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Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer difference: What’s the Best in 2018?

Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer

When it comes to deciding what’s better in the brad nailer vs finish nailer difference, figuring out which one actually wins won’t be a simple task. Every buyer will have his winning features and tool types. While it is quite easy to understand which tool does what, you may struggle a bit if you do not know what you need.

Difference between brad nailer and finish nailer

Brad nailers and finish nailers are very different yet somewhat similar. For some people, the differences will be critical. We talk about operators who know exactly what they want from their tools. They have wrapped their heads around the subject and now know which one would suit them best.

But if you won’t be doing some particular jobs and just want to get a tool for whatever reason, you might find the brad nailer vs finish nailer comparison quite confusing. Not in the matter of “so what’s the difference” but in the matter of “which one should I pick”?

We have prepared a little matching of brad and finish nailers. Hopefully, it will be able to make it clear which tool type you should go for. We will focus on both what’s different and what’s not so crucial, so you fully understand the difference between nail guns.

 Best Brad Nailer Comparison Chart

DEWALT DC608K: (best electric/cordless 18 Gauge Brad Nail Gun)
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PORTER CABLE 18 Gauge Brad Nailer Review: PORTER CABLE PCC790LA
DEWALT DC608 Brad Nailer Reviews
  • DEWALT Bare-Tool DC608B
  • Power source
    Electric Cordless
  • Magazine Capacity
  • Gauge
SENCO FinishPro 18 Gauge Brad Nailer

 Compare Finish Nailer vs Brad Nailer: Nail size

Nail size is the main thing differentiating brad nailers and finish nailers. Brad nailers take 18-gauge nails (also called brads, hence the name of the tool) while finish nailers mostly work with 16-gauge nails. Some finish nailers drive 15-gauge nails. The logic behind all those gauge numbers is that the higher the number, the thinner the nail is, so 15-gauge nails are thicker than 16-gauge, and 16-gauge nails are thicker than 18-gauge brads.

Nail thickness directly affects the range of applications the tool could be used efficiently in. The thickest nails can do something that thin nails cannot, and vice versa. Generally, the thicker the nail, the stronger and denser materials it can go through without bending.

Additionally, thicker nails obviously have bigger nail heads, which means that they would leave bigger holes in the material. And the bigger the holes, the more noticeable they become, so you would need to putty them if you want to make the workpiece look tidier.

So what does this all mean regarding finish nailers and brad nailers? The thing is that 16- or 15-gauge finish nailer work better with heavier materials while 18 gauge brad nailers would be much more suitable for more delicate materials, which would be damaged by thicker nails.

So it