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Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer – Difference and Detailed Comparison

Last Updated on January 14, 2020 by Robert Bennett

A nailer is one of the most important requirements for all woodworkers and DIYers. For most of the projects, you’ll need a high-quality nailer that can efficiently complete all your tasks.

Users are very well aware that there are different types of nail guns available all over the market. Choosing the correct model for your project is a challenging task. Most people confuse themselves between the brad nailer vs finish nailer. In terms of looks, both types of nail guns are very identical. Also, both of them are used for precision nailing and finishing tasks.

There is a slight difference between brad nailers and finish nailers, which you might not know. For instance, brad nailers don’t have the same holding power as of finish nailers because they use brads instead of nails. This is just one out of many.

In this article, we’ll try to figure out all the differences between brad and finish nailers. Both nail guns have different roles and applications, but we aim to compare and find the best-suited model for you.

Know About Brad Nailers

Know About Brad Nailers

A brad nailer is a little different from other nailers. A typical nail gun shoots nails, but a brad nailer shoots brads. You might be wondering how a brad is different from a nail, right? Brad is nothing but a very thin nail. Brad nailers were introduced after the finish nailers.

The main idea for inventing brad nailers was to drive thinner nails (known as brads). A typical brad doesn’t have a head on the end side and has a cross-section of only 0.0475 inches. By looking at this figure, you can imagine the size of brads. A good amount of woodworkers have never worked with such small and thin nails.

Don’t judge brad nailers based on their size as they are capable of performing many wonders. You can use a brad nailer for all those tasks that fears you about the splitting of wood. Jobs that require thin finishing or delicate hands become easy when using a brad nailer.

For instance, if you use a regular nail gun on a thin piece of wood, then you’ll end up breaking the workpiece. In general, brad nailers are very helpful for doing trim work, paneling, casing, and other lighter jobs.

Advantages

  • It uses smaller 18-gauge nails that do not split the wood.
  • Helpful to work with delicate wood.
  • Great for smaller projects like making picture frames, boxes, etc.
  • The holes created by brad nailers do not need any wood-putty filling.

Disadvantages

  • Not ideal for working with large pieces of wood.
  • Lesser holding power.

Which Brad Nailer Should You Buy?

DEWALT DWFP12231 - Our Top Pick

Dewalt DWFP12231 Brad Nailer

DEWALT has been manufacturing high-quality woodworking tools for a long time, and DEWALT DWFP12231 is no exception. This model uses typical 18-gauge brad nails that can vary in size from 5/8-inch to 2-inch. The nails are driven into the surface with the help of a maintenance-free motor. It doesn’t require any lubrication. It means you don’t have to worry about the leakage or spraying of oil and grease.

DWFP12231 is a tool-free gadget, meaning, you don’t have to carry any tools for adjusting the nails’ depth, or fixing jams. You can use this nail gun for a variety of jobs that includes upholstery project, cabinet finishing, and paneling. The exhaust is at the rear side of the model, so you’re always safe with dust and other contaminants.

This model can work with any compressor that can provide 70 to 120 PSI of pressure rating. This tool may jam sometimes, but it comes with a tool-free jam release mechanism that solves the problem quickly.

Check out this brad nailer buying guide to find out more product reviews and other information. 

Pros

  • A removable non-marring nose tip for workpiece safety.
  • Tool-free depth mechanism for adjusting the depth of the nails.
  • An integrated rubber grip provides extra comfort to the users.

Cons

  • Difficult to find some of the spare parts.

Know About Finish Nailers

Know About Finish Nailers

Brad nailers are specially designed for accomplishing smaller projects. So what about the projects that need better holding power? A finish nailer can help you in this scenario. Just like brad nailer, there are many features that you’ll find common with a finish nailer. Both the nailers are meant for some specific activities and projects.

However, the significant difference between these two nail guns lies in the gauge of the nail. A finish nailer uses 15 or 16-gauge nails; on the other hand, brad nailer uses 18-gauge nails(brads). Not just gauge, the length of the nails used by the finish nailer is also long. Generally, the length of the nails may vary from 1 to 2.5 inches.

In terms of performance, the strength of the finish nailer is quite impressive. Users can use this nail gun for attaching (holding) cabinets, crown moldings, and heavy baseboards. Some exclusive wood products (like MDF) can also be taken in use with a finish nailer. You cannot use a finish nailer with thin or delicate wood products because of the 16-gauge nails.

