Tool School: Nail Guns 101


With my full time job recently starting back up, I’ve been busy catching up on projects and adjusting to my world as a weekend warrior again! That being said, while this month’s Tuesday Tool School is a bit late (if you’re new here, I host a Tool School on the first Tuesday of each month), I promise I didn’t forget! Today I’ll be tackling the ins and outs of the differing types of nailers that you can use in your workshop. I’ll be breaking down the details in this Nail Guns 101 post and then demoing some of the nailers I use in my shop on Instagram (so, be sure to check it out)!

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Introduction to Nail Guns 101

1. What Is A Nailer?

In Sam terms, if a hammer and a nail had a love child that was somehow gifted superpowers at birth… you’d have a nail gun.

Nail guns have one job – to drive nails into a material. They are seriously awesome for jobs that require power, punch, and need to be complete efficiently. There are several different types of nail guns for different jobs, and I’m going to break that down for you in a second. But, first we’ll tackle the difference between pneumatic and battery operated nailers.

2. Pneumatic Vs. Battery Operated Nailers

Two of the most common types of nail guns you will find on the market are pneumatic nailers and battery operated nailers.

Pneumatic nail guns are powered by an air compressor.

Pros: Consistently powered by air. More often more powerful.

Cons: Require a hose and a compressor, which can sometimes be bulky for smaller shops.

Cordless/Battery Operated nail guns are powered by a battery.

Pros: Cordless tools provide more opportunities for traveling with a tool.

Cons: Batteries don’t last forever, so you may need to charge your nailer in the middle of a project or have an additional battery on deck.

The type of nail gun you choose for your project will most likely depend on what fits your needs better. For example, I work in a small space and rely heavily on battery operated tools to save floor space and avoid tripping on wires and cords.

3. Types of Nail Guns

If you’re not familiar with nail guns, my goal here is to basically blow your mind with all of the options available on the market. Each nail gun has a specific purpose, so the type of project you are working on will help you decide what kind of nailer you might need. Here we go!

1. Framing Nailer

Framing nailers are the heaviest duty nailer you can use for a project. They are most often used for framing wood on larger construction jobs (hence the name). A framing nailer is ideal for working with 2x material (i.e., 2 x 4, 2 x 6, 2 x 8, etc.) as they can work with nails up to 3 ½” long.

Projects that use a framing nailer include (but are not limited to): building decks, framing a house, and building a fence.

2. Roofing Nailer

Roofing nailers are heavy duty nail guns (much like the framing nailer). This is a speciality nail gun that is used solely for the purpose of working on roofing jobs.

3. Flooring Nailer

Much like the roofing nailer, the flooring nailer is a specialty nail gun… but for flooring jobs.

4. Siding Nailer

A siding nailer is most often used for (wait for it), siding!

5. Finish Nailer

Finish nailers are most often used in carpentry jobs. They can handle larger finish nails and are utilized to join larger pieces of wood like baseboards or moldings. These nailers often have a stronger hold than brad nailers (which, we’ll talk about next).

6. Brad Nailer

Brad nailers use nails that are slightly smaller than finish nailers, and are therefore interchangeable in many occasions. Brad nailers are most often used for assembling woodworking projects and trim work.

P.S. My brad nailer is my favorite and I use it for almost every project in my shop (in case you were wondering).

7. Pin Nailer

Pin nailers are specialty nailers that use extremely thin nails. These are great nail guns for more delicate project like DIY wood art projects or projects where you want to hide the nail hole (link my DIY Sliding Barn Door). They don’t offer a ton of support, but they get the job done for thinner material!

8. Staple Gun

Now, I know what you’re thinking… “a staple gun is not a nailer”. And, technically, you’re correct. But! I included it on this list because there are many staple guns on the market that look, feel, and act like a nail gun! 

Staple guns are awesome for upholstery projects or projects that require you to join two edges together when there isn’t room for a brad nail – like a picture frame! They’re also great for attaching drawer bottoms to drawer boxes! A great example of a project I’ve used my staple gun on is my DIY Upholstered Bench!

4. What Type Of Fastener Should I Use?

how to create a barn door

This is an awesome question, and the answer is that it totally depends on the type of project you are doing and which nailer you are using! Your nail gun will dictate white type of fastener you can use in it, while the type of project will require a specific make of fastener (i.e., galvanized nails are often used for outdoor projects while stainless steel nails are often used for indoor ones).

Always make sure to do your research on the project and the nailer before starting! It’ll save a ton of headaches later.

5. What Nailer Should I Get?

I get asked this question a lot… and my answer is usually, “what nailer do you need?”

The reality is that the nail gun you need will depend on the job you do. So, sift through that list of there, brainstorm which projects you have coming up, and choose the one that works best for you!

However… if you are wondering what nail guns I recommend? Here is a list of my favorites!

1. Cordless Brad Nailer: Milwaukee 18-Gauge Brad Nailer (With Battery)

2. Cordless Pin Nailer: RYOBI Cordless Pin Nailer (With Battery)

3. Cordless Staple Gun: RYOBI Cordless Stapler (With Battery)

I hope this post was helpful to anyone looking to learn more about nail guns! If you want to see my three most used nailers in action, stop by my Instagram page and click on the “Nail Gun 101” highlight in my highlight reels! Or, check out some of the projects on my YouTube channel!

Also, don’t forget to Pin This post for later!

Until next time, friends! Happy DIY’ing!

Sam Raimondi

Sam is a full time psychologist and part time content creator from Long Island, New York.



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