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If you have a staple gun or you’re looking to purchase one for upholstery projects at home or in the workshop, you may now be wondering what size air compressor you need to run your staple gun.

This page will serve as a guide into what size air compressor you need for your staple gun by presenting all the key considerations and relevant information!

Table of Contents

Key Considerations – Choosing an Air Compressor for Staple Guns

There are a few very key considerations you must look at when finding an air compressor suitable for a staple gun. These are:

  • Use cycle – Continuous vs Intermittent Use
  • CFM requirements & CFM rating of the staple gun
  • Pressure requirements of the staple gun
  • Duty Cycle of the air compressor
  • CFM delivery capability of the air compressor
  • Air compressor tank size (compressed air storage capacity)
  • Distance you’ll be using the staple gun from the compressor (hose length)

Are You Using the Staple Gun Intermittently or Continuously?

One of the first things you must consider is whether you will require to use the tool continuously or intermittently. If you only require intermittent use of your staple gun then a small compressor may suffice but if you require continuous use then the compressor has to have the discharge capacity that the staple gun demands.

A typical use cycle on a staple gun in a non-assembly line environment is likely to be far less than 50% of the time drawing its full CFM rating, and therefore it can comfortably be run intermittently.

What CFM Rating Staple Gun Have You Bought or Are You Considering Buying?

Staple guns come with CFM ratings, often expressed as SCFM ratings (as it’s a standardized unit). This can also be expressed as “Air Consumption”. I will now present to you a couple of examples of staple guns available on Amazon and their respective CFM ratings.

Examples of Staple Guns

Here is an example of a Surebonder pneumatic stapler which is said to require a minimum of 0.5 CFM at 60 PSI. Staples do not use much air for each to be fired, in most cases.

  • Staple lengths accepted: 1/4″ to 9/16″
  • CFM: 0.5

Here’s an example of a Wen stapler for upholstery which requires a minimum of around 0.28 SCFM to operate effectively.

  • Staple lengths accepted:1/4″ to 9/16″
  • CFM: 0.28

What Pressure Rating Staple Gun Have You Bought or Are You Considering Buying?

All air tools, air staple guns being no exception, have a recommended operating pressure. The two tools listed above each have their own pressure range specified by their manufacturers in their respective manuals:

  • The Surebonder pneumatic stapler is designed to operate between 60 PSI and 100 PSI.
  • The Wen stapler for upholstery states that its operating pressure should be between 70 PSI and 100 PSI

Note: it is crucial that you do not exceed the maximum operating pressure or operate on pressure lower than the minimum, otherwise you risk hindering your stapling projects. They’ll either not go in deep enough or fire so fast that they damage your work.

Air Compressor Duty Cycle

The typical duty cycle of an air compressor is normally 50% as can be seen in this Craftsman 919 manual for example. It states that the maximum compressor pumping time per hour is 30 minutes.

If you want to know more about air compressor duty cycles, how they’re expressed and calculated, you should read my article on air compressor duty cycles here!

Here’s another example of a product manual that describes the duty cycle of a compressor in these terms:

“INTERMITTENT DUTY FORMULA

Pump-up time should not ordinarily exceed thirty (30) minutes or be less than ten (10) minutes. Shutdown periods between cycles of operation should be at least equal to the pump-up time. Note: When the compressor is regulated by constant speed control, the shutdown period is the time the compressor is operating unloaded.

This basically describes a 50% Duty Cycle. Some compressors may have a 100% duty cycle and be rated for continuous flow, allowing you to work non-stop!

CFM Delivery Capability of the Air Compressor

CFM ratings of air compressors tend to be based on the output of the air compressor pump.

However, to understand what ability the air compressor has to deliver CFM continuously you need to multiply the CFM rating by the Duty Cycle percentage.

