Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer – The Differences

Brad nailers are often smaller than finish nailers and use small brad nails and staples to attach wood trims to different wooden surfaces.  The difference between the two can be hard for some novice carpenters and construction workers.

Nevertheless, their size should be the first hint that they are completely two different machines, designed to function differently.

The only way you can know the difference is by knowing, the characteristics of each nail gun. Otherwise, you might confuse many important basics when it comes to using.

Here is a look at these two types of nail guns and how you can easily differentiate them for effective use.

Brad Nailers

Brad nailers are often designed to fire small brads, thus the name. Most often accommodate small 18 gauge brads of 5/8 to 2 ½-inches in length. Brad nails are often thinner with small heads that are often invisible on any wood trim. They never leave any visible nail holes and if they do, it is very easy to fill.

Besides, their size makes it easy to have a clean finish, which in the end saves you loads of time and money.

The best thing about brad nailers and brad nails is that it can never split any wood trim no matter how lightweight it is. You can easily use it to attach any small wood trim to a wooden surface without any issue. Likewise, some brad nailers often accommodate staples unlike finish nailers, which use nails only.

You can also use a brad nailer to temporarily, hold two glued pieces of wood or any other material you want to glue together. You can then opt to remove the brad nails with pliers, as they are very tiny and will not cause any damage to your material or wooden surface.

In addition, brad nailers are often very versatile and can be used for loads of home renovation projects. You just have to know what it can do and you will be good to go.

The only downside is that the brad nails cannot go through walls and heavy wood materials including medium density fiberboard, MDF or plywood. For this, you will need a much stronger nail, which can only be fitted in a finish nailer. Moreover, it does not have much power hold as a finish nailer as it does not use actual nails but brads.

As for price, brad nailers are often sought after, making it highly competitive and readily available. This makes it less expensive and easy to get.

Finish Nailers

Finish nailers are often bigger than brad nailers and can accommodate nails of 14-16 gauges with a length of 1-2.5 inches. This allows you to store varied types of nails for a secure finish.

The nails used in a finish nailer are often big and headless and often make for a good finish as they disappear nicely on the wood surface. You can easily paint it over without any issue.

Nevertheless, if it does not bury in properly into the wood due to its large head, you can always fill the nail hole with spackling or wood putty, depending on the kind of project you are working on.

Finish nailers are often designed to securely, hold nails even against a wall. They can work for loads of surfaces from wood to plaster. This is because they have a better surface grip due to nail strength and length.

As much as, finish nailers can work with, crown molding and baseboard attachment projects. It is only ideal for these kinds of projects only if you are attaching them to a drywall and not a wooden surface. As they can split the woodwork for an ugly finish. Besides, brad nails often slip into walls and do not have a better grip.

Moreover, finish nailers are often used to finish a project, as the name suggests. Therefore, you will not be able to use its nails as temporary attachments like those that a brad nailer uses. You cannot remove them either as this will damage the woodwork, unlike a brad nail.

Besides, finish nailers are highly versatile and can do the job of a brad nailer if it is fitted with the correct nail size. This gives it an upper hand over brad nailers, which are also versatile but cannot handle or hold thick wood or nail anything against the wall.

As for cost, finish nailers are generally affordable but some better-branded models often cost a lot more than brad nailers.

When to Use Brad/Finish Nailers

This often depends on whether you are finishing a job or just attaching lightweight trim on a wooden surface. In which case, you should use a finish nailer, to finish the job neatly and a brad nailer for the latter.

Moreover, you should factor in the type of wood you are using as well as the whole project. Finish nailers can easily split a wooden surface due to the level of grip power its nails have.

Nevertheless, a good carpenter always knows best and knows the need to have both tools on stand-by. It is a big investment but one that will prove worthy in the end.

Additional Information

If you are a novice carpenter, you should learn the basics of using these two nail guns before buying them. You can always start with a small nail gun like a brad nailer before moving on to a finish nailer or any other type of nail gun.

Moreover, you should always exercise safety and control while using either of them, small is not another word for safe. Remember they are guns after all, and if you handle it carelessly, it can do a lot of damage to you and your work area.


There you have it, some basic differences between a brad nailer and a finish nailer. Therefore, no more confusion when it comes to purchasing or using either of these machines.

Moreover, always read the user manual to get a grip on use and maintenance. As much as they might work almost the same, there are bits of differences in them. So, always take care when using either of them.

Emily Floate

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