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The Difference Between Brad Nails vs Finish Nails

Question: "What's the difference between brad nails and finish nails? Which should I use for my job?"

Answer: Whether to use brads or finish nails depends on your woodworking task and the amount of holding power you need. Let's look at the differences between the two kinds of nails.

An 18-gauge brad nail from Senco


Benefits of Brad Nails

Brad nails are formed from a fine, 18-gauge wire, so they are smaller in diameter than finish nails and typically have less holding strength. They're better suited for tasks like light decorative trim and molding, panel installation and crafts. Their size also helps prevent surface splitting, which can occur if the fastener is too large for the material it's being driven into. 

One of the benefits 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. In other words, 18-gauge brad nails provide a cleaner look than a finish nail without extra touch-up involved.

The 16-gauge finish nail from Senco

Benefits of Finish Nails

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. A finish nail offers increased support and withdrawal resistance versus the brad nail, making it the better choice when installing larger trim and woodwork.

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" (the exposed insertion point of a nail). In all, 

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."

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.


Shop Nail Gun Depot:

Brad Nails
18-Gauge Straight Brad Nails

18-Gauge Angled Brad Nails

Finish Nails

16-Gauge Straight Finish Nails

15-Gauge Angled Finish Nails (DA Type)

15-Gauge Angled Finish Nails (DA Type)

15-Gauge Finish Nails (FN Type)

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.

  • Kenneth Massey February 25, 2020 at 1:55 AM

    Really helpful as I do various types of custom sign work which might include different types of trim borders of artistic type combinations that's also different types of repair work or basic Construction thank you very much

  • Bad March 9, 2020 at 9:29 AM

    Bought a Dewalt 18 gauge Brad nailer. Can I use any brand of brads, as long as they’re 18 gauge?

    • Nail Gun Depot March 10, 2020 at 7:37 AM

      Yep. As long as the specs match your tool, any 18 gauge brad nail brand will work. We recommend SureFit to our customers, but again, any brand will do.

  • keith crawford March 13, 2020 at 5:57 AM

    Can a brad nailer also handle finish nails?

    • Nail Gun Depot March 13, 2020 at 6:26 AM

      No, each tool is designed for a particular gauge of nail. Brad nails are 18 gauge, while finish nails come in either 15 gauge or 16 gauge variants. Further, finish nails come in varying degrees of angle, which need to match the respective tool's magazine type.

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