiling below is lath and plaster. I am debating whether I can use clout nails and hammer in, or whether it is more sensible to use a nail gun. Aesthetically the cloud nails are more in keeping with the age of the property, but I am worried that the hammering could loosen the lath and plaster. A nail gun has round larger head nails, but will deliver less vibrations.
Any recommendations / advice?
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Not sure that a nail gun will deliver less vibrations. I also feel that the nails (clipped heads) fired by nail guns would certainly not be "in keeping" with the period of the house. I doubt that clouts would be, either, as they are generally roofing nails where the round shanks (which can split dry boards) are less of an issue. Round shank and round head nails ("French" nails) such as most of the readily available clouts are really more of a 20th century nail as they are made on automated machinery, in the UK from 1875 onwards (by Nettlefolds), and are very consistent - unlike a traditional hand made pre-19th century "clout" nail (sometimes called a rose head nail)
Rose Head Nail 001_01.JPG

Rose head nails sit proud of the boards and have a tendency to split dry boards unless pre-piloted. I've rarely seen them used in flooring presumably for those reasons. Over the years I've found that much flooring in late 18th to early 20th century housing was put down using cut flooring brads (made by a process involving punching out from a strip of iron or steel, a mechanised process which cam in in the 18th century)
Cut Flooring Brad 001_01.JPG

These are extremely common in old houses in the UK and whilst supplanted by bright steel oval "French" nails from the late 19th/early 20th century they were still being used in some areas of the UK on new builds until the late-1980s. You might possibly find some boards fixed with another old nail type, cut clasps,
Cut Clasp Nail 001_01.jpg

but as these were more expensive than cut brads (because they require a degree of hand forging to finish the head) and again far more likely to split dry boards unless pre-piloted, they are much less often seen in flooring
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