Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer (What Are the Differences)

Though they may look alike, brad nailers and finishing nailers are not the same! They are different tools with different uses. While both are accurate fasteners designed for precision nailing, they each have their roles to play when it comes to woodworking. So, what is the difference between a brad nailer and a finishing nailer?’

The difference between a brad nailer and a finishing nailer is in the gauge (size) of the nails. A brad nailer uses thin, smaller 18-gauge nails, (0.0475 inches), to keep wood-like trim from splitting. Meanwhile, a finishing nailer utilizes thicker, 16-14 gauge nails (0.0625-0.07813 inches), that have more binding power for larger woodwork like window and door casing.

Now that you know the difference between brad nailers and finishing nailers let’s take a closer look at this in more detail. We will discuss the uses of each tool, what they cost to purchase, and which one is the better choice, depending on the type of work you do.

We will also explore some related questions, including what is a framing nailer, what is the difference between a framing nailer and a finishing nailer, and can you use a finishing nailer for framing.

What is a Brad Nailer?

A brad nailer is a pneumonic-powered nail gun that uses compressed air to drive nails into wood. It uses 18-gauge nails that are anywhere from ½-inch to 2-inches long. These nails provide a strong bond and are perfect for attaching narrow or thin pieces of wood to thicker, larger wooden objects. They do not leave noticeable holes and therefore do not require putty to fill them in.

Brad Nailer Pro-Tip

Brad nailers are my go-to for installing baseboards. One tip I can give you (if you are using a brad nailer and nails) is this: if a nail does not fully enter the wood, do not try to hammer it in the rest of the way.

Nine times out of ten, the nail will bend when doing this, and you will end up with a clump of metal you will have to try and hammer into the baseboard. It looks terrible, and it is just a pain when it happens!

All you need to do is pull out the nail with some needle nose pliers and set another pin into the baseboard. Never try nailing the nail into the baseboard. It might work occasionally, but it is more likely it will not. Also, make sure you adjust the psi appropriately, and always hold the nailer firmly against the material. Do not pull it away until a second after the trigger is engaged.  

What is a Finishing Nailer?

A finishing nailer is like a brad nailer but uses 16-14 gauge nails, (0.0625-0.07813 inches), instead of 18-gauge nails. (Read our post on different gauge steel thicknesses to learn more). These nails are between 1-inch and 3-inches long and made of steel wire. They are thin-gauged and have a ‘barely there’ head making them the ideal choice for delicate or fine-detailed projects. 

Finishing nailers also bond wood together with more intensity and strength than a brad nailer. In other words, the holding power is excellent in comparison. Finishing nails hold materials together much better than a brad nail. 

Finishing Nailer Pro-Tip

One important thing to keep in mind when using a finishing nailer is since they do not have a nail head, you will not be able to pull them out if you happen to make a mistake. So, it is crucial when using this type of nailer that you have everything in the proper position before engaging the nail. 

Brad Nails vs. Finishing Nails
A brad nail is shown in this file photo.
A Brad Nail
A finishing nail is shown in this file photo.
A Finishing Nail
Nail Description- thin, 18-gauge
- available in strips or individuals
- from 1/2" to 2-1/2"
- thicker 15 or 16-gauge
- available in strips or individuals
- from 1" to 3-1/2"
Features- tiny holes easy to fill- gauge commands decent holding power
Recommended Use- fine woodworking such as framing (picture), trim and moulding, panelling and other thin wood applications- interior and exterior trim, baseboards, crown mouldings, light carpentry

The Common Uses For A Brad Nailer Commonly

Finishing woodwork, such as trim, moldings, cabinetry, and more, make up the bulk of the tools used. It is the perfect tool for mounting lightweight trim. You can use a brad nailer for any job requiring you to fasten narrow trim to windows or doors. I also use my brad nailer for woodworking projects I do in my garage. These are projects that are quite often found on Pinterest, as that is where I get a lot of my ideas for projects.  

The Standard Uses For A Finishing Nailer

You can use a finishing nailer for decorative woodwork, such as fastening crown moldings to walls, windows, and doors, assembling cabinets, and attaching wainscoting. Any light carpentry work or small, delicate woodworking projects will generally require the use of this type of nailer. Hobbyists who enjoy making decorative pieces often use finishing nailers.

Should I Buy a Brad Nailer or a Finishing Nailer?

The choice of whether to buy a brad nailer or a finishing nailer is dependent upon the type of work you are doing. If you are doing decorative trim work, paneling, shoe moldings, picture frames, or birdhouses, you will want to buy a brad nailer. If you are doing interior/exterior trim work like window/door casings, chair rails, baseboards, crown moldings, or hardwood floor installations, then you will want to invest in a finishing nailer.

