Brad Nailer Vs Finish Nailer: Which Nail Gun is Right for You?

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Nail guns are an essential tool for any contractor. Whether building new homes or renovating older ones, nail guns will help your job go faster and more efficiently. 

Those new to the world of nails might find it challenging to choose between a brad nailer and finish nail gun. Both have their benefits, but there must be differences; otherwise, why would they both be popular?

That being said, there are many different types of nail guns to choose from on the market today. Which one is right for you? If you’re stumped on which nailer is best for your projects, this guide has the answer. Brad and finish nailers are both different tools with their benefits depending on what kind of jobs you will use them in – so read on!

Comparison Chart: Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer

Brad NailerFinish Nailer
Nail Type:18-gauge brads15-gauge and 16-gauge
Capacity:Light-duty tool for delicate finishing touchesHardwood, plywood, and dense objects
Angled Magazine:NoYes
Hole Size:0.0475 inches0.0720 inches
Power Source Options:Corded, Pneumatic, and CordlessCorded, Pneumatic, and Cordless
Ideal For:Trim, decorative molding, under stair treads, and bird boxesBaseboards, window trim, door casings, crown molding, furniture making

BOSTITCH Brad Nailer Kit, 18GA, Smart Point, Pneumatic (BTFP12233)

Overview of Brad Nailers

brad nail gun is designed to work with wood and other delicate materials that need a smaller nail head. A brad nailer is perfect for tasks such as securing molding without putting any holes in the wallboard behind it.

These tools are popular with model makers and for craft activities. They’re often used for making birdhouses, bat boxes, or any other small project that requires a quick fix before the glue sets up! Some woodworkers like using brads because you can remove them when finished- they’ll leave very little damage behind (and no holes).

The thin nail with tiny heads is called a brad nail. They’re used for delicate projects like putting up trim when you worry that a regular nail might break the wood, so they work to your advantage in these particular situations.

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If you’re working with thin, lightweight wood that might crack or split when using standard nails, then a brad nail may be the perfect option for your projects. The head of these nails is small, and they are made out of thinner metal, making them very easy to install, especially in hard-to-reach places. 

You only need a few brad nails to keep the wood in position. The small holes created by the head are often overlooked and don’t require any wood putty or filler. This is where they have a distinct advantage over a regular-sized nail because they don’t crack or break trim.

Brads have some severe limitations. For example, they are not strong enough to go through hardwood, plywood, and MDF. They fold on themselves and can sometimes jam the nailer. Brad nailers are mainly used when working with softwoods.

Brad nails are often used in furniture building, trim work, moldings, door casings, or any other project where you need a thinner pin that won’t split the wood. It’s essential to keep in mind though the downside to a smaller nail gauge is that they don’t have as much holding power, so pressure might make them push right through your workpiece if you’re using something other than wood trim pieces!

Pros & Cons

  • Ideal for thin wood, delicate trims and moldings
  • Thin gauge and small head
  • Leaves a smaller hole
  • Less hold
  • Difficult to use in tight spaces and corners
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CRAFTSMAN V20 Cordless Finish Nailer Kit, 16GA (CMCN616C1)

Overview of Finish Nailer

A finish nailer, or finish nail gun, is a tool used to drive finish nails through wood surfaces to give them a more finished look. Finish Nailers are often used with wooden exterior siding, decks, and other trim work outside buildings. It is powerful and can attach denser things than other materials. You can also use them inside walls or ceilings to provide additional support and kitchens, baseboards, and crown moldings.

Finishing nails are larger nails with the perfect balance between power and versatility. They’re thicker nails with a giant head, which is excellent for more heavy-duty tasks.

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This causes them to be much more robust while also performing a wider variety of tasks such as nailing trim boards or attaching hardware without the risk of splitting through wood as some other nail types might do. They hold well but don’t leave any noticeable marks on your work!

