Friday, March 15, 2013

What Type of Nailerdo I Need?

With so many types of nailers on the market, it can be a bit challenging to pick the right nailer to buy. Unfortunately, there is no one type of universal nailer, which can be used with a wide variety of nails for a wide variety of projects. These are specialized tools, which must be purchased for the specific application in which they will be used. 

The controlling factor here is the type of nails that the tool uses. Just as there are a host of different types of nails used in construction of a home, there are a host of different nailers used for those nails. A carpenter will typically have a number of different types of nailers, each of which is used for a specific part of the home building project. 

Fortunately for us, the names of these various nailers tell us what they are used for. In most cases, they can be used for some other purposes, at least those purposes which would use the same types of nails as their stated purpose. 

Different Types of Nailers 

There are five basic categories of nailers on the market. If one has all of them, they can pretty much do all the carpentry work on a home. Framing Nailers The heaviest duty nailers out there are framing nailers. These are designed to drive nails up to 3-1/2 inches long into dimensional construction lumber. The magazines on framing nailers are generally angled, allowing the nailer to fit into tighter areas than would be possible with a straight magazine. The name of the game with framing nailers is heavy duty. A carpenter may run a thousand nails a day through one of these; and they’re long nails, which require a lot of force to drive. Porter-Cable has an awesome framing nailer with their FR350A. 

Siding and Roofing Nailers 

Siding and roofing nailers are almost identical. With many manufacturers, the same nailer can be used for both purposes. The nailer is designed for a shorter nail, generally 1-1/2 to 2 inches long, which are provided in a coil, rather than a straight line. For this reason, these are often referred to as coil nailers. The main reason for the coil is that these are large headed nails, which need more space between them. To attempt to put them in-line would mean that a gun could only hold about 50 nails. 

These nailers are also excellent for installing roof and wall sheathing. The high magazine capacity allows for fast work, while the larger nail head diameter holds both wood and foam sheathing well. Hitachi has a quality siding nailer and the Stanley Bostitch RN46 is an excellent roofing nailer. 

Flooring Nailers 

Nailing hardwood floors requires a very specialized nailer, which is only used for that purpose. Hardwood floors are cut tongue and groove. They are nailed in the lower part of the groove. These nailers are very different than others in that they don’t have a trigger; instead, a hit from a mallet is used to trigger the nailer. This helps ensure that the wood flooring pieces are snug against each other. This type of nailer has a long handle, allowing it to be used without kneeling on the floor. The Rasmond RMM4 is an example 

Finish Nailers 

Finish nailers are designed for driving 15 or 16 gauge finish nails, up to 2-1/2 inches long. This is ideal for installing baseboard and casing, along with windowsills, cabinet facing and stair treads. The small head on the nailer creates a small hole, which is easily filled to hide it. Finish nailers differ from brad nailers in the size of nails that they can use. 

Many carpenters will use both a finish nailer and a brad nailer when installing trim. The finish nailer is used to mount the trim, through the thicker part of the casing or baseboard. This way, it is driving the nail into the rough frame studs for the door or window. The brad nailer is then used on the think part of the casing, attaching it to the finish frame of the door or window. The DEWALT D51257K comes with a nice starter set. 

Brad Nailers 

Brad nailers are the finish nailers smaller cousin. The nails look essentially identical, with the exception of their size. These nails are 18 gauge (thinner) and are one to two inches long. As such, they are not as strong as finish nails, but their smaller size makes the holes even easier to conceal. 

As already mentioned, brad nailers are used in conjunction with finish nailers for installing trim, especially door and window casing. They are also used extensively in cabinetmaking. The smaller brads are excellent for putting pieces of a carcase (that’s the casing of a dresser) or kitchen cabinet together. If a finish nailer were used for this, there is too much chance of the nails coming out through the side of the plywood. Please note that cabinet of this type are typically glued together and nailed. The combination makes for a much stronger assembly. Bosch BNS200-18 has some great features for a Brad nailer. 