So an Air Compressor CFM rating of 12 CFM with a 50% Duty Cycle would have the ability to deliver:

12 CFM * 50% = 6 CFM

Given that the CFM requirements of the two staple gun examples are so low, and they are the same across the majority of staplers, you can provide sufficient CFM from almost any small and portable air compressor. And so, I will provide you with some examples of different types of portable compressors that would be suitable. Some offer additional CFM that can be used with other tools.

Example of a Pancake Air Compressor Suitable for Staple Guns

This very popular Pancake air compressor is capable of delivering 2.6 CFM with a duty-cycled specified in the manual to be 50%, 5 minutes on, and 5 minutes on. Therefore, for a continuous draw of air, this compressor would actually deliver 1.3 CFM (2.6 * 50%).

This compressor would have no problem providing air to either of the pneumatic staplers and in fact, it could power both continuously simultaneously.

Example of a Portable Air Compressor Suitable for Staple Guns

Here’s an example of a portable air compressor that delivers 2.4 CFM – and the product manual describes what would be determined as a 50% duty cycle. Therefore the compressor would actually deliver 1.2 CFM (2.4 CFM * 50%) if you require continuous airflow.

This compressor would also have no problem providing air to either of the pneumatic staplers. It could also power both of them simultaneously.

Example of a Wheelbarrow Air Compressor Suitable for a Staple Guns

Here’s an example of a wheelbarrow air compressor that is rated 5.30 CFM – and though the product manual does not describe the duty cycle, a customer Q&A response has declared that the compressor has a 70/30 (70%) duty cycle. Which would be determined as needing 18 minutes of rest during each hour’s cycle.

This compressor would also have no problem providing air to either of the pneumatic staplers. It could also power both of them simultaneously. Given that it has a higher CFM rating than the other two compressors provided thus far, this compressor will offer you capabilities to power additional tools that the others may not.

Therefore, it is a good choice if you have a lot of tools and projects in your arsenal down the line!

Air Compressor Tank Size (Compressed Air Storage Capacity)

The tank size will determine how much air is available to be drawn down at any time. This is also a key enabler in keeping a compressor within its duty cycle. If you have a small tank, the staple gun will quickly pull the pressure down below the level needed to activate the compressor. While a larger capacity tank will allow the compressor to run less frequently.

Therefore a 3 CFM compressor with a 50% Duty Cycle can be used to run a pneumatic staple gun that’s rated at 6 CFM – if used intermittently with a sufficiently large air tank.

To keep a compressor running for at least 10 minutes with a staple gun consuming 3 Cubic Feet of air per minute for 50% of the time, the storage capacity would be:

3 CFM * 10 minutes * 50% = 15 Cubic Feet of air (at atmospheric pressure (15PSI))

As atmospheric pressure is 15 PSI and the output pressure is 90 PSI and pressure and volume are inversely proportional 15 PSI / 90 PSI = 6

Therefore, you need 1/6th the volume of air at 90 PSI

15 Cubic Feet * 1/6th = 2.5 Cubic Feet

2.5 Cubic Feet = 70.8 Liters

This example is to provide you with a basic idea of the tank capacity needed.

Distance You’ll be Using the Staple Gun From the Compressor (Hose Length)

Long hoses will result in pressure drop, which is certainly not desirable. I could not find any recommendations in any of the staple gun manuals, which can be the case with some tools, but it can generally be recommended that you should not exceed a hose length that is just long enough to serve the working area.

Any hose length greater than 25 feet will result in an unwanted pressure drop that will need to be compensated for by the compressor to ensure that the staple gun is receiving the right operating pressure.

For further information on air hoses visit our Air Compressor Hose & Tube Guide here!

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

What size air compressor do I need for staple gun?

As staple guns tend to require CFM of less than 1, you can power a staple gun with any type of small, and lightweight air compressor such as a pancake compressor, hotdog compressor, or any other portable type. As long as the compressor has at least a 2 CFM capability, you should have no issues.

Do you need a compressor for a pneumatic stapler?

