What's The Difference Between Brad Nailers & Finish Nailers?

Are in the middle of a home improvement project, but caught on which fastening tool you need to complete it? If you are doing simple upgrades around the house, you are most likely shopping for either a finish or brad nail gun - but which one is right for you? To the untrained eye, these tools would appear to be the same, but in reality, each has a very different purpose.
Let's start with what makes each of these power fastening tools unique. A brad nailer is designed to run 18 gauge, fine wire brad nails. These small nails are very hard to drive manually, which makes a brad nailer essential to any major home renovation project where brads are needed. On top of that, brad nails are almost invisible to the naked eye once they have been driven into wood. In fact, there is a good chance you will not need carpenter's putty to conceal a brad nail that has been driven into trim. The downside to using brad nails/nailer, these fasteners do not have the holding strength to be used for larger, heavier projects, such as large crown molding or baseboards.
Bostitch BT1855K Brad Nailer
For larger, more bulky wood trim, you will need to use a finish nailer, such as the Paslode IM250A-Li Cordless Finish Nailer. Finish nail guns will run 15 or 16 gauge finish nails, which are slightly larger than a brad nail, giving them increased holding strength. The biggest downside to using a finishing nail gun, because of the larger diameter fastener, you will almost certainly need to cover nail openings with putty. Furthermore, if you try to use a finish nailer on a small piece of trim, there is an increased probability for wood splitting and the formation of imperfections on the wood.
Paslode IM250A-Li Finish Nailer
Ideally, you'll want to have both tools handy for projects, especially if you are regularly working with trim and molding. If you have to choose between buying one or the other, your best bet is to start with a brad nailer, as it can handle most light trim work and will require less touch-up after installation. If you are installing shelving or a mantle, you will probably want to go with the higher strength, finish nail. The downside to only using a finish nail gun, it has the potential to split thin wood and might require additional touch up on small trim and lighter duty projects. While a finish nailer can tackle many of the same projects as a brad nailer - and then some - the brad nailer will maintain best overall appearance on small trim work.
Senco Fusion F16-A Finish Nailer
Once you have determined whether a brad nailer or a finish nailer will best suit your needs, be sure to also consider whether a cordless, battery-powered nailer or a pneumatic, air-powered nailer will be the most efficient choice for your project. For the around-the-house DIY'er, you might find that the battery powered brad or finish nail gun is best, as it does not require an air compressor to run and can be used in hard to reach places. Senco's Fusion line of finish and brad nailers, the F-15 Finisher, F-16 Finisher and F-18 Brad Nailer, stand as excellent, industry-leading examples of cordless nail guns. For a contractor or individual that has a regular use for either tool, consider a pneumatic nailer, as they typically offer better long-term reliability than their battery-powered sibling - and do not require recharging. Brands such as Bostitch, Hitachi and Senco all offer high-quality, air-powered finish and brad nailers.
Ready to nail your next project? Feel free to drop a line if you need more information, or would like to research a specific tool.
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