Pin Nailers 

A pin nailer is somewhat like a brad nailer, but for smaller diameter headless nails. They take 23 gauge pins, which makes the size of the pins roughly half of the size of 18 gauge brad nails (0.0226” vs. 0.0403”). However, the lack of a head makes the hole size less than half. That means that in many cases, the wood will swell back over the hole, eliminating the need to fill it. By nailing into the darker part of the wood grain, you can help hide the pin and its hole. 

These are great for using when putting together detailed wood trim, especially complicated pieces, like trim for cabinetry, wood fireplace mantles and crown molding. However, don’t count on a pin nailer to hold things for a long time. The headless pin isn’t as secure as an actual nail with a head. But as long as the pieces are glued, the pin will hold it securely while the glue dries. It also provides good reinforcement for shear, where the stress is across the pin, rather than trying to pull it out. The Stanley Bostitch HP118K is a good choice for a pin nailer. 


Staplers, often referred to as upholstery staplers, are used some in construction as well; although many carpenters simply use a hammer stapler instead. The places where a stapler are useful include: installing insulation, putting on tar paper for roofing, and putting on waterproof house wrap (such as Tyvek). The Porter Cable US58 is a great stapler. 

Pneumatic or Cordless – the Great Question 

One of the biggest questions for most people is whether to buy pneumatic (air driven) or cordless. Each of these technologies has its advantages and disadvantages. 

Pneumatic (air driven) nailers have been around longer. They are less expensive to buy and less expensive to operate. There is little that can go wrong with them if properly oiled, so they provide years of trouble-free service. The biggest problem is that an air compressor is needed. If there is no electricity available on site, than a generator is needed to power the compressor. This can be extremely inconvenient for small repairs or punch lists. 

A cordless nailer uses batteries and a gas cartridge to power it. The gas is burned, providing the power to drive the nail. This makes these nailers a little more expensive to operate than their pneumatic cousins. They are also more expensive to buy. The big advantage of cordless nailers is convenience. Since an air compressor isn’t needed, the carpenter can take their nail gun anywhere, whether there is power available or not. This is great for small projects and punch lists. 

Besides the cost, the other disadvantage of cordless nailers used to be that the batteries wouldn’t get you through a day’s work. However, with the higher charge capacity of Li-Ion batteries, these nailers will go all day long, driving as many as 6,000 nails on one charge. 

Some Important Options to Look For 

While nailers are very similar, there are a few important options that one should look for when buying them: 

Tool-less Jam Removal – Most quality nailers have nosepieces that open without a tool (old ones required Allen wrenches) to remove jammed nails. Jamming can happen anytime that a nail hits something hard, such as another nail. 

Too-less Depth of Shot – Controlling the depth of shot is important for any type of nailing. Some applications require the nails to just go flush, without sinking the heads, others require countersinking the heads. A quality nailer will not only have a way of setting the depth, but it will not require any tools. 

Weight & Comfort – When one is using a nailer all day, a difference of a pound of weight can make a huge difference. In addition, many quality nailers come with rubber overmolded handles, providing an extra degree of comfort. 

Low Nail Lock-Out – Firing a nailer without any nails in it can cause the hammer (the metal piece that pushes the nail in) to jam or even cause damage to the nailer. A very few nailers are made with this lock-out feature to protect the nailer from this type of damage. 

Trigger Options – There are two basic types of trigger operation on nailers: sequential and dual-contact firing (commonly referred to as “bump fire”). Sequential firing requires that the trigger be pulled for each nail. Bump fire allows the nailer to drive a nail every time the tip comes in contact with the work surface, as long as the trigger is held down. Some nailers have only one of these, some have both options switchable, and some have both options, but require changing the trigger (which may be an accessory). 


Regardless of the type of nailer you choose to buy, keep in mind that you will have this tool for many years. Therefore, buy what you are going to be comfortable using, even if it does cost a bit more. When buying cordless nailers, keep in mind other cordless tools you have. Many people prefer to stick with one brand, as they can use the same batteries back and forth. Check the reviews for all types of nailers by the same manufacturer before buying. Sometimes, they make an excellent product for one type of nailer and a mediocre one for another type. 

Author’s Bio: This very informative article was written by Ryan Hill, an expert when it comes to different types of power tools and hand tools. Do visit his blog to get more information about different nailers like air nailer combo kits.


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