Difference between Brad Nailer and Finish Nailer
By Theydiffer - December 13, 2016

Brad nailers and finish nailers are extremely useful nail guns that have found their way into many DIY tool sets. While these tools look identical, they each serve specific purposes. The difference lies in the size of nails these power tools use and this determines how each serve their purposes.


Getty Images/Moment/Kypros

A brad nailer is a power tool used in fastening 18-gauge brad nails, hence the name. Brad nails are small, fine wire nails that are very difficult to drive with a hammer. This type of nail has a small head that makes it almost invisible on small pieces of wood trim. Its insertion point is small enough that wood putty is usually not needed to conceal it. Surface splitting can also be avoided wherever brad nails are used. It must be noted though, that brad nails rank low in holding power given their small size.

Carpenters also use the brad nailer because it does not require the use of clamps. It is used when working on casings, moldings, and doors. Many carpenters would also use a brad nailer to hold down corners of wood, as brad nails don’t usually cause surface cracks.

Getty Images/EyeEm/Valentyn Semenov / EyeEm

A finish nailer is another type of nail gun designed specifically for carpentry finishing work. It is quicker and more efficient than manual means. These nailers can be pneumatic or electric and are used to fasten 15 and 16-gauge finishing nails. This allows the user to work on relatively bulky wood trim. Finishing nails are 5/8 inches (15.9 millimeters) to 2.5 inches (63.5 millimeters) long.

Finishing nailers are used to drive the final nails in detailed carpentry work. They are also used on bigger wood projects such as wardrobes, dressers, and even outdoor carpentry work. A finishing nail is often used on hard wood, but can also be easily concealed in soft wood when driven thoroughly. It provides more holding strength than a brad nail. Wood corners are likely to crack when finish nails are used, and wood putty is typically needed to cover insertion points on the wood’s surface.

Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer

So what’s the difference between a brad nailer and a finish nailer? Although both are quick and efficient tools for fastening or driving nails, each is designed for a specific purpose.

A brad nailer uses 18-gauge brad nails that are 5/8 inches (15.9 millimeters) to 2 inches (50.8 millimeters) in length. It is primarily used for lighter wood trims such as casings, moldings, doors, and even handicrafts. Finish nailers are often used to drive 15 and 16-gauge nails on thicker wood projects such as cabinets and dressers. Finish nails are 5/8 inches (15.9 millimeters) to 2.5 inches (63.5 millimeters) long.

The insertion point made by brad nailer is small, and may not require wood putty to touch it up. It is small enough not to cause surface splitting. A finish nailer shooting a 15 to 16-gauge wire can create a visible hole that will need some concealment. It can also split the surface of smaller wood trims, whereas a brad nailer will not.

Comparison Chart

Brad NailerFinish Nailer
Uses 18-gauge brad nailsUses 15 and 16-gauge finish nails
Insertion point not noticeableNoticeable insertion point
Almost no surface splitting on small wood piecesLikely to cause surface splitting on smaller pieces of wood
Used in casing, moldings, handicraftsUsed in baseboards, cabinets, crown molding