Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer: Which is Suitable for Your Needs?

Nail guns are often designed with specialized purposes in mind to drive nails into wood. That means it is crucial to select and use the right nail gun as the wrong type can completely ruin your intended task. Before selecting the right type of nail gun for your needs, it is necessary to first understand their capabilities. 

Those who have little experience with nail guns might feel a little spellbound when purchasing one in the store. One may probably wonder whether there is any difference between a brad nailer vs finish nailer or not. Typically they look similar. They are about the same size and also use similar nails. Both are precisely designed for accurate nailing as contrasted with bulk nailing. 

Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer

It is very common to have lots of questions as there are lots of similarities between a Brad nailer vs Finish nailer. However, each of them has its own unique use. Now let us compare the two types of nail guns to clear things up. It will help you with making the appropriate decision for your next project.  

Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer comparison table

Brad NailerFinish Nailer
Nail types18-gauge thin brad nails.16-gauge and 15-gauge nails
Nail hol sizeAround 0.0475 inchesUp to 0.0720inches
Capacity Less holding powerHigh holding power
Recommended nailerDEWALT Brad NailerMAKITA Finish Nailer
Main featuresTool-free depth-of-drive adjustment
Tool-free jam release
Rear exhaust
Adjustable belt hook
Powerful motor
Magnesium body
“Tool-less” depth adjustment
Nail lock-out mechanism
Built-in air duster

What is Brad Nailer 

A brad nailer is designed to be lightweight and easy to operate. But unlike every other nail gun on the market, it actually shoots brads rather than nails. Brad nails are thinner and smaller in diameter compared to other standard nails. They are formed from a gauge of 18 and are only 0.0475 inches in cross-section. This gauge indicates that they are thin fasteners and the tiny heads will make them almost invisible in the wood trim.

As a whole, brad nailers are convenient to keep around your arsenal. They can be very handy when you do not require a lot of holding strength. For example, dealing with delicate trim or just only holding pieces together for the glue to dry. If you need to apply the finishing touches to woodworking projects, brad nailers are best. Besides, you can use a brad nailer on small-scale applications where you are anxious about splitting the wood. 

Pros of Brad Nailer 

  • Perfect for securing delicate trims and moldings: One of the significant advantages of the brad nailers is that they will not crack your delicate trims. As they use thin staples and fasteners, they can go through thin and delicate trims easily without splitting them.
  • Small nail holes. The thin 18-gauge nails with their tiny heads don’t leave any notable holes in your workpiece. Its small nail holes are almost undetectable to the eye. So in most cases, you may not be required to fill them. They will not appear once you paint or stain the surface. This is opposite to the remarkably huge holes that you get while using the finish nailer.
  • Handy for gluing pieces: The brad nailer will be handy when you just hold two pieces together. The glue sets and dries fast. Also, they are easy to remove with pliers. The thin fasteners do not damage the trim. You will not be able to find any significant holes behind if you remove them. 
  • Relatively low price:  Brad nailers seem to take the day in the popularity contest as they are more frequently sought after. Thus, they are easily available from various power tool manufacturers and relatively less expensive as well. 
  • Easily reachable: Brad nailer is a good choice for hard to reach places such as in ceiling corners and doorways. It can also be used on smaller baseboards and plywood up to ½-inch.
  • Versatiliy: You can also use brad nailer for different purposes such as shoe molding, cedar shingles, and other purposes easily.

Cons of Brad Nailer

  • Less holding power: Brad nailers can not provide significant holding power because they use brads instead of actual nails. 
  • Hard to reach walls/heavy wood: Brads are not powerful enough to undergo walls and heavy lumber such as plywood and MDF. 

When should you use Brad nailer? 

A Brad nailer is the most efficient solution where thin nails are required. They can be applicated for a vast range of projects and jobs, but here are a few of the most common ones: 

  • Brad nailers can be used in small home renovation projects and crafting. From building wood furniture pieces to attaching coves, stops and rails; easy-to-use brad nailers help to get renovation tasks accomplished. You can get your job done on your own without the need of hiring a carpenter. Besides, you can also add baseboards and fasten loose trim to your cabinets with brad nailers. Check our guide for the best nail gun for making cabinet.
  • Brad nailers are upstanding for extra hold in the period of installing interlocking floors.
  • A brad nailer can minimize your hassle of waiting for your adhesive sets as it can hold surfaces together temporarily. They’re even not difficult to remove if need be. 
  • If you love crafting wooden objects like photo frames, birdhouse models; brad nailers can be a time-saving tool for you. 

What is Finish Nailer

A finish nailer is designed for connecting finished stuff.. Trim and crown molding with finish nails can be fastened by finish nailers. A finish nailer also uses headless nails like a brad nailer. So there isn’t much of a hole size left over when the nail is shot. 

