We, who are not professionals, are always in confusion as to which sort of nail gun is best suited to our job. Especially when it comes to choosing between the brad nailer vs finish nailer, it raises the most. They are very similar in form and functionality, and both the nail gun needed in the finishing stage of the carpentry or woodworking.
When you have a clear view of these two styles of nail guns, hope you'll never slip into such a nightmare. That's why we're going to write this short story about Brad Nailer versus Finish Nailer to divulge the truth.
- History of Nail Gun
- Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer Comparison
- What is a Brad Nailer?
- Pneumatic vs Cordless brad nailer
- Advantages of a brad nailer
- Disadvantages of a brad nailer
- What do you use an 18 gauge brad nailer for?
- What is the best brad nailer?
- How to Use a Brad Nailer
- What is a Finish Nailer?
- Angled vs straight finish nailer
- Pneumatic vs cordless finish nailer
- Advantages of a finish nailer
- Disadvantages of a finish nailer
- What are finish nailers used for?
- What is the best finish nailer?
- How to Use a Finish Nailer
- Differences between brad nailers and finish nailers
History of Nail Gun
I know like me, you're also excitedly waiting to unveil the reality of brad nailer vs finish nailer. It is, for that reason, important to know the history behind the invention of the nail gun.
People have been using hammers since the Stone Age. The movement to use mechanical hammers, however, dates back to the 1800s. In 1862, Doig Manufacturing Company created the first stationary machine for industrial purposes, which can only feed and drives bulk nails.
The real power nailer or air nailer invented a much later date, nearly 100 years after the first attempt, in the 1900s. In 1944, Morris Pynoos, an engineer, developed the first pneumatic nailer for Howard Hughes as a way of assembling the wooden sections of the 'SPRUCE GOOSE' aircraft.
However, Bill Burnison, a true visionary in the nailing industry, invented and commercialized the most popular portable bulk nailer in the early 1950s in Los Angeles. Until the invention of plywood, it was used for nailing wooden roofing boards.
Because of the need for speedy work and ease, people then tried to change and develop the nail gun numerous times and enter the shape of today. They didn't stop by inventing just one kind of nail gun, though. As a result of their continuous effort, we have been able to see many forms of them today. And some of the main types are framing nailer, finishing nailer, brad nailer and stapler.
By the end of the discussion, we will find that either Brad Nailer or Finish Nailer was intended to serve a specific function, and both had value on the job site.
Now, let's see a contrast to make a distinction between them.
Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer Comparison
The primary difference between brad and finish nailers is the nail gauge they are driving. While brad nailers are driving only 18-gauge nails, finish nailers built to shoot 15 to 16 gauge nails.
What this 'Gauge' stands for?
The 'Gauge' is a measuring unit, which used to calculate magnitude or quantity, such as the thickness of the wire, the dimensions of the machine component, the amount of liquid in the container, the pressure of steam, the capacity, etc.
Here in our article, the gauge stands for the thickness of the wire or nails. Standard nail sizes are 15, 16, 18, and 23.
Generally, the higher the cross-sectional thickness is, the lower the gauge number.
You can measure the nail gauge by merely counting the number of nails per inch, though. If you found 18 brads in an inch, it is 18-gauge. And similarly, 16-gauge nails contain 16 nails per inch.
You can also measure it by measuring the diameter of the cross-section of the nail. Let's check the chart below –
Let's dig down more on brad nailer vs finish nailer in the table below -
A bit thicker, 15-gauge and 16-gauge
Nail Head Size
Approx. 0.0475 inches (1.207 mm)
0.0625 to 0.0720 inches (1.588 to 1.83 mm)
5/8 to 2 inches
1 to 2-1/2 inches
Pneumatic and Electric or battery-powered
Pneumatic and battery or gas-powered
Durability and Strength
Less holding power - can hold small crown molding or thin baseboards.
Ability to withstand higher payload - can hold hardwood and bigger crown molding.
Soft, thin woods (Non-MDF)
MDF, plywood, baseboards hard and softwoods
Function and Uses
Ideal for delicate woodworks.
Ideal for finish carpentry.
It depends on the Brand value and quality.
It depends on the Brand value and quality.
Okay, you're getting a bit of a glimpse about Brad Nailer and the Finish Nailer above. Now, I'm going to tell you what you need to know about these two kinds of nail guns, and what their key differences are, and when to go for either one of them.
What is a Brad Nailer?
