Brad Nailer vs. Finish Nailer- Head to Head Comparison

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Maybe you've asked yourself this question: “brad nailer vs. finish nailer- which tool is better?” You'll soon realize that this isn't a good line of argument. Although both nailers have similar size and generally look alike, they have different uses.

The brad and finish nailers are popular tools amongst woodworkers. However, newbie woodworkers (or DIY-ers) usually can't tell the difference between both devices.

Like we established already, this article is not an argument about which tool is better. The question of which tool is better can only be answered within the context of the usage. And the best nailer on one project might be the worst on another.


That's why we will make a detailed comparison of the two tools instead. We'll consider the uniqueness of each tool and the conditions in which each one is ideal.

It is this knowledge you will need to guide on which tool to use every time. Now's a good time to say this: for some projects, you will find that what you need is not either the brad nailer or the finish nailer. You may need a combination of both tools for the best approach to a particular project.

That said, shall we?

Brad Nailer vs. Finish Nailer

Brad Nailer

Brad nailers are used (only) to drive a specific type of nails popularly called brads. And finish nailers are used to drive finish nails.

brad nailer

If you can distinguish between each nail and determine which is best for the project at hand, you already know which nailer you'll need. Brads are characterized by their small diameter and a little head.

Their length ranges from 5/8 to 2.5 inches. Compared with finish nails, they have weaker holding strength. Technically, they are usually 18-gauge nails. Meanwhile, don't be ruffled by the number. It is merely a means of measurement. Note this though: the higher the number, the smaller the diameter of the nail.

Finish Nailer

Finish nails, on the other hand, are relatively thicker nails- 15 or 16 gauge nails. They have high (and comparatively higher) holding strength.

finish nailer

Goes without saying, when you need a brad nail, you'll use a brad nailer, and when you need a finish nail, you'll use a finish nailer. Keep that in mind while you read this article.

Now that we have some insight into the properties of these nails, let’s see when is each one most appropriate for use!

When Working on Delicate Wood

Brads are ideal for works on delicate wood. If there’s a chance that the wood can be split by driving large materials through it, then a brad is the nail that you should consider using. A finish nail would increase the chances of the wood getting split.

However, when you're working with thick wood, such as the MDF (medium-density fireboard), a finish nail is more suitable. A brad nailer might not even go through anyway.

Temporary or Permanent Hold?

Finish nails, because of their characteristic high holding strength, are an excellent option for strong, permanent holds. Once driven through the wood, you can trust that they'll keep hold.

In contrast, brads are commonly used for temporary holds. They are often used to hold pieces of glued wood together while waiting for the glue to dry out. The brad can be easily removed when drying is complete, and it likely wouldn't leave a trace (a sizeable visible hole). This brings us to the next point.

Don't Want to Bore Holes in Your Woodwork?

If you don't want to bore large holes into your woodwork, again, the brad is for you. Because they are thin, small diameter nails, you wouldn't even require a touch-up or need to apply putty after the nail has been driven.

The reverse is the case with finish nails. When you use a finish nail, they leave large holes, and you'd most likely need to touch it up if the surface is to remain clean and beautiful.

Pneumatic or Cordless Nail Gun?

This is more of a similarity than a difference. Both the brad and finish nailer can either be pneumatic or cordless. You'll have to make a pick between which variety is best for you, and that's why we decided to do a brief description of each.

A pneumatic nail gun is one that is powered by an air compressor. Batteries power cordless nailers. A hose connects pneumatic nailers to the air compressor. By implication, it offers lesser ease of mobility.

Electrically powered nail guns, however, are less restrictive. Using a cordless nailer eliminates the possibility of tripping. A hazard that's inherently present when working with pneumatic nailers because of the hose been dragged around.


Back to where we began, brad nailer vs. finish nailer. We've established the similarities and differences between both tools. The answer to the question of which fastener is best isn't found in the nailer itself. It's determined by what each specific project needs. There isn't one size that fits all. So, clarify your needs!

Generally, brad nailers are great for small projects and finishing making jewelry boxes, small renovations around the house, and so on. While finish nailers areconsidered to be the most versatile of the pair, it is ideal for heavy-duty work.

Jose A. Brown

Jose A. Brown is a mechanic engineer and an enthusiastic blogger whose mission is to provide the readers with the best tips, guides in the Home Improvement, DIY Project, and Industry.

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