If you install cabinets, baseboard, or crown molding and want to hide the nail head, then a finishing nailer is what you need. The finish nail will drive into the wood until it becomes flush with the board’s surface leaving no hole so that paint can cover up any evidence after installation!

Finish nailers are for people making furniture or other things in the workshop. They use nails that are big enough to use but small enough that you can hide them with filler.

The angled finish nailer has a magazine, not at 90 degrees to the gun but either 21 or 35 degrees. This makes it easier for the nailer to work near walls or fix crown moldings. The magazine usually has more nails, so you can use it less often and load it less, and this is a crucial difference to the brad nailer.

Some angled finish nailers use 15-gauge nails. But most 15- and 16-gauge nails are not interchangeable. So, when you buy your nailer, make sure it uses the same gauge of nails that you need. Brad nailers do not use angled magazines. You can learn to use an angled nailer if you want to do it like a pro!

The downside to the finishing nail is that you can’t use it on lightweight trim because instead of a smooth surface, your nails will leave noticeable marks. Since a finishing nail is slightly larger than a regular nail size, they have more chance of splitting the wood piece and making unsightly holes in any project you work with.

Pros & Cons

  • Fantastic hold
  • Angled magazines ideal for hard-to-reach corners
  • Designed for furniture making, large carpentry projects, fixing baseboards, and crown moldings
  • More useful for a variety of jobs
  • Can split thin wood
  • Bigger nails so the hole will need filling
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A Choice of Power

The three types of finish and brad nail guns you will find on store shelves are:

  • corded nailer
  • cordless nailer
  • and a pneumatic nailer.

The first step in buying any nail gun for projects around your home or business property is determining what kind it needs to be – there’s an option out there for everyone!

An electric corded nail gun plugs into main power outlets, so they’re typically only valid when working indoors where the length of an extension cord doesn’t limit electricity.

Cordless nailer options work great because they don’t need corded access from outside sources (air compressor or mains electric) as long as their battery holds up, and some even come with clips that make them easy enough to take anywhere.

While a pneumatic nailer requires an air compressor and hose to feed it the power to work.

The type of nailer you need to buy will depend on the size and depth of your projects and where they’re located about the tool’s power source. Let’s explore the three options in more detail.

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Metabo HPT Finish Nailer Kit, 15 Gauge, Pneumatic, Angled, Finish Nails 1-1/4-Inch up to 2-1/2-Inch, Integrated Air Duster, Selective Actuation Switch, 5-Year Warranty (NT65MA4)

Pneumatic Nailer

The pneumatic nailer is the most powerful and lightest weight of the three types of nail guns. They also happen to be one of the least expensive options out there; they can typically cost from $150-300, depending on what’s included in your purchase.

And while it’s true that an air compressor may prove impractical if you don’t plan on purchasing anything else requiring that tool, pneumatic nailers do have advantages over electric ones – namely their power output!

So it’s great for contractors with lots to do in a small amount of time because it nails through wood better! It’s not quite as versatile or convenient, though, since you will need an air compressor hooked up nearby, which takes space and adds extra expenses, but, of course, it’s all relative to how much work you’ll do with it.

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Pros & Cons

  • Inexpensive nail gun
  • Powerful framing nailer
  • Lightweight finish & brad nailer
  • Air compressor needed
  • Not easily portable
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Electric Brad Nailer, NEU MASTER NTC0040 Electric Nail Gun/Staple Gun for Upholstery, Carpentry and Woodworking Projects, 1/4'' Narrow Crown Staples 200pcs and Nails 800pcs Included

Corded Nailer

The corded nailer is the best of both worlds: its pneumatic counterparts have the power and accuracy, but with almost none of the inconvenience.

The plug-in feature makes them versatile enough for any job you can think up while also making it much easier on your wallet to maintain one tool that’s just as powerful whether you’re at home or in a professional setting.

They are probably more straightforward to use than pneumatic tools, and they require fewer effort thanks to their power cord connection instead of a battery or air compressor hose. Plus, you won’t need an additional charger because it plugs into your wall!

