Brad Nailer Vs. Finish Nailer: Which Is The Best?

A nailer is a popular power tool among professionals and DIY-ers.

However, the difference between the 2 most common nailers, Brad and Finish, is not often defined. Most novice carpenters use the 2 types of nailers indivisibly. But more advanced carpenters and woodworkers know better. The truth is that there’s a big difference between Brad Nailers and Finish Nailers.

We’re here to clearly define what that difference is.

I encourage you to read our article about the differences between the 2 most common nailers, currently on the market. We’ll be explaining the various uses, sizes, and definitions of both the Brad Nailer and Finish Nailer.

Also, we’ll look at the top features and accessories available for pairing with your Brad Nailer and Finish Nailer. Of course, we’ll Finish off this article with a few great products you can easily purchase on-line or in-store.

If you’re looking to learn more about the differences between Brad Nailers and Finish Nailers than this is the perfect article for you.

Brad Nailer Overview

What Is A Brad Nailer?

Compared to a standard nailer, Brad Nailers are thinner and feature a smaller head.

They’re preferable for attaching lightweight trim to a woodworking project, as well as, stop and small moldings. Because they typically use 18 gauge nails, they leave smaller holes and are less likely to split molding.

In fact, the nail holes are so small that you don’t need putty to cover it afterward. Nail length can range from 5/8-inches to 2-inches. They’re the perfect option for any home renovation project that needs delicate nailing and limited hole visibility.

There are two types of Brad Nailers: Pneumatic and Electric.

Pneumatic Brad Nailers are paired with air compressors and are typically very efficient. They require a continuous supply of air to run. Electric Brad Nailers are typically more expensive and heavy. However, they’re more powerful than a Pneumatic Brad Nailer.

How Do You Use A Brad Nailer?

As stated before, Brad Nailers are meant for delicate nailing projects, such as nailing a thin piece of cardboard or trim. It’s the preferable tool for many DIY-ers and common carpenters. Even though it’s a fairly safe tool, you always want to use protection when handling power tools.

That’s why you should equip yourself with a pair of safety goggles, thick gloves, and a hearing protector, such as earplugs or earmuffs.

Next, you’ll want to place the Brad somewhat near, but not on, the edge of the board. Placing the Brad too close to the edge will cause splitting. So, you should place the Brad farther away from the Brad. You can determine the distanced from the edge based on the level of thickness of the board.

If you’re using a Pneumatic Brad Nailer, make sure that it’s firmly attached to the portable air compressor. Before using, you’ll want to lubricate the nail feed and load it with the right sized nails.

It’s important to remember that Brad Nails are thinner than most nails. This means that they may not sink all the way through the stock and they bend easily with a hammer. Instead of trying to hammer it the rest of the way through, it would be better to remove the nail and try again.

Hammering may cause the nail to Pull Out Part Of The Stock And Cause Visible Damage To Your Project.

When Should You Use a Brad Nailer?

Because 18-gauge nails are thinner and smaller than standardly sized nails, you may want to steer clear of thick woods. This includes plywoods and medium density fiberboard (MDF). Once again, Brad Nailers are better for adding Finishing touches or attaching trim or molding. It’s not the number one option for most woodworking projects.

Finish Nailer Overview

What Is A Finish Nailer?

Finish Nailers do exactly as their name implies; they Finish the job. These types of nailers use thicker nails that run 14, 15, and 16-gauge nails. Headless, they’re non-removable and are meant to blend into the wood.

You can also paint over them to give a flat, nail-less appearance. Nails used for Finish Nailers are typically 1 to 2.5-inches long. DIY-er’s tend to prefer Finish Nailers to hammers or nail guns because they provide longer lasting results. However, Finish Nailers are more expensive than Brad Nailers by hundreds of dollars.

The nailers come with either a straight or angled design. Angled Finish Nailers are better for slipping to tight spaces. The angled Finish Nailers actually have magazines that hold nails at a perpendicular angle.

They can come in strips that range from 50 to 100 with a total of 2000 nails. Also, Finish Nailers come in 2 types: pneumatic and cordless. Pneumatic, of course, means that the Finish Nailers pair with a powerful air compressor to force nails in. Cordless, or battery-powered, Finish Nailers are far weaker and heavier than pneumatic.

How Do You Use A Finish Nailer?

