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April 25, 2023

Assessments Recommended for All Flooring Cleats

Hardwood flooring cleats and related installation tools are designed to drive the fasteners at an approximate 45-degree angle through the maple and subfloor. Appropriate cleat length is dictated by the thickness of the subfloor system and assumes fasteners are driven at the 45-degree angle with very minimal protrusion through the bottom surface of the subfloor materials.

MFMA recently learned of instances where the flooring cleats are being pushed upward through the surface of the maple flooring during use and creating splinters and exposed cleats which creates a potential for serious injury to users. When reviewed, it was discovered that many of the installed cleats penetrated and exited the bottom of the subfloor at 90-degrees and exhibited excessive protrusion when they are expected to be at a 45-degree angle with only slight protrusion. Many of the fasteners were either in contact or in proximity with the underlying concrete base with zero load on the floor.

In an effort, to better understand the situation and perhaps isolate the cause of the issue, samples were constructed, as illustrated below, using maple flooring fastened to a softwood subfloor material using several different brands of cleats, including the cleats used on the involved project(s). The samples were then cut in a manner to reveal travel path of the cleats.

Of the samples constructed, only one type of cleat exhibited the same effect as seen on the project(s) in question. It was the same cleat as used on the problem project(s). In this sample every cleat curved as it traveled through the thickness of the floor system and exited the bottom at a near 90-degree angle.



UNDESIRED TRAVEL PATH:  90 Degrees Nominally

Thus, regardless of the brand of cleat used, MFMA recommends performing a similar assessment of any cleat being used to verify the cleat you are using performs as expected. If the cleats are not maintaining a consistent near 45-degree angle, you are advised to switch to a different brand of cleat that behaves in the expected manner.

Cleats that do not behave as intended, may not deliver the expected holding power and may result in hazardous surface conditions that may be conducive to causing injury to users of the flooring system, creating the potential for serious liability for contractors.

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