Finish nailers are easily available in the market with its two variants: Pneumatic and Cordless model. Pneumatic finish nailers are more powerful and come with a lightweight design, but if you’re looking for a portable and easy to carry nail gun, then cordless models are recommended.

Advantages

  • They are versatile, can be used for various activities.
  • Build to be used with heavier and bigger wood.
  • 15 and 16-gauge nails provide excellent holding power.

Disadvantages

  • Not a good option for delicate and light wood pieces.
  • Big nails create bigger holes that need to be filled with wood putty.

Which Finish Nailer Should You Buy?

Hitachi NT65MA4 - Our Top Pick

Hitachi Power Tools (now Metabo) is not dependent on any introduction or formality. It is a leading brand in the tools industry. Here, we’ll talk about one of its top-notch finish nailers, Hitachi NT50AE2, that comes with five years of warranty.

The best thing about this finish nailer is the 34-degree angled magazine, which allows you to work even in tight spaces with great ease. Because of this, it can be useful for almost every job. Another unique feature about this nailer is the integrated air duster that comes into play when you want to clean the workpiece before nailing.

You don’t need any tool to use the depth-of-drive adjustment mechanism. This feature gives you more control over the nail gun and provides a precise finish. Even the jam clearing mechanism is super easy to use for this model.

Based on the project you’re working on, you can easily choose between the nailing modes: sequential and contact nailing. You can use this feature with the actuation mode selection switch. This nailer allows you to use nails having a size range of 1.25 – 2.5 inches.

Pros

  • A tool-free depth-adjustment mechanism.
  • It includes an inbuilt air duster.
  • The actuation mode selector allows you to choose between sequential and contact nailing.

Cons

  • No feature to avoid dry firing.
  • Lack of belt hook.

Difference Between Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer

Difference between Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer

Power

The power of any device lets you know about its strength and capabilities. Finish nailers are more potent than the brad nailers. You can attempt to use a brad nailer for this task but might have to compromise with the performance and security. Whereas, using a finish nailer is the best choice.

However, the power of the finish nailer can put you in trouble while working with delicate and softwood products. In such situations, a brad nailer is a perfect pick.

Holding Power

Users must be aware of the holding power of their respective nail gun. It tells you about the bonding strength of your nailer. On a bright note, the finish nailer wins the race against brad nailer in terms of holding power.

Brad nails are smaller in size and don’t have significant holding power. They hold two materials together, just like the glue does, whereas a finish nailer uses 15 or 16-gauge nails. They do not tend to remove easily and as a result, holds the material for a longer time.

Nail Gauge

Nail gauge is one such factor where you differentiate brad nailers from finish nailers. Brad nailer makes use of thin 18-21 gauge brads that are mainly headless. The primary benefit of using brads is they don’t create a significant hole in the surface. We recommend you to buy 18-gauge brads as they have more holding power.

On the other hand, finish nailers uses thicker nails having 14-16 gauge, where 14-gauge nails are the largest. Undoubtedly, 14-gauge nails have maximum holding power, but they might break-up some materials. The 15 and 16-gauge nails are quite famous and offer greater versatility to the users.

Hole Size

Brad nailer and Finish nailer, both the nailers create holes of different sizes. Whenever you drive nails into the wood surface with a finish nailer, you might need wood putty to fill the hole.

However, this is not the case with brad nailers. They don’t make any significant holes because of their headless design, and greater gauge size. If you work with an extremely delicate wood product, then you might be requiring little help of wood putty.

Finish nailers do require wood putty, but when compared with other nail guns, it is comparatively less.

Final Words

There is no doubt that nailers save you a lot of time. But there are various types of nail guns available in the market, so it becomes a little tough to find the right one according to your personal needs. When you’re looking to pick between a brad nailer vs finish nailer, no type is better than the other. It all depends on the kind of job you’re looking to perform with it.

A brad nailer can be perfect for smaller projects which use delicate trims, while a finish nailer helps to deal with more significant projects and can be used over various kinds of materials and provides a lot more holding power than a brad nailer.

At last, if you do not have a tight budget, you can always go for a kit that includes both the types as they will surely help you tomorrow, if not today.

About Robert Bennett

Hey there! I'm Robert from San Antonio, Texas. I've worked as a carpenter for six years, and I'm very passionate about writing on stuff related to woodworking and DIY. I love to spend my free time working in the workshop or playing with my kids.