How to Choose Brad Nails for Your Woodworking or DIY Project

A visit to any hardware store during home improvement can be quite mind-boggling if you don’t have an idea of the exact brad nails that you’re looking for and what your project requires. The truth is that there is a baffling array of brad nails at our disposal. Therefore, you ought to do your homework first to avoid the daunting task of getting the right nail to secure your project.

Importantly, nothing is as important as having your project kick off without a hitch. See, when doing any construction project, there are a variety of brad nails needed for different purposes. Evidently, many models resemble but what many don’t know is that there are certain peculiar features that set each brad nail apart from the other.

To tackle this, you just need to be sure of the right brad nails for what project. This will undoubtedly help in making an informed decision before procuring the brad nails. The following text will decipher which brad nails to choose for your project thus making it easy to purchase the right brad nails without struggle.

How To Choose The Right Brad Nail For Your Project?

The first consideration when choosing the right brad nail is to determine what type of jobs you’ll be doing. Brad nails come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but all perform similar function. Below are some factors you should consider:

1.     Length

What length brad nail do I need? This is the most common question in brad nail selection since different building codes require different nail lengths. Considering that, there are two prevailing rules of thumb to help get the right brad nail size.

  • Rule of Thumb 1: Ensure the brad nail is at least 3 times the length of the material being nailed through.
  • Rule of Thumb 2: Use a nail that doesn’t penetrate through the material being nailed but one that goes to at least 3/4.

To err is human, considering this, if you’re to err on brad nail length selection, better use one that is longer than too short.

2.     Sizing

Brad nails are sold according to penny size, i.e. 8d, 12d, 16d etc., where ‘d’ stands for the penny on the British monetary denomination. Penny sizing simply refers to the length of the nail whereby the larger the penny number the larger the nail and vice versa. Gauge refers to the thickness of the brad nail and not the length. You can have different lengths in each different size gauge. If you’re looking for a good all-around brad nails, I’d suggest the 18-gauge. for its versatility.

3.     Interior or Exterior

If the brad nails are to be exposed, then they need to be up to the task. Using interior nails on the outside results to their rusting and shortly thereafter, they bleed through the paint and fail. The following would do as exterior brad nails:

  • Electro-Galvanized. Thinly coated with zinc to strengthen their resistance to rust.
  • Hot-Dipped-Galvanized. They’re immersed in molten zinc during their manufacture. They’re rust resistant and are highly for pressure treated wood which usually cause corrosion of standard brad nails.
  • Stainless Steel. They’re a perfect blend of alloys in the steel and are guaranteed not to rust. For instance, if your project is on the coast where they are salt water spray, there are the nails that you need.

4.     Shank Patterns

Just like there is a brad nail for every project, there is also a different shank pattern for varied tasks as well. Below are some popular patterns and how to use them.

  • With a smooth shank and zero frills, it’s a standard all-purpose brad nail.
  • Ring. They add holding power to ensure maintenance of the nails in place. Popular for roof decking.
  • Spiral. Normally used with hardwoods. They usually spin as they are shot in thus an additional holding power than common nail thus preventing splitting wood.

Also See: Best Brad Nailer

Brad Nail Size Chart

As discussed above, there are peculiar brad nail’s lengths, sizing and gauge for varied projects. It’s imperative to consider the relation between nail lengths and nail gauge using the below charts. Using the wrong brad nail may result to damage on the work surface.


From the chart above, size ‘60d’ i.e. nail A represents the largest nail since the larger the penny number the larger the nail, reverse is true.

The gauge numbers above show the thickness of the brad nails. As you can see, there can be different lengths for different gauge sizes.

Importantly, safety is a concern when using any type of brad nails, safety goggles should be worn. Obviously, you should keep your fingers clear of the firing path.

Brad Nail Features That You May Want To Consider

Considering the features of a brad nail is vital in helping you make an informed decision when you want to buy them. Nail features play a part in enhancing the characteristics of the nails depending on size and model. Three main features to consider are:

  • Nail Head. The different types include flat head, checkered flat head, countersunk head and cupped head.
  • Nail Shank. The different nail shanks that serve varied purposes include smooth shark, barbed shank and screw shank
  • Nail point: It determines how easy it will be to drive the nail during operation. The different types include long diamond, diamond and blunt. Diamond point nails are the most popular.

Buying The Right Brad For Your Project

If you now have all the information you need on brad nails, you’re now good to go ahead and buy the right nails that will best suit your project. Depending on your requirements, you can now choose the sizes, heads, shanks and points that suits your project. This will not only help you with your budget but also ensure you spend wisely.

In case you’re running many projects that need varied types of brad nails, buy an assortment of nails to help you finish your project in time. An assortment is a great asset since you don’t know when you need to do a few repairs in the house. Brad nails are available in virtually all stores, hardware and discount stores. Since they don’t expire, however long you have them, they will serve their purpose.


Choosing the right brad nails for your project is not rocket science. However, it’s the sole difference between a perfectly finished piece of woodwork or unfiled project. Evidently, the success of your project will depend on how informed you are in choosing the nails that work for the project.

Undoubtedly, there are myriad things to talk about when it comes to this subject, but I don’t have time for an encyclopedia like post for this occasion. Above is a good primer to enlighten on the most essential things you need to know in choosing the right brad nail for the right job.

All factors discussed above are crucial for the success of your project, now and in future, knowledge being power, having information to help you in the future won’t hurt, right?

Importantly, in case of any doubts about which brad nail for which project, reference into your local building codes may prove handy since these requirements vary across the country. Ultimately, choosing the right brad nails for your project for the first time may deem to be hard but at the end, all the power kicks in, and you’re good to go.

Emily Floate

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