Q & A: The Difference Between Brad vs. Finish Nails

Question: "What's the difference between a brad nail and a finish nail? Which one is the best choice for my job?"

Answer: To start, let's consider the differences between brads (brad nails) and finish nails.

Brad nails are formed from a fine 18 gauge wire, which means they are smaller in diameter and typically have less holding strength. The benefit to an 18 gauge brad is its size. Thanks to a smaller head and diameter, brad nails are easier to conceal in small pieces of wood trim. With a smaller head size, it's possible that the insertion point may not even need to be concealed with wood putty. Their size also helps prevent surface splitting, which could occur if the fastener is too large for the material it is being nailed into. In other words, 18 gauge brad nails provide a cleaner look without extra touch-up.

Senco Brad Nails

The downside to a brad is its holding power. Finish nails are made from heavier 15 or 16 gauge wire, which means they can handle a greater payload. For larger trim, such as baseboards or crown molding, a finish nail is more suitable. Because it leaves a more visible hole in the surface, a fully driven finish nail almost always requires followup attention - which includes being puttied over to conceal the "shiner" [a term representing the exposed insertion point of a nail]. In all, the finish nail offers increased support and withdrawal resistance versus the brad nail, making it the better choice when installing larger trim and woodwork.

Senco DA Finish Nails

According to Senco, "The initial tool purchased by most consumers is typically some kind of brad nailer for attaching finish molding. Most who have used a hammer to drive small brads know the frustration when these nails bend - not to mention the possibility for damage if using too much force. The brad nailer makes these small trim jobs a breeze, with high-quality results."

Brad vs. Finish Nail Comparison

The fact is, most carpenters use a combination of finish and brad tools. If you're just getting started, it's probably best to compare your application against the tools you are considering. From there, consider the tool that will suit your overall needs best.

Want more on these tools and their applications? Be sure to check out our video on brad vs. finish nailers, or you can read more here.

~The Nail Gun Depot Team

Leave a Reply


  • Ken May 11, 2016 at 9:34 AM

    Very informative, learned something and answered questions I had. Thanks

  • John Duke March 12, 2018 at 12:14 PM

    Will Porter Cable 18 ga brad nails and Craftsman 18 ga brad nails work in my Bostich gun as well as Bostich 18 ga brad nails?

    • Nail Gun Depot March 12, 2018 at 12:36 PM

      In most instances, they should all be interchangeable, assuming the nails are within the length range the tool can run.

  • Roger Pack August 6, 2018 at 3:39 PM

    so can you use brad's for baseboard?

    • Nail Gun Depot August 7, 2018 at 5:46 AM

      Yes, an 18 gauge brad can be used for most baseboard installations.

  • alton Hardy November 21, 2018 at 5:48 PM

    fixing to buy nail gun trying to figure out which one I need to buy remodeling a old house figuring out which one I need to buy can you help thanks

    • Nail Gun Depot November 23, 2018 at 6:18 AM

      It really depends on the type of projects you're looking to complete. We carry all types of nail gun, but you may need more than one depending on what you're doing. For interior finish work, we usually suggest starting with an 18 gauge brad nailer for light woodwork.

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