Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer ( Which One Is Better & Why )

Brad Nailer VS Finish Nailer

By the look, both the brad nailers and finish nailers, are very similar. They are designed mainly for accurate nailing tools rather than for bulk nailing. For instance, the finish nailers, as their name suggests, are primarily suitable at the end of the project rather than for the entire project nailing purposes. However, each nailer has its particular role from that of the other.

Below is the individual nailer function that will help to identify the differences.

Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer Comparison

The main difference between the finish nailer and brad nailer is that the brad nail gun is mainly designed for shooting the 18-gauge nails while the latter designed for driving in the 15- 16 gauge nails precisely. The small 18-gauge brad nail will help you push shorter nails through some delicate trims without damaging them while they finish brad nailer enables you to attach thicker trims by firmly holding them together.

A brad nailer can precisely attach moldings or thin trims without necessary using the putty while in contrast, a finishing nailer is most suitable for your woodworking jobs as well as carpentry, and it will need the use of putty to make holes through the wood for more comfortable nail driving.

Everything you wish to know about these two distinct nailers in their functionality has been well explained in the article below.  Additionally, I’ve also highlighted the main differences between each nailer for better clarification and easier identification.

What is a Brad Nailer?

Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer

A brad nailer has almost the same appearance and functions in a similar way to a nail gun, but unlike the other nailer in the market today, it doesn’t shoot nails in the real sense, but instead, it shoots brads. Note brads are necessarily thinner nails with an average gauge of about 18 and measuring precisely about 0.0475 inches in total cross-sectional length. As per their measurement, as you can see, they are too small to drive a nail, but instead, they are perfect for attaching trims and moldings.

Most of the first time DIYer users in most cases, they haven’t yet come used smaller and thinner nails. It is not a wonder if you are surprised to ask what the purpose of such more fragile nails is or where they are used. To be precise, brads nails are particularly important when joining thinner boards in which the regular-sized nails would otherwise cause cracks or damage the entire board.

Brads, therefore, become very crucial for joining such lightweight trims without breaking them. It is, therefore, essential to have brad nailers in your tool shed since they play a pivotal role in your molding and trimming or when you are applying for finishing touches on your woodworking project.

Tip. When driving a brad nail and it fails to go through the material you are fixing, never force it by hammering its head, primarily because of the thinness that can cause them to bend over, thus causing some damage to your project. Instead, pull it our rather than hammering the rest and then try to strike a new brad nail instead.

Brad Nailer vs. Finish Nailer

What are the pros of brad nailers?

  • Perfect for driving thin brad nails through some delicate moldings and trims.
  • When used correctly, the 18-gauge nail does not fragment your trim.
  • No filling of the resulting hole since it is minimal to require filling
  • It is also suitable in relatively smaller baseboards and plywood measuring up to ½-inch.

What are the cons of brad nailers?

  • The smaller bard nail is not suitable for handling large boards, heavy molding, and woods.
  • Not fit to apply on tight spaces and hard to reach corners

What is a Finish Nailer?

Finish Nailer vs Brad Nailer

Much like the brad nailer, the finish nailer has similar uses to it. It has specific uses hence not suitable for most of the woodwork projects but rather for particular project purposes. You are required to get it only for specific finishing tasks such as those requiring finish nailers at an angled base.

Finish hailer, as stated earlier, is needed when you want to put up a molding or a clean surface as opposed to using the regular nail gun. Finish mailer’s lies at the middle of brad nailers and heavy duty nail guns such as the framing nailers. In simple terms, they don’t lie of both extreme ends but at the center.

The average finish nailer can put up nail size from one to two and a half inches in length. Most of these nails are headless and hence possible to bend them on the wood surface without anyone realizing although it is quite challenging to remove them from the wood once nailed.

Finish Nailers

 What are the pros of Finish Nailer?

  • It can drive nails of 15 to 16-gauge, which are quite stronger hence offering offer higher holding strength.
  • Finish nails are excellent to use in building furniture, woodworking, plywood, fixing large baseboards as well as attaching more substantial crown moldings since they are relatively more significant to connect larger object sizes.
  • Finish nailers are usually multipurpose hence suitable for various work types
  • The 15-gauge nail guns, which are particularly collated at a certain angle, can reach extreme corners.

What are the cons of Finish Nailer?

  • Driving bigger nails means creating larger holes on the surface that require filling. It, therefore, means additional putty work for a carpenter of covering the nail hole.
  • Not suitable for fixing narrow boards as well as thin trims.

Brad Vs Finish Nailer

The main differences between the brad and finish nailers

So far, we have emphasized the similarities of both the finish and brad nailers guns. For instance, both are meant for special nail driving functions. They are both less powerful and intended to drive smaller nails as opposed to the regular nail guns. With that in mind, make no mistake of confusing their uses, such as assuming you may use them interchangeably. Let me now explain the main differences between these two different nailer guns for further clarification.

