Choosing Trim Nailers: Which Finish Nailers Should You Own?
If you had to pin me down to just one nailer, it would probably be the first one that I bought, which is the 16-gauge. You can use it for small projects and big projects.
Most finish carpenters probably use the full range of pneumatic nail guns, from pin nailers to brad nailers to heavy-gauge trim guns, but can’t the average carpenter or homeowner get by on one or two sizes?
One of the major factors to consider when choosing a finish nailer is the size or gauge of the nails it fires. Now trim carpenters are going to want to have a 15-, 16-, 18-, and 23-gauge nailer at their disposal. But a homeowner is probably only going to want to have one. So which one do you choose? Is a cordless nailer a good option? Let’s take a closer look.
The gauge of a finish nail is a measure of its diameter, just like an electrical conductor. The higher the number, the thinner the nail; the lower the number, the thicker it is.
The real anchors of the pneumatic-trim-nailer team are 15- and 16-gauge nailers. These two tools fire nails up to 2-1/2 inches long, and are the most versatile for interior carpentry. They also have quite a bit of overlap in terms of application. Both are commonly used for installing baseboard, chair rail, door and window casing, crown molding, and door frames. One advantage to 15-gauge nails is that they are collated at an angle, which allows the nose of the nailer to reach into tighter spaces.
Brad nailers use smaller 18-gauge nails up to 2 inches long. Because the nails are thinner in cross section, they leave a smaller hole and are less likely to split narrow trim and molding, making them a good choice for stop and cove moldings or baseboard shoe molding.
Pin nailers fire 23-gauge fasteners that are available in both headless and slight-headed varieties. These nails are ideal for attaching delicate trim pieces. They leave a hole almost small enough to disappear under a coat of paint, or blend with the grain of a piece of wood. They don’t offer much shear or withdrawal strength though, so these nails are best used for wood-to-wood connections. And it’s best to strengthen the connection with glue.
Every one of these nail sizes does have its place, and I really do use them all. But if you had to pin me down to just one nailer, it would probably be the first one that I bought, which is the 16-gauge. You can use it for small projects and big projects.
If you really can’t decide which to choose, consider getting a combo kit which gives you more than one size gun all in the same package.
More on Trim Nailers:
Prevent Pneumatic-Nailer Blowouts When Installing Trim – If you’re hanging moldings and the nails keep blowing out the side of your trim, you could just swear a lot and keep your putty handy, but there’s a better way.
DA vs. FN Finish Nails – Finish nails come in two varieties: DA and FN. What do these names mean? Is there any real difference between the two? Can you use either type in your nailer? Learn more about finish nails here.
Air Hoses: The Lifeline of Your Pneumatic Tools – The right one should fit your tools, your budget, your work, and even the weather outside.
Tool Test: Compact Compressors – Small, quiet, and lightweight, these air compressors handle a bit of everything.
Tool Test: Twin-Stack Air Compressors – If you choose wisely, your go-to air compressor can be quiet, durable, and easy to operate.