Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer – Which Nailer is Right for You

Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer-1

Both the brad nailer and the finish nailer are practical nailing tools. Those two look so much alike. They perform almost the same job but as a famous Russian saying goes – "they are similar but still different". Indeed, those are 2 very different tools that despite looking so much alike, perform different jobs. In this comprehensive brad nailer vs finish nailer guide, you will learn the difference between the brad nailer and finish nailer.

Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer - The Difference

1. Nail Size and Gauge

  • Brad Nailer

Brad nailers typically come with 5/8” (up to 2”) 18 gauge nails. They are proprietorially called “brad nails”, and rightfully so. Brad nails are very diverse, from those having heads to headless 2” nails. Brad nails are usually only 1.22mm in diameter, which is very small for a nail. In fact, brad nails are the second smallest nail that can physically fit into a pneumatic nailer.

  • Finish Nailer

Finish nailers usually come in 14 to 16 gauge with 1” to 2.5” nails. Their nails being bigger, finish nailers can nail wood firmer and stronger than its counterpart – the brad nailer. The finish nail also does not have a head, so it’s perfect for blending into the material.

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2. Function and Usage

When pitting the finish nailer vs brad nailer, it is important to understand the function of both those power tools.

  • Brad Nailer

There many usages for brad nailers. One of the most common one is doing trim carpentry. Woodworkers typically use brad nailers to nail molds, designs, frames and trims. Brad nails have a distinctive large and flat head, thus not the most visually appealing. For this reason, woodworkers use this nailer for work that is usually in the “background” – or for nailing that is out of sight.

Another very common use of the brad nailer is nailing materials together – temporarily. By using a brad nailer, you can hold 2 pieces of wood together while the end purpose is to have a wood glue set. Then, the nails can easily be removed leaving a perfectly glued piece. The headed brad nails make it easy to remove with a plier. Since brad nails are only 1.22mm in diameter, they barely damage the material when removed.

  • Finish Nailer

As its name implies, the finish nailer is exclusively for “finishing” jobs. It offers the most aesthetically pleasing appearance in the job done as the nails of the finish nailer are headless. They are easily camouflaged by the material and can be further hidden with a layer of paint or veneer.

Finish nailers do not nail materials as strong as brad nailers, and they do not have to! They are made to offer average nailing grip and bar none blending to the material.

Once nailed, finish nails are not meant to be removed, unlike the brad nail. Their lack of nail head, big gauge (15 or 16 ga) and relatively big diameter of 1.63-1.83mm are contributing factors that would surely damage the material if removed.

3. Price

  • Brad Nailer

Price is at the heart of every purchase decision. The brad nailer is one of the most popular pneumatic nailers out there. Its sheer popularity is also responsible for high competition between manufacturers – thus bring the price down. Brad nailers are more affordable than finish nailers, and good branded models can be had for as little as $70.

  • Finish Nailer

Finish nailers are also affordable nailers, but good branded models cost more than brad nailers. Many models run in the $150+ price point, with some even reaching $400. However, finish nailers are more versatile and can easily accomplish the job of brad nailer and more given the appropriate nail.

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Best Brad Nailer vs Best Finish Nailer

Each one of these power tools have their unique forte.

  • Brad Nailer

Brad nailers are excellent for making trims, molding, and paneling. DIY enthusiast even use them for their crafts. Mostly because their nails have a strong cohesive force and can easily be removed without damaging the material.

  • Finish Nailer

Finish nailers, on the other hand, are excellent “all-rounders”. They can easily accomplish the job of brad nails, although the longer and larger nails of finish nailers might damage the material if removed, as they leave a bigger hole. The headless and larger 16ga diameter nails of finish nailers make it an ideal tool for anything that needs solid fixing in a discreet manner.

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Best Pneumatic Brad Nailer Vs Finish Nailer

In our brad vs finish nailer comparison, we will pit well-known pneumatic models you may have heard of before. Of course, you will need an air compressor to operate those nailers.

Bostitch BTFP12233 (Brad Nailer)

Editor's Rating:  (4.8 / 5)

BOSTITCH BTFP12233 Smart Point 18GA Brad Nailer Kit

The Bostitch BTFP12233 is a pneumatic brad nailer that aspires to be your ideal companion for nailing on semi-soft wood. Ideal for trim, molding, and crafts, the small nose offers extreme accuracy in nailing, especially in tight spots. It supports nails of different sizes, from 5/8” to 2” 18ga brad nails.

Hitachi NT65MA4 (Finish Nailer)

Editor's Rating:  (4.7 / 5)

Hitachi NT65MA4 1-1/4 Inch to 2-1/2 Inch 15-Gauge Angled Finish Nailer

The Hitachi NT65MA4 is a much revered pneumatic framing nailer that is ideal for framing, baseboards, crowns and paneling. It has a strong penetrating force and accommodates 15ga nails (16ga model also available) of 5/8” to 2.5”. It offers many handy features like sequential firing and a tool-less fob for easy nail changing. Its lightweight also plays in its favor, especially being a pneumatic framing nailer.

Best Cordless Brad Nailer Vs Finish Nailer

Cordless nailers offer one great advantage of being more portable. They deliver better maneuverability and ability to work in awkward positions. They are also generally heavier due to their battery load.

Paslode 901000

Editor's Rating:  (4.6 / 5)

Paslode 901000 18 Gauge Finish Nailer

The Paslode 901000 is a much celebrated cordless battery-operated finish nailer. Its thinner 18ga nails can penetrate wood easily and being headless, blends extremely well to the material. You can retrofit nails or 5/8” to 2” easily with this ergonomic model from Paslode. Its narrow nose allows for very accurate work and it can easily fit into tight spots. Its comfortable “sure grip” rubber material and ergonomic form factor is a plus in our book. It is delivered with a plastic carrying case, battery charger, an Allen wrench and a spare no-mar tip.

Dewalt DC608K

Editor's Rating:  (4.6 / 5)

DEWALT DC608K 18-Volt 18-Gauge 2-Inch Brad Nailer Kit

This model from Dewalt is one of the best cordless brad nailers out there. It has a special quick-fire sequential load mechanism that can spit 18ga brad nails quickly with no vibration. It is steadily powered by a robust 18V NiCAD battery. The 18ga brads have a small diameter such that if you choose to remove them, they will not damage the material. It has many handy features, the anti-jamming mechanism being one of the most interesting ones. This brad nailer is suitable for anyone who needs to perform a lot of nailing fast.

Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer Summary

We’ve covered a lot of ground in our comparison so far. The gist is, use a brad nailer if you are working on a small project with a soft material. If you are not averse to the fact that the nail heads will be visible, a brad nailer offers excellent hold.

On the other hand, if you need your nails to be completely hidden and still require forefront nailing then the finish nailer is better for the job. It has great holding strength despite being headless. Bear in mind that unlike brad nailers, finish nails are not meant to be removed and offer permanent nailing.

Read more: Best framing nailer reviews