If I can recommend a reliable finishing nailer, I would suggest you check this one out on Amazon. 

I like the DeWalt product because DeWalt has outstanding warranty coverage and they just make good tools. This compressed air-powered finishing nailer is the choice of many a woodworking craftsman, not just the editors over at Amazon.

The tool has some really good reviews and it is also really lightweight making handling quite pleasant. The Finishing nailer can take 16-gauge nails from 1″ to 2 1/2″ long.

Need a compressor? Take a look at the Gizmo Plans article on the Puma Air Compressor Reviews: 40, 60, and 80 Gallon – some great compressors for your workshop.

How Much Does a Brad Nailer Cost?

On average, brad nailers cost anywhere between $30 and $300! Of course, you could always spend more, but I do not feel it is necessary when it comes to a brad nail. The more features are included, and the higher the tool’s quality, the more expensive it will be. 

There are so many different makes and models on the market today. Whether you are a professional craftsman or a woodworking hobbyist, you are bound to find the perfect tool to suit your needs and budget!

Therefore, if you are someone who only needs an air nailer on occasion or for garage Pinterest-type projects, then buying one for under $100 should be good enough. 

If you are in the market for a Brad nailer, check this one out on Amazon. 

What I really like about this Porter-Cable brad nailer is the fact that it’s totally portable. The battery lasts for a decent enough time being a 1.5 amp hour battery, but I would still pick up a spare. That way you can have one on a charge while using the other battery. Porter-Cable is known for its decent tool line up and this is not an exception to the rule. And with a 3-year limited warranty, the Porter-Cable is an excellent choice for a brad nailer.

How Much Does a Finishing Nailer Cost?

On average, finishing nailers are similar in fee to brad nailers. They range in price from $40 to $400, and again, the more features included and the higher the quality of the tool, the more costly it will be. As well, there are many different makes and models to choose from, both in-store and online. With a little research, you should have no trouble finding the ideal tool in your price range.

Yes, you could spend more than $400 on a finishing nailer, but it is not necessary. Unless you are a professional carpenter, it is not worth it. Only spending $250 or $400 will not make any difference in how your project turns out. If you bought a cheaper one for around $50, then yes, you would notice the difference from the one for $400. 

What is the Best Brad Nailer?

If it’s a cordless, battery-powered option you’re looking for, then this is the tool for you. One of the best brad nailers currently on the market today is the Dewalt 20V MAX Cordless Brad Nailer. It is available both in-store and online through Amazon.

This 18-gauge, precision point nailer comes equipped with a rear exhaust feature to keep contaminates away as well as a tool-free jam release mechanism for easy and safe nail removal. Highly rated and competitively priced, it is a must-have for any woodworker or craftsman. Check it out today!

What is the Best Finishing Nailer?

I really like both the Porter-Cable, mentioned above, and also this Dewalt. It’s one of the best finishing nailers on the market right now is this Dewalt 20V Finish Nailer. It is available in-store and online through Amazon. This 15-gauge nailer is battery-operated, which eliminates the hassle of using a compressor and hose. It comes with multi-functional LED lighting o provide better illumination in the workplace. A high-quality tool, well-rated tool, this nailer is perfect for woodworking professionals and hobbyists alike. Check it out today!

Related Questions 

What is a framing nailer?

A framing nailer is an essential tool on most home or commercial building sites. It is used for major or large wood projects such as building fences or decks, framing houses, and any other heavy-duty carpentry work.

Can you use a framing nailer for finishing work?

A framing nailer is too large for completing projects. It is also not as precise. The thicker nail gauge would probably do more harm than good, damaging/destroying the delicate wood trim work while potentially hurting yourself in the process!

Can you use a finishing nailer for framing?

Framing work is not what a finishing nailer was designed to do. The thinner nail gauge is just too small for heavy-duty woodworking projects such as framing. For best results, always choose the proper tool for the job and use it according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you are looking for a suitable framing nailer, check this one out on Amazon. 


To sum things up, the main difference between a brad nailer and a finishing nailer is the size of the nail. The brad nailer uses thinner, 18-gauge nails, whereas the finishing nailer uses thicker, 15-gauge nails.

Brad nailers are designed for paneling and trim work such as moldings and cabinetry. The intended use for finishing nailers is building furniture and decorative, delicate trim work such as crown moldings and wainscoting, among other similar projects. 

I hope this article has been of help. Thanks for reading and remember – to get the job done right and in the safest way possible, always use the proper tool the way the manufacturer intended. Good luck with your future woodworking projects.

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