In respect of strength, a finish nailer acts as a median point between more heavy-duty nail guns (framing nailers) and brad nailers. Finish nailers are not as strong as framing nail guns but they are stronger than brad nailers. Different angles are offered from finish nailers as well. You can check our comparison on angled vs straight finish nailer.

Finish nailers can run 15- or 16-gauge finish nails in both straight and angled varieties depending on the tool. Your average finish nailer can adapt nails from 1-inch up to 2 ½ in length. These nails are generally headless to blend with the area of the wood which can’t be removed easily. 

Pros of Finish Nailer

  • Considerable hold strength: The finish nailers use the larger 14 to 16 gauge nails. They provide more hold strength than what you get while using the brad nailers. The longer nails are perfect for holding large wood pieces together permanently. 
  • More versatile: As these nailers shoot actual nails, they will be more convenient than the brad nailers for more finished woodworking applications. You can use finish nailers to fasten nearly anything. From baseboard to plywood on different surfaces such as plaster and drywall, finish nailers are perfect. A few can even complete the majority of tasks that the brad nailer does. You just have to manage the appropriate fasteners.
  • Suitable for heavy trims: Finish nailers provide the holding strength for attaching heavy trim pieces. It is a major advantage because the brad nailer will only assist you with a lightweight and delicate trim. 
  • The 15-gauge nail guns that can be accumulated at an angle can reach corners easily. 
  • The nails of finished nailers show up long strips and thus you won’t have to reload more often. 

Cons of Finish Nailer

  • Larger holes: The larger nails on the finish nailer will leave larger holes than you notice when using the brad nailers. Although some projects can be done by just painting over them. In most circumstances, the holes require filling with putty which increases your workload. If you hire a carpenter, it would cost you more for this subsidiary task. 
  • High chances to split wood: Though the finish nailer is amazing for fastening crown molding and baseboards, it only lasts longer when you attach them to the drywall. They are not suitable when you want to attach them to a wooden surface because they are prone to damage it. They also create a displeasing finish. 
  • It is a poor decision to choose finish nailers when dealing with delicate and thin trim. 

When should you use a Finish nailer?

A Finish nailer is the finest all-purpose nail gun for most non-structural sorts of projects. As its name depicts, it is generally used to accomplish the job with a smooth finishing touch. You can use finish nailers in any project where you’re relying on the nail for structural integrity instead of appearance. Some regular projects where a finish nailer stands out:

  • Installing crown molding,  baseboard, chair rails, and other various types of trim
  • Building staircases
  • Installing door and window casing
  • Installing hardwood floors
  • Making furniture and other woodworking joinery like cabinets
  • Attaching large, thick pieces of trim or molding.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I get a brad nailer or a finish nailer?

If you are dealing with thick plywood, then you should go for a finish nailer, as most brad nailers won’t be able to handle that sort of wood. If you are working with thinner and delicate pieces of wood, you should use a brad nailer because the finish nailer may potentially damage the wood.

Can I use a brad nailer for baseboards?

Yes, you can use your 18-gauge brad nailer for settling baseboards. The 1 ½ inch long nails are appropriate if you want the best outcome. Moreover, you should consider using a finishing nailer if your baseboard is heavy and large. 

What is a finish nailer used for?

For bulkier, larger wood trim, you may need to use a finish nailer. It drives 15 or 16-gauge finish nails that gives them better holding power. The things you want to attach to the wall permanently such as heavier moldings, then a finish nailer is the best tool. 

Can you use a brad nailer for shingles?

Yes, you can use a brad nailer for shingles. But you have lots of other options to pick for when it comes to shingles. Here is the guide for you to find the best nail gun for cedar shingles.

Can you use a finish nailer for cedar siding?

Yes, you can use a finish nailer for cedar siding since finish nailers offer smaller heads. Here is the guide for you to find the best nailer for cedar ciding.

Brad Nailer Or Finish Nailer For Hardwood Floor?

You should use a finish nailer for the hardwood floors due to its extreme holding capacity and beautiful finish. But there are some other factors to consider that you will find in our content – Brad Nailer Or Finish Nailer For Hardwood Floor?

Conclusion 

When it comes to the age-old debate of Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer, it actually depends on the task of the craftsman. The brad nailers are perfect for delicate tasks while finish nailers are prominent for thicker heavier materials. They can also be used for a variety of applications.

If you’re thinking about purchasing a nailer and still confused, consider the types of projects you’ll be doing more of. A DIY woodworker may keep both nailers on hand. But if you need to prioritize, then you should perhaps start with a brad nailer. Brad nailers can handle the majority of trim work and lightweight projects with minimal touch-up. 

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