Finish Nailers are particularly helpful for forcing in thicker nails for sturdier results. Like Brad Nailers, they’re good for trim work and molding, but they’re also great for door casing and baseboards. As always, you’ll want to review proper safety procedures.

This means you’ll want to equip yourself with proper eye protection, thick gloves, and hearing protectors. These include ear plugs and ear muffs.

Before using your Finish Nailer, you’ll need to depress the safety nose. The safety nose keeps the trigger from accidentally pulling when the Finish Nailer is not in use. Next, you’ll want to slip the anti-marring rubber over the tip of the nose to prevent damage.

Position the nailer until its tip is where you’d like the nail to be inserted. You’ll want the nailer to sit perpendicularly to the trim. If the nail doesn’t force its way all the way through, you can use a hammer to force it the rest of the way.

When Should You Use A Finish Nailer?

Finish Nailers are strong enough to work on a variety of different types of wood. These include MDF woods like plywood, hardwoods, and softwoods. They’re far less likely to splinter than Brad Nailers and provide a smooth Finish.

It’s no wonder why Finish Nailers are extremely popular among both professionals and DIY-ers.

Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer: Features and Accessories

When choosing a reliable nailer, it’s important that you take the time to compare the nailer’s features and accessories. Additional features can save you time and energy by providing pre-set functions or abilities that may typically require additional work.

Extra accessories can save you money in the long-run. Instead of having to purchase additional accessories separately, some nailers come with complementary accessories that are designed to pair with your nailer. Both Brad Nailers and Finish Nailers come with additional features and accessories.

Let’s take a moment to look at which of each are more common in a Brad Nailer and a Finish Nailer.

Depth Analysis: A good Brad Nailer and Finish Nailer comes with a depth adjustment, or analysis, system. This provides the ability to manually, and sometimes automatically, adjusts the puncture depth accordingly to the thickness of the wood.

A depth adjustment system guarantees that the nail thoroughly penetrates the wood on the first try, leaving better, splinter-free results. It’s a particularly handy feature for Finish Nailers because they tend to splinter more often and are harder to remove than Brad Nailers.

Loading: This is a term for loading the Brad or Finish Nailers with new nails. The more popular nailers tend to use magnetic strips to hold the Brad or Finish nails in place while loading. This not only helps to prevent spills but also provides more control.

Canister loading is another handy option. You simply purchase the nails in packs, or canisters, and load it into the nailer. This is also a great option for avoiding spills but canisters can hold a various number of nails depending on the brand.

Adjustable Belt Hook: An adjustable belt hook is a pretty handy accessory that’s reusable. Basically, it provides the ability to hook your nailer to your belt. This makes it portable, easy to maneuver and close at hand. It also allows you to work with a different power tool without putting the nailer away.

Angle Adjustments: This is a particularly helpful feature that provides the ability to adjust the nailer’s nose at different angles. It’s useful for home renovating and touch-ups around the house, such as adding trimming to a pre-Finished table. An angled nose will allow you to drive nails in deeper and more firmly into the wood, resulting in longer-lasting results.

Cord: Of course, it’s important to consider rather or not you’d like a corded or cordless nailer. Brad Nailers tend to be corded, while Finish Nailers tend to be cordless, if not a pneumatic. While a corded nailer tends to pack a stronger punch, they’re less portable than a cordless tool.

This is because it takes extra time to unravel and unknot the cord. If you decide to purchase a corded nailer, I recommend one that comes with a cord storing system. While corded nailers are less portable, cordless nailers tend to be heavier. This is due to its built-in battery.

Warranties: Warranties are possibly one of the most important additional features you should look out for which choosing a nailer. Warranties can cover the cost of repairs due to product defects in materials or workmanship. They tend to run for 1, 3, or 5-years. It’s important that you check with the manufacturer before purchasing the nailer to see if the warranty includes shipping and handling.

Other than warranties, you can check for money back guarantees which tend to run for 30 or 90-days. You can also check for 3rd party protection plans and customer service guarantees.

Pneumatic Nailers Vs Non-Pneumatic Nailers

Pneumatic nailers (Brad or Finish) pair with air compressors to utilize powerful air pressure to force in nails. These nailers are typically cheaper, lightweight, and significantly easy to handle. In fact, any novice carpenter or DIY-er can figure out how to use a pneumatic nailer.

Also, the air compressor can be used for a wide range of other projects. These include spray painting, filling up tires, and cleaning the work environment.

