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What Size Air Compressor For Framing Nailer?

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If you have a framing nailer or you’re looking to purchase one for projects at home or in your workshop, you may be wondering what size air compressor do I need for framing nailer?

This page will serve as a guide into what size air compressor you need for your framing nailer by presenting all the key considerations and relevant information to help you find a solution!

Table of Contents

Key Considerations – Choosing an Air Compressor for Framing Nailers

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

  • Use cycle – continuous vs intermittent use
  • CFM requirements & CFM rating of the framing nailer
  • Pressure requirements of the framing nailer
  • 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 framing nailer from the compressor (hose length)

Are You Using the Framing Nailer Continuously or Intermittently?

One of the first things you must consider is whether you intend to use the framing nailer continuously or intermittently. If you only intend for intermittent use of your framing nailer then a small compressor may suffice but if you intend to conduct continuous use then the compressor has to have the discharge capacity that the framing nailer demands.

A typical use cycle on a framing nailer 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 Framing Nailer Have You Bought or Are You Considering Buying?

Framing nailers have CFM ratings, often expressed as SCFM ratings (as it’s a standardized unit). This can also be expressed as “Air Consumption” or “Air Flow”. I will now present to you examples of a few framing nailers and their respective CFM ratings.

If you wish to learn more about CFM visit our SCFM vs CFM for Air Tools & Air Compressors GUIDE To Compressor Ratings!

To aid with the understanding of this article, I have described the following tools as “small”, “medium”, and “large” based on their average air consumption ratings.

Example of a Small Framing Nailer

Here’s an example of a small/mini framing nailer, the NuMax SFR2190 framing nailer which is rated at an average consumption of 2.5 CFM.

  • CFM: 2.5
  • Nail Length: 3-1/2″

Example of a Medium Framing Nailer

Here is an example of a medium-sized framing nailer that has an average consumption of 4 CFM, the Makita AN924 21º Full Round Head 3-1/2″ Framing Nailer.

  • CFM: 4
  • Nail Length: 3-1/2″

Example of a Large Framing Nailer

Here’s an example of a Bostitch F21PL Framing Nailer, Round Head, 1-1/2-Inch to 3-1/2-Inch, Pneumatic that requires an average air consumption of 8.7 CFM.

  • CFM: 8.7
  • Nail Length: 1-1/2″ to 3-1/2″

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!

What Pressure Rating Framing Nailer Have You Bought or Are You Considering Buying?

All air tools, a pneumatic framing nailer being no exception, have a recommended operating pressure. The different tools listed above each have their own pressure specified by their manufacturers in their respective manuals, stating the PSI for framing nailer:

  • The NuMax framing nailer has an operating pressure of range of 70 PSI to 115 PSI.
  • The Makitia framing nailer states that it requires an operating pressure no greater than 120 PSI and no less than 70 PSI.
  • The Bostitch framing nailer states that the operating pressure range is between 80 PSI and 120 PSI.

Note: it is very important to not exceed the maximum operating pressure or operate on a pressure lower than the minimum, otherwise you will risk hindering your framing nailer projects.

Air Compressor Duty Cycle

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

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


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!

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

CFM Delivery Capability of the Air Compressor

What size air compressor for framing nailer will typically come down to the CFM rating of the 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 8 CFM with a 50% Duty Cycle would have the ability to deliver:

8 CFM * 50% = 4 CFM

You must be wondering what is the best air compressor for framing nailer. Here are some examples!

Example of a Pancake Air Compressor Suitable for Framing Nailer

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 isn’t really suitable for the framing nailers presented in this article, but I am providing it an example of a small air compressor because you may obtain a smaller framing nailer than the ones presented in this article, with a CFM rating below that of the compressor.

However, If the small NuMax framing nailer was only used intermittently, say 50% of the cycle, the required CFM would become 1.25 CFM (2.5 * 50%), and so, the compressor would be able to provide this amount of airflow.

Example of a Portable Air Compressor Suitable for Framing Nailer

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 only be suitable for the air NuMax and Makita framing nailers unless they’re used intermittently, say only 25% of the time (15 minutes per hour cycle). Their required CFM’s would become 0.625 CFM (2.5 * 25%) and 1 CFM (4 * 25%) respectively.

Example of a Wheelbarrow Air Compressor Suitable for a Framing Nailer

Here’s an example of a wheelbarrow air compressor for framing nailer that is rated 5.30 CFM. Although 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 cycle.

Therefore, this wheelbarrow air compressor is actually capable of delivering 3.71 CFM (5.3 * 70%). Making it capable of powering the NuMax framing nailer continuously, and the Makita framing nailer intermittently as its required CFM would become 2 CFM (4 * 50%). This compressor is slightly undersized for the Bostitch framing nailer unless it was to only be used 25% of the cycle, requiring 2 CFM (8 * 25%).

Example of a Twin Pontoon Air Compressor Suitable for Framing Nailers

Here’s an example of a twin pontoon Air compressor, the Ingersoll-Rand 8 Gallon twin compressor capable of delivering 11.5 CFM with a 100% continuous duty cycle.

This compressor is capable of powering all of the framing nailers presented in this article continuously. It could even power two of them simultaneously (2.5 + 4 = 6.5 CFM & 2.5 + 8 = 10.5). This would be the best air compressor for framing nailer.

If this compressor were to have a 50% duty cycle, and therefore would provide 5.75 CFM (11.5 * 50%) it would still be able to power the NuMax and Makita framing nailers continuously. You get the idea now!

Air Compressor Tank Size (Compressed Air Storage Capacity)

The tank size will determine how much air is available to be drawn at any time. This is also a key enabler in keeping a compressor within its duty cycle.

If you have a small tank, the framing nailer 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 an 8 CFM compressor with a 50% Duty Cycle can be used to run a framing nailer that’s rated at 8 CFM – if used intermittently with a sufficiently large air tank.

To keep a compressor running for at least 10 minutes with a framing nailer consuming 8 Cubic Feet of air per minute for 50% of the time, the storage capacity would be:

8 CFM * 10 minutes * 50% = 40 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

40 Cubic Feet * 1/6th = 6.67 Cubic Feet

10 Cubic Feet = 189 Liters

Note: This is just an over-simplified example to provide you with a basic idea of the tank capacity that is needed.

Distance You’ll be Using the Framing Nailer From the Compressor (Hose Length)

Long hoses will result in pressure drop, which is certainly undesirable. I could not find any recommendations in any of the framing nailer manuals, 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 a pressure drop that will need to be compensated for by the compressor to ensure that the framing nailer 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 needed for framing nailer?

The size air compressor you need depends on the CFM requirements of framing pneumatic nail gun. In general, you will probably have a pneumatic framing nailer which has a CFM between 2 – 8, and so you will need an air compressor that can provide at least 10 CFM for framing nailer to be sure.

What size of air compressor for framing nailer?

For tools like a pneumatic framing nailer, it is important that you purchase an air compressor capable of providing the framing nailer CFM rating. You may be able to get away with a 3 or 4 CFM air compressor for small framing nailers, but for those of the larger size, and requiring more airflow, it may be more suitable to obtain an air compressor that can provide up to 10 CFM.

How much psi do framing nailers need?

A framing pneumatic nail gun requires the most air pressure of all nail guns because they typically use 3- to 3 1/2-inch nails that are driven into framing studs during the construction process of rough framing. Typical air pressures for this application range between 100 PSI (pounds per square inch) and 130 PSI. In some cases, the smaller the nail length, you may be able to use lower pressures.

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

Additional CFM reading:

What size air compressor:

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

If you have any questions regarding what size air compressor you need for a framing nailer, 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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