The brad nailer is a small member of the nail gun family. It has been designed to firing nails with tiny cross-section, known as brads. Brads are thinner and have a smaller head than standard nails; therefore, it is an ideal tool for fastening lightweight pieces of trim without ruining them.
As it is designed to handle small gauge nails, it doesn't require that much force to drive. So, brad nailers are lightweight and petite in size and shape that allows you to work in tight corners with ease.
Usually, the brad nailers are capable of shoots a wide range of 18-gauge brads from 5/8-inches to 2-inches long.
Because brad nailers are usually used with 18-gauge nails, they leave nearly invisible hole marks and are less likely to damage the edges. In particular, they're too small that you don't need to put any wax on the holes. It will not look odd when painting or staining and give you a clean, finished look that you will not get from the finish nails.
Since they have not enough holding power like finish nails, they are, therefore, the perfect selection for any home improvement project that requires delicate nailing and minimal hole visibility.
Pneumatic vs Cordless brad nailer
We can categorize the brad nailer into two major groups – pneumatic and electric or cordless. You will require an air compressor to operate the pneumatic brad nailers. Pneumatic brad nail guns are more powerful than the cordless types and provide continuous runtime. While battery-operated or cordless brad nailers give you extra freedom to work in remote corners as you no longer need to pull the hoses, or compressor.
Please read the buyer's guide section of the best brad nailer reviews to get the details about them.
Advantages of a brad nailer
Disadvantages of a brad nailer
What do you use an 18 gauge brad nailer for?
From the above discussion, you may already know that the Brad nailers are suitable for materials or wood, where cracking may be a concern, and where you would like a thinner nail for a cleaner finish means no spot of the hole. There have many applications of brad nailer, but are most widely used for:
- Trim work
- Fastening decorative molding
In addition to ordinary uses, you can use them in small projects, like making jewelry boxes, picture frames, or attaching decorating trims and edges to cabinetry.
What is the best brad nailer?
Our best-nominated brad nailer is the Metabo HPT NT50AE2 Brad Nailer.
- Pneumatic Brad nailer in the lightweight body (2.2 lbs. only)
- Allows driving 5/8 inches up to 2 inches 18-Gauge fasteners
- Depth of drive dial for easy adjustment of the drive depth for a professional finish
- No-mar tip on the nose protects the workpiece from dents
- 360-degree adjustable exhaust keeps dust, debris off the finished project
- Includes: NT50AE2 brad nailer, Safety Glasses, Air Fitting, No-Mar Tip, Hex Bar Wrenches, and Carrying Case
If you want the full list, then head over to our top picks of brad nailers.
How to Use a Brad Nailer
Using a brad nailer does not entail any advanced training or skills, but if you are using a nail gun for the first time or are looking for some batons to follow, be sure to check out the following video:
What is a Finish Nailer?
A finish nailer is a middle-level member of the family of nail guns. It's a little robust than brad nailer but not as heavy-duty as framing nailer. The nail gauge can distinguish a finish nailer and a brad nailer. When brad nailers are drives 18-gauge brads, finish nailers are intended to push 15 gauge nails or 16 gauge nails.
In terms of size, your typical finish nailer can handle nails from 1-inch up to 2-1/2 inches wide. These nails are often headless compared to framing nails and blend perfectly with the surface of the wood. But you have also kept it in mind that removal of the headless nails is not easy.
In summary, you'll get more holding power than brads in the finish nailers that you can use to fasten cumbersome baseboards, cabinets, crown molding, and even MDF.
Angled vs straight finish nailer
Based on the style of use, we can classify the finish nailers into two types: straight and angled. The main difference between the two versions is that the angled nailer comfortably adapts into small spaces than the straight one.
Pneumatic vs cordless finish nailer
Again, we found pneumatic and cordless versions finish nailers on the market too. Pneumatic finish nailers are naturally more powerful and considerably lighter. If you have an air compressor at home, a pneumatic finish nailer is no doubt a reasonable choice. If it doesn't, cordless is definitely a worthwhile option to do the job.
Advantages of a finish nailer
Disadvantages of a finish nailer
What are finish nailers used for?
Finish nailers are usually used for big projects than brad nailers, which would require a little more strength and hold onto power. Usual jobs can include:
- Installing crown and base moldings
- Window and door casings
- Chair rails
- Exterior trim
- Hard and softwood flooring
What is the best finish nailer?
Our best-nominated brad nailer is the Hitachi NT65MA4 15-Gauge Angled Finish Nailer.
- Integrated air duster helps to keep the area clean by blown away dust and debris.