The downside to pneumatic nailers is that they’re typically less powerful than non-pneumatic nailers. Also, because they do require an 12 v air compressor, you’ll need to purchase a separate air compressor. You’ll also have to make sure that it attaches properly and that you properly maintain your air compressor. Air compressors require their own set of maintenance and care.

While non-pneumatic nailers can be more expensive and heavier, they’re still more powerful and maneuverable. This is particularly true for cordless or battery powered Finish Nailers. Choosing rather or not you’d like a pneumatic nailer really depends on what you’re looking for and what you’re willing to spend.

Why don’t you keep reading to flesh out your choices a little bit more?

Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer: Summary

 Brad NailerFinish Nailer
Function and UsageDelicate work: Trims, stops and small modingsTrims, baseboards, door casing, etc.
Wood TypesNon-MDF; Soft, thin woodsMDF woods, plywood, hardwoods, and softwoods
Nail Head Size1.22mm1.63 to 1.83mm
Nail Length5/8 to 2-inches1 to 2.5 -inches
Gauge18-gauge14 to 16-gauge
BrandPORTER-CABLE, DEWALT, Hitachi, Freeman, NuMax, BostitchPORTER-CABLE, DEWALT, Hitachi, Freeman, NuMax, Bostitch

We’ve learned a lot throughout our article. So, why don’t we take the time to review everything? While Brad Nailers are great for detail work and are cheaper, they’re not very versatile. On the other hand, Finish Nailers are more expensive and can cause splintering. Finish Nailers are perfect for MDF woods, plywood, hardwoods, and softwoods. Brad Nailers are best for thin, softwoods. Definitely not MDF woods.

Brad Nailers have thinner, shorter nails that break under a hammer. Finish Nailers don’t have heads at all. Instead, they blend perfectly into the wood. As you can see, there are plenty of differences between a Brad Nailer and a Finish Nailer. So, which nailer should you purchase? I’ll answer that question in the next section.

Which One Should You Buy?

So, which nailer should you buy: a Brad Nailer or a Finish Nailer? The answer to that is…whichever one you need. Both the Brad Nailer and Finish Nailer are designed for very specific purposes.

Because of this, they’re considered very different power tools. While a Finish Nailer may be versatile and can perform the same functions as a Brad Nailer, it’s still more expensive.

If you don’t need to nail a baseboard or door casing, then I recommend saving your money and settling with a Brad Nailer. Otherwise, it really depends on what you need in a nailer.

However, if you are looking for a couple of all-in-1 nailers, here are a couple of our favorite picks.

DEWALT DC608K Brad Nailer Kit

The DEWALT DC608K is a battery-powered, electric nailer that’s capable of running on up to 18-volts.

It uses magazines, or canisters, for a rapid-fire, high-speed nailing. This nailer also has a single nailing mode for simple, quick projects.

It’s so powerful that it can nail through softwoods, plywoods, and hardwoods. The Dewalt DC608K also comes with a 90-day money back guarantee and a 3-year warranty.

Despite its price, it’s definitely a good quality nailer that can be considered well worth it.

The Paslode 901000 is a Finish Nailer that can handle 18-gauge nails.

Cordless, it runs on a rechargeable battery that can spit out up to 4,000 nails on one charge. It comes with a handy carrying case, goggles, a belt hanger, and extra rubber tips.

At 4.9 pounds, it’s lightweight, portable, and easy to maneuver. It also comes with a 1-year limited warranty against product defects in materials and workmanship.

The Paslode 901000 is great nailer for any DIY-er or practiced woodworker.


So, as we learned, Brad Nailers are typically for delicate projects and they use thinner, smaller 18-gauge nails.

Brad Nailers are cheaper but are best for nailing in trimming. On the other hand, Finish Nailers are a bit stronger than Brad nails and can hand MDF woods, as well as plywood, hardwood, etc. However, Finish Nailers are typically quite a bit more expensive. Overall, Finish Nailers can be used for a wider range of projects.

If you need to accomplish detail work, then I recommend a Brad Nailer. But there is a much-defined difference between the 2 nailers. I suggest you choose which one is best for your project needs.

If you feel that we did a good job at defining the differences between Brad Nailers and Finish Nailers, I encourage you to review. Tell us what you agree or disagree with. What Brad Nailer and Finish Nailer do you think is the best on the market?