The resulting hole size

Firstly, each nailer gun creates a hole of different size from that of the other on the wood you are using. Any woodworker will agree that when you use a nail gun on the wood, you will be required to apply putty as a way of filling in holes made by the nail gun. Well, this holds with finish nailer since the gaps created by the finish nailer are often more significant and require applying a little quantity of putty but not as much as with regular nail guns. On the other hand, brad nailers leave no noticeable holes and therefore require no use of filling material at all.

The size of nails used

The brad nailer is specifically for shooting the 18-gauge nails while the finish nails guns for driving in the 16 to 15 gauge nails.

The nail gun Power

Finish nailers since they shoot larger nails are relatively more potent as compared to brad nailers.  For instance, assume you are driving nails on a relatively thicker trim that requires sharp attaching pins. In such a situation, if you use brad nails, you risk having the trim falling. On the other hand, if you use finish nails to attach a thinner trim, you risk causing it to break or develop unpresentable cracks.

Its uses

As stated earlier, one key difference between these two nailers is that brad nailers won’t cause cracks on a thin piece of plywood, unlike the finish nailer. Another key difference is how capable the nailer is suitable for driving nails at the corners.  For instance, most carpenters prefer brad nailers over finish nailers since the latter causes more damages while driving nails at the edge.

How to make the best choice between a brad or finisher nailer?

Making the final decision on whether to go for finish or a brad nailer can be quite challenging, particularly among amateurs. However, the thickness and the weight of the surface you intend to attach is the primary determiner of the nailer gun is suitable for you. For example, if your project involves working on something thick or hardwood, then the finish nailer should be your first choice, while for soft and thinner materials such as plywood, then brad nailer is your best choice. Most people prefer the finish nailer over brad nailer due to its more comprehensive range of uses. If, for instance, you are planning to make a tool shed, I would recommend you buy a finish nailer.

Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer

FAQ: Brad vs Finish Nailer, Which is the best for your job?

Here I want to answer the most frequently asked questions relating to the uses of the finish and brad nailer. You can also email me for any specific and urgent issues.

Are brad nailers suitable for trim project?

The answer is yes. Brad nailer is the best choice for molds and lightweight trims.

Which are the best nails for baseboards?

The 18-gauge brad nailer is the best for installing a baseboard since it involves lightweight materials. Ensure to use the one and a half inch long nails for the best outcomes. However, note that if your baseboard includes heavy and hefty metals, then consider installing it using the finishing nailer. Remember to predrill a hole near the edges to avoid the finish nails splitting your board. Such a predrill hole should be relatively thinner than the nail diameter for best results.

Can the finisher nailer use brad nails to attach items?

The answer is no! Remember, the brad nails are usually around 18 –gauge with a  diameter of about 0.0475 inches (1.2mm) while a finisher nailer can handle nails of 16 to 15 – measure (Ø0.0625 inches and Ø0.0720inches) respectively. It, therefore, means the finisher nailer gun, when loaded with brad nails, will cause an error of shooting two pins per shot, thus causing inefficiency and unsatisfactory end results. Further, it can result in a machine gun to jam and break it or even cause an injury to you by the flying metal pieces.

Can I use the finish nailer or brad nailer for a hardwood floor?

Although the flooring nailer is the best for installing hardwood, you can as well as use a 15-gauge finish nailer to install your hardwood floor installations. Note brad nails can’t penetrate wood easily, so they aren’t efficient in such a case.

Which nailer should I use for a crown molding?

Most of the mold is lightweight, and therefore a brad nailer can work efficiently. However, crowns involving extensive and large crown moldings, brad nails won’t hold them together correctly, so the finishing nails are the ideal options for them.

Brad nailer or Finish nailer for shiplap installation?

Although I have not personally experimented many times with shiplap walls, from my observations of many shiplap, most of them are installed with either the finish nailer or the framing nailer

Brad nailer or finish nailer for shoe molding and quarter round?

The 18 gauge brad nailers and the 23 gauge pinner are the best for the quarter round. For shoe molding, 1-1/2 long nails brad nailer can work fine.

Two essential tips for you.

  1. The brad nails are chisel edged rather than rounded. Ensure to position the nailer in such a way that crosses the molding grain to avoid the chisel edge cracking the molding.
  2. Avoid nailing directly into the wooden floor since incase of season changes, the floor is likely to contract or expand, and this means pulling the molding along with it, thus causing it damages on the floor.


A useful guide is essential as a guiding tool, especially when confronted with a tough buying decision. The good news is that this guide has everything that you need to identify and pick the best nailer for your project. Again if you feel you are not yet sure whether you need a brad or a finish nailer and the local hardware can’t help you too, then come with a sample of what you would like to make, and we will help you make the right choice for you.

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