- Tool-less, easy to clear nose for quick nail extraction in the case of jamming nails
- Flip switch selective actuation to change either sequential or contact nailing
- Give better control during flushing nails into different materials with its Tool-less depth of drive dial adjusts system.
- Lightweight, at only 4.2 pounds, minimizes user fatigue and increases maneuverability
- Magazine angle of 34 degrees enables the user to move comfortably into corners or tight spaces
- No-mar tip protects the work surface against damage and can be removed unless necessary
- A rubber grip adds comfort and a secure hold
If you want to read the full review, then head over to our articles of Hitachi NT65MA4 Finish Nailer.
How to Use a Finish Nailer
Using a finish nailer is no different from using any other nailer tool, but there are some useful tips in the following video that you may find helpful.
Differences between brad nailers and finish nailers
You'll get all the points from our discussion above to make a difference between brad nailer vs finish nailer. And, if you like, you can skip this part of it.
Nevertheless, if you look closely, you can also find some correlations between them. They are designed to shoot tiny nails compared to other nail guns. They both are used in the finishing stage of the carpentry works.
These similarities might easily confuse you, and you might conclude that you can use either of them to do all the trim carpentry work. I'm going to list and clarify some of the key differences between the two nailers to overcome this confusion.
Every nail gun makes a hole in the wood when nails are placed on it. However, the size of the hole depends on the head of the nail. When it makes a wide dent, the putty must be used to cover it before painting. Once you apply the lacquer to the surface of the wood, the putty makes a variation of the paint that doesn't look good. It's always a bit challenging to choose the best nail gun depending on the woodwork you're going to do.
Finish nailers make a little larger opening, which often needs to be filled with putty. On the other hand, after you drive the nails, the brad nailer leaves almost no hole mark. So, you can save yourself from adding some kind of wax or seal.
We like it to look tidy when we do trim work. Therefore, if you want no mark left by your nailer on the working surface, you can use a brad nailer.
You may note that we distinguish the brad and the finish nailer from the nails they used to fire. Yeah, yeah! The brad nailers are designed to actuate thin, 18-gauge nails while the finish nailers are designed to fire medium, 15, and 16-gauge nails. 18-gauge nails are small in size and cross-section than 15 and 16-gauge nails.
We, therefore, observed a correlation between the holding power and the nail gauge. The larger the nail gauge, the less strength it carries, and vice versa.
We have already discussed that the higher the nail gauge, the less power it persists. And we all know that the brad nailer is built to fire 18-gauge nails, while the finish nail guns are either 15-gauge or 16-gauge nails. So, the brad nailers are less substantial than the finish nailers. If you use the brad nailer in the wrong situation, the trim or molding will gradually drop away from the wall.
The finishing nailer hands down the best choice of the two if you need strength. On the other side, if you push the nails into a thinner surface, then the finish nailer's strength becomes an impediment.
Finish nails are much more powerful than brad nails and suitable for applications requiring greater strength and holding capacity. Conversely, brad nails are ideal for small, delicate applications that reduce the likelihood of wood splitting.
Read also: Finish nailer vs framing nailer
Now it's time to conclude which nailer you're going to buy. You need both of them, or one is good for all. Although it's not easy to answer in one line, we can say from the above discussion that you can collect both if you're a professional carpenter and need to do a variety of work. As a DIYer, you can also receive both if you don't have budget constraints. Otherwise, it's better to fix the task you're going to do, and based on your project, and you can choose anyone from brad nailer vs finish nailer.
Can a finish nailer use brad nails?
It's not possible to use brad nails into finish nailers. Finish nailers are designed to shoot 15 gauge nails or 16 gauge nails, whereas brad nails are 18-gauge only.
Brad nailer or finish nailer for baseboard?
As 15ga and 16ga nails are more robust and have more holding strength than 18ga brad nails, it is safer to use a finish nail gun when you want to fasten baseboard to walls.
What nail gun is best for trim work?
There is a wide range of finish moldings and materials available on the market, known as trim. Which nailer suits what kind of trim depends entirely on its size. For example, you can use the finish nail gun to trim doors and windows as they are heavier and need more holding power. On the other hand, a brad nail gun is a better choice for thin and decorative moldings.
What nail gun do I need for fencing?
First, pressure-treated lumber, such as pine or cedar wood, is used to build a fence. Second, 1.25x6 inch panels and 4x4 inch posts are commonly used for fencing work. From these stats, you can easily understand that you need something heavy-duty to fasten your nails. Therefore, a framing nailer is better suited to build a fence around your home instead of a brad or a nailer finish.