Like any pneumatic tool, you need an air compressor to be able to power them. Pneumatic staplers rely on compressed air to function, without the compressor, your tool is pretty much useless.

How do you attach a staple gun to an air compressor?

To attach a staple gun to your air compressor you will need an air hose, which connects to the outlet of the air compressor’s tank and the input of your pneumatic staple gun. It’s generally advised to use quick-connect fittings for ease of quick attaching and detaching of tools.

Additional CFM reading:

What size air compressor:

If you’re wondering how to plumb an air compressor setup, visit our guide!

Reader Questions & Responses

Air Compressor SCFM requirements for my air stapler. Have I got enough capacity?

I purchased a CH 1.3 running HP / 8-gallon air compressor. I also purchased a flooring stapler that says it needs an SCFM requirement of 6.36 [email protected] 90 psi as the minimum standard.

Will the flooring stapler work at 6.36 CFM @ 90 psi with a CH 1.3 running HP / 8-gallon air compressor or do I need to return the flooring stapler?

Flooring nail gun example
Flooring nail gun example


Howdy ‘Mach04’:

Will your compressor run your stapler? Yes, it will.

Will your compressor run it well enough for you to move quickly on your floor installation? No, it likely won’t.

Somewhere in your compressor’s user manual, it will tell you what airflow your 1.8 running HP will generate at certain air pressures. I’m going to guess that it is about 5 CFM @ 90 PSI, and maybe twice that at 40 PSI.

Your 8-gallon air tank will hold likely in the area of 150 PSI of air, depending on what your cut-out pressure is on your compressor pressure switch, and what it is designed to do. So, you will have a bit of leeway there, as you will set your downstream air pressure to the 90 PSI that your stapler needs and your supply will be at (briefly) 150 PSI.

The bottom line is that if you aren’t in a hurry, then you can take a few shots with the stapler, this will draw down the available air pressure to below your minimum operating pressure for the stapler, and then you wait until the air pressure in the tank catches up.

If you are putting floors in for a living, then you can’t afford to wait for air pressure, and you will need a bigger compressor.

I reiterate: Will your compressor run your stapler? Yes, it will. Will the compressor run it fast enough for you? That’s up to you to decide.

Complete details of compressor size, wiring, how the compressor is limited by voltage, etc. are found in my ebook The Home Compressor. Might be an idea for you to get a copy?


Responding to Bill
by: mach4

Hi Bill

Thank you for your quick response.

I’m a slow meticulous, rookie when doing upgrades around my house. I usually only do projects during the summer holidays. Took me 2 summers to finish my two-level deck.

To summarize it would seem that my 8-gallon air compressor and flooring stapler will work fine to do the living this summer as I am a slow worker.

I was concerned because the Campbell Hausfeld 1.3 HP 8 gallon works only at 3.7 SCFM @ 90 PSi and the flooring stapler requires 6.36 CFM @ 90PSi.

These numbers seem to indicate a larger discrepancy.

The CH air comp came with a 1/2 impact wrench that needs 5.1 SCFM @90 which would indicate that the CH air comp can’t handle it.

Maybe I bought an air comp that is too weak!!

Should I have bought one over 10 gallons?


Paul, you’d need a much larger tank than 10 gallons to run an impact wrench for more than a few seconds.

The same advice applies.

Any air compressor will run any air tool as long as it generates the MOP (minimum operating air pressure of that tool).

A big air compressor will run an air tool for a long time without having to stop the tool and wait for the air to catch up.

A small air compressor will mean that, for some air tools, you will only get a few seconds to use before the air is consumed, and since the compressor can’t generate the flow rate of the tool, you will need to wait for the air pressure to regenerate.

I’m always in favor of a bigger air tank over a smaller one.

The larger tank helps power an air tool for a longer period between waits, but with most home compressors, waiting for the air to catch up is part of the ‘joy’ of owning them.


If you have any questions regarding what size air compressor you need for a staple gun, please leave a comment below with a photo if applicable, so that someone can help you!