What's the Difference: Paper, Plastic, and Welded-Wire Collated Nails? - Fine Homebuilding

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Fine Homebuilding: The Magazine

Fine Homebuilding: The Magazine

What's the Difference: Paper, Plastic, and Welded-Wire Collated Nails?

comments (5) March 5th, 2009 in Blogs
RDA Robyn Doyon-Aitken, producer

Paper: $95/box of 2,000 3 1/4-in. nails
Plastic: $65/box of 4,000 3 1/4-in. nails
Welded wire: $75/box of 2,000 3 1/4-in. nails
Paper: $95/box of 2,000 3 1/4-in. nailsClick To Enlarge

Paper: $95/box of 2,000 3 1/4-in. nails

Photo: Krysta S. Doerfler

by Rob Yagid

When it comes to buying nails for framing guns, you can choose among three main types of collated nails. Manufacturers use either paper, plastic, or wire to hold strips of nails together at the appropriate angle and spacing. While coiled nails are available in welded-wire and plastic collations, stick nails are available in all three versions.

paper collated nails


Paper-collated nails are the most expensive option and have one major performance benefit. When the gun is fired, bits of paper are pushed into the wood instead of flying around the job site or into the nail-gun user. Also, paper-collated nails won't "flag," or leave collation material stuck under a nail head; it can create an uneven surface and prevent nails from seating fully.




Pros Less flying debris; safer; cleaner; holds more nails per strip than plastic collations; consistent nail penetration
Cons Moisture can ruin collation if water-resistant paper isn't used; more susceptible to damage than welded-wire nails; typically the most expensive type of collation
Why use them? They're safer than other nails, require less cleanup, and let nails penetrate properly

plastic collated nails


Manufacturers often use the least expensive type of plastic possible to collate nails, which creates a nail that performs poorly compared with other types. When fired, bits of plastic ricochet over the job site or into the nail-gun user. Strips of plastic-collated nails are also more susceptible to breaking apart from abuse on the job site. They will save you some money, but at a cost.




Pros Least expensive type of collated nail
Cons Brittle and the most susceptible to damage; more prone to jamming nail guns; becomes brittle or gummy in cold or hot temperatures; tendency to flag; holds fewer nails than other collations
Why use them? They're cheap

welded wire collated nails

Welded wire

To keep each nail in proper alignment, some manufacturers tack-weld strips of thin wire to the side of each nail. Welded-wire nails are highly resistant to the effects of weather and job-site abuse. They aren't indestructible, though. Coiled nails in particular can bend easily. If a coil becomes misshapen, it could be difficult to feed into a gun properly.




Pros Resistant to moisture; unaffected by hot or cold environments; very durable in stick form and somewhat durable in coil form
Cons Prone to flagging; ricocheting bits of metal are dangerous; more expensive than plastic; can become misshapen
Why use them? They're extremely durable in any weather and are typically available with high nail capacities.

posted in: Blogs, framing, nailers

Comments (5)

MFournier MFournier writes: mrclaus are you kidding?
With proper nail gun safety you do not shoot your self or others.
And anyone caught on one of my job sites not following proper nail gun safety is quickly fired. Deciding which type of collation based on which one cause less damage to flesh is stupid the nail is not supposed to go in flesh and besides the damage the nail does it self should be reason enough not to shoot one in a way that could cause a nail to hit the flesh of your self or others.

And the key here is you really do not choose collation type after the fact you choose a nail gun based on the type of nails it can shoot and what you want to shoot nails in.

Coil guns almost all use wire collation and stick guns use mostly paper or plastic (kind of like the grocery store)

But also there are many types of nail guns coil and stick feed framing, finish nailers and specialty nailers like Hanger, Roofing and siding nailers, All of which have different nail needs. So it is really not of much use to talk about coalition types outside of a discussion of specific nail guns and types and there uses. Also most professionals have many different nailers for the very reason that each type has their uses and excel in some areas and have failings in others.

One example is in framing nailers coil guns hold more nails and are great for nailing jobs that require rapid nailing of a lot of nails where as stick nailers due to their angled magazines work great for toe nailing and cordless (or better put airless) impulse guns like the Paslode are great for when you are up in the rafters were a hose is in the way. or you have only a few nails to drive and you do not want to drag out a compressor.
So really this is only a partial subject the full subject is which gun and nail to select for a given job.
Posted: 5:37 pm on March 23rd

MikeGuertin MikeGuertin writes: Couple points to make on the nails. RodJ hit one very important point.

The price point for nails is going to vary on location and brand as much as by collation style.

I have to add to the section on wire welded nail collation: There are two types of wire collated nails - 15 degree wire welded in coils and 28 degree wire welded strip with very tight collation, clipped, D or modified offset nail heads. Though the coil nails will flag and spray collation wire, the 28 degree wire strips typically won't - and the wire strips tend to be priced about the same or even less than plastic collated in my area. BUT unlike wire welded coils that usually hold about 250 nails per load, wire welded strip magazines hold just under 100 usually, much like plastic and paper strip collation types.

On the PRO side for plastic 20 - 22 degree collated strips - you're most likely to find full common size nails in plastic collation - 16D 0.162 diameter full round head. You'll need these to comply with the 2006 and later versions of the IRC for nailing many framing components. It's hard to find nailers that will handle that size nail (not to mention nails) in other collation styles.

Posted: 4:04 pm on March 23rd

mrclaus mrclaus writes: I don't think you can over-emphasize the safety factor for paper collated nails versus welded wire. Welded wire acts as a barb. Accidentally shooting yourself with a nail gun is not that uncommon, and the resulting damage (especially to flesh) and the work to remove and repair the injury from a barbed nail is substantially more that a smoother projectile, never mind internal organs. I'm not a doctor, but I play one on blogs.
Posted: 3:56 pm on March 23rd

mikeco57 mikeco57 writes: RodJ is correct. Not only the Hitachi guns but Bostitch guns as well seem to only use nails available with plastic collation. If anybody knows differently, I'd like to hear about it.
Posted: 3:52 pm on March 23rd

RodJ RodJ writes: There is a more critical requirement for buying nails. My Hitachi NR83A2 framing nailer requires nails collated at 21 degree angle. Based on what is available in the stores these nails are provided only with plastic collation. Therefore, I have no choice on collation.
Posted: 2:55 pm on March 23rd

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