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Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer

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It can be a tough decision when considering which of the brad nailer or finish nailer is best suited to your desired applications. This article will provide you with all the relevant differences to ensure you’re making the right decision!

Table of Contents

Brad Nailers

Brad nail guns shoot 18 gauge 1/2″ to 2 1/2″ nails, leaving tiny holes that are often left unfilled. They’re perfect for finishing touches to projects and are easily removable, which is why you’ll find them commonly used to hold things together temporarily whilst the glue is drying.

Due to their size, once the glue is dried, you can simply grab a pair of pliers and yank them out. Heavy-duty finish nailers are more likely to split or damage delicate wood, which makes brad nailers ideal for a wide variety of applications.

However, their small size blocks them from being able to penetrate thick or hardwood.

Brad Nailer Example

Here is an example of a Brad Nailer readily available on Amazon!

Brad Nailer Applications

Brad nailers are one of the most versatile nailers. They’re great for small craft projects like picture frames, birdhouses, or toys for children. Not only this but any narrow trim and crown molding projects, paneling, and doorstops (but not frames).

Brad nail guns tend to work best on projects where the appearance of the workpiece is the sole priority.

Brad Nailer Advantages vs Disadvantages

Brad Nailer Advantages

  • Ability to hold wood temporarily as glue dries
  • Allows precise and accurate finishing projects
  • Prevents wood from splitting
  • Small holes that don’t need filling

Brad Nailer Disadvantages

  • Not ideal for nailing hard to reach corners
  • Unable to penetrate thick or hard wood

Finish Nailers

Finish nailers shoot trim nails that are around 14 to 16 gauge and 1 to 2 1/2″ long. They allow for the attachment of substantial woodwork to create a permanent hold and due to their thicker nails, are able to penetrate thick and hard materials.

Finish nailers are available in two designs, straight and angled magazines. The angled magazine offers you more flexibility as you can get into tight corners or angles and put a nail in.

Finish Nailer Example

Below is an example of a finish nailer kit that is readily available on Amazon.

Finish Nailer Applications

Finish nailers are suitable for trim work, wide crown molding, baseboards, door casings, wainscoting, chair rails, and some cabinetry pieces.

Due to their greater nail size, they’re far more difficult to remove with pliers. They also leave a bigger hole which will need to be filled with putty or spackle. They’re suited to small framing pieces but may cause small decorative trim to split.

Finish Nailer Advantages vs Disadvantages

Finish Nailer Advantages

  • Ability to attach substantial woodwork and create a permanent hold
  • Angled magazine allows you to work in tight spaces
  • Great versatility
  • Structural integrity

Finish Nailer Disadvantages

  • Leaves big holes that need filling with putty or spackle
  • Unable to hold studs together

Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer Differences

The differences between brad nailers and finish nailers are key to understanding which nail gun is best for you! Both are meant for very specific purposes rather than general uses. They are typically less powerful than other nail guns and certainly use smaller nails.

It’s important to understand both a brad nailer and a finish nailer so that you don’t make the mistake of thinking they’re interchangeable.

For information on the other types of nailers please visit our Types of Nail Guns Guide. Now, let’s take a look at the differences. If you’re interested in learning about a Brad Nailer vs Framing Nailer, visit our guide here. Likewise, we have an article providing an example on Using a Portable Air Tank For Nail Gun!

Hole Size

Both create different-sized holes on wood when they’re used. More often than not, and I’m sure any woodworker or carpenter will tell you, you need to use putty to fill holes left by a nail gun.

This is very true with a finish nailer, however, a brad nailer doesn’t leave noticeable holes in the material. If the material is exceptionally weak or thin then maybe you’ll need to use a little bit of putty to fill them.


Brad nailers are designed to shoot 18 gauge nails whereas finish nailers shoot between 14 to 16 gauge nails. But what is a nail gauge? Well, a nail gauge number represents the number of nails per inch.