With a corded nail gun, you will need to be close enough so the wire doesn’t interfere with your work. Not only that, but if it’s too long or heavy for you, then it can throw off balance and increase fatigue.

Another drawback for an electric brad nailer is that they have a short cord, so you will need an extension cord for them to be used in different locations.

Pros & Cons

  • Just as powerful as a pneumatic brad nailer
  • Lighter than a cordless brad nailer
  • Affordable nail gun
  • Short cable
  • Cord may get in the way
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PORTER-CABLE 20V MAX Cordless Brad Nailer Kit with 1 Battery, 18GA (PCC790LA)

Cordless Nailer

A cordless nailer is a battery-powered tool that doesn’t require an air compressor or hose to function. The power of this gun lies within the battery, which is charged and unplugged for use at any place without being tethered down by cables, hoses, or wires. This gives you much more freedom when it comes to your work location.

A big downside is a battery is rarely included with the purchase of a cordless nailer, so you will need to buy one separately. However, some manufacturers like DeWALT and Ryobi have universal lithium-ion batteries that you can use with all their cordless tools, making it easy to use the same battery for your nailer and other power tools.

Pros & Cons

  • Highly portable
  • Versatile
  • Available for both an angled nailer and straight nailer
  • Battery is expensive
  • Tend to be heavy
  • Limited run-time
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WEN (Model 61721) Pneumatic Brad Nailer

Metabo HPT Pneumatic Finish Nailer Kit

Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer | Frequently Asked Questions

Can you use brad nails in a finish nailer?

People often mistake loading a brad nail into their finish nailer by accident, as they are sometimes confused about which gauge to use. However, suppose you load your finish nailer with a smaller 18 gauge nail. In that case, it will jam and break when firing outwards -sometimes even injuring whoever is unfortunate enough not to have noticed in time- so always double-check before using!

You should use the finish nail gun for either 16 gauge or 15 gauge nails. Never use an 18 gauge as it will break the nailer.

Can you use a brad nailer for crown molding?

Since crown moldings are usually lightweight, the answer is yes. However, wider crown moldings are generally a lot heavier, so the nails can’t hold them up independently. We recommend using 16 gauge finishing nails instead of the 18 gauge brad nailer to keep your project from failing halfway through!

Can you use a brad nailer for baseboards?

When installing baseboards, it’s essential to use the appropriate tools for your project. For smaller and lighter boards that are only a few feet in length, you can get by with 18 gauge brad nails but, if they’re large or heavy, it’s recommended to use a finish nailer, which will produce cleaner results without splitting the wood as often. 

A top tip would be to pre-drill the nail hole first, as this almost eliminates the chances of the wood splitting.

Brad nailer or finish nailer for a hardwood floor?

Hardwood floors are more difficult to install than other types of flooring because you must nail them at an angle, which requires skill. Flooring nail guns are great for installing hardwood floors, but there’s a catch. You can only use them on one project type! This puts people off buying them and looks to use alternative power tools instead.

Well, then what if you want to install a hardwood floor? Can you use your finishing nailer too? The right tool for the job is a finish nailer, which shoots nails in straight lines that can penetrate hardwoods without splitting or tearing them up. You can also use it on other flooring types.

A brad nail isn’t suitable for the task because it lacks the power needed to drive through hardwoods.

For installation on other types of flooring, a brad nailer is used because it shoots smaller nails that are thin enough for installing carpet or vinyl floors and can also be retracted if they go too deep into the material.

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Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer Conclusion

It’s essential to take into consideration your project before deciding on which nailer you should purchase. Suppose there is no wood trim in need of installation. In that case, we recommend purchasing a finish nail gun because it has more applications outside the construction field and can also be used for installing shelves or cabinets.

If you are working on a project with wood trim and other lightweight and thin materials, the best option would be to purchase a brad nailer because it is suited for complex projects. Brad and finish nailers are both similar, but Brad nailers are often less expensive.

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Walter Snyder

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