So for example, an 18 gauge will have 18 nails for every inch and a 16 gauge will have 16 nails for every inch.

You can then calculate the size per nail:

1″ / 18 = 0.0475″

1″ / 16 = 0.0625″

In an 18 gauge nailer, if you were to divide the inch by 18 it would result in a size of 0.0475 inches per nail. And for a 16 gauge nailer, each nail would be 0.0625 inches.

Note: the higher the gauge number, the smaller (thinner) their diameter or cross-sectional size.


When it comes to power, the finish nailer is the more powerful of the two. If you were to complete a trim job that is either heavy or thick, then using a brad nailer may be risky as it won’t be able to keep the trim secure, and may eventually fall.

If you need the power then the finish nailer is your best option. However, if you’re driving nails into a thinner trim material, the power of the finish nailer may be a hindrance.


One of the biggest differences between the two as you may have already guessed from this article is the uses. The fact that brad nailers won’t split or crack thin pieces of wood can really decide what nailer is best suited for you!

Another important difference in the use is how well they work on corners. Though the finish nailer has an angled magazine that can make it easier, brad nailers are often used by a lot of carpenters because they cause less damage.

Brad Nailer or Finish Nailer

It’s never an easy decision to make when deciding whether the brad nailer or finish nailer is best suited for your application. It will largely come down to the weight and thickness of the material you are planning to use the nailer on.

The right idea may be buying a combo kit that allows you to get various kinds of finish carpentry nailers at the go if you can afford it. But, in most cases, woodworkers will prefer to get one at first.

If you are working with something of hard or thick wood then you should definitely go for the finish nailer as most brad nailers won’t have the power to handle that sort of wood.

Finish nailers are for more versatile users that are looking to work on a variety of materials whilst providing the necessary power.

If you are dealing with a thinner piece of wood then you should opt for the brad nailer as the finish nailer has too much power and could potentially split the wood.

Brad nailers allow you to work with delicate trims and pieces of wood, holding them together as the glue dries before being able to easily remove the nails.

In general, people will tend to get more use out of a finish nailer than they would out of a brad nailer. So, if I am to recommend one to you for general purposes and to have in your tool collection, I will say get the finish nailer.

Other nail gun related pages you may be interested in reading:

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

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Which is better brad nail or finish nailer?

This depends upon your application. If you’re working on thin material then the brad nailer is best, as a finish nailer may be too powerful and cause the material to split. If you’re working on a thicker/harder material then the finish nailer is best because the brad nailer may struggle to penetrate such a material.

Can I use a brad nailer for baseboards?

It is possible to use a brad nailer for baseboards no thicker than 1/2″. For any baseboards thicken than 1/2″ it is recommended that you switch to an 18 gauge nailer.

Can a finish nailer use brad nails?

No, you should not put brad nails in a finish nailer. Brad nails are 18 gauge compared to finish nails being between 14-16 gauge. If you were to use brad nails in a finish nailer, they will potentially get jammed and cause damage to the nailer. Worst case scenario is metal shrapnel flying out from the gun and injuring yourself or someone within proximity.

What is the best nail gun for home use?

Brad nailers offer the most versatility between the different types of nail guns. They cover woodworking projects, trim work, and general household DIY and repair, making them the ideal choice for home use.

If you have any questions regarding brad nailers vs finishing nailers then please leave a comment below with a photo if applicable so that someone can help you!

By Aidan Weeks

A passionate Mechanical Engineer with endless enthusiasm for fluid power - building off the back of over 18 years of high quality contribution and discussion stimulated by Bill Wade here at About Air Compressors. With both practical and theoretical experience in pneumatics and hydraulics, I'm putting my knowledge to work - and working my grey-matter through my research, assistance and publishing work here at About Air Compressors. Feel free to reach out any time! P.S. A HUGE shout out to Doug who really offers such great value to all visitors to About Air Compressors - once again, feeling like I'm standing on the shoulders of GIANTS by getting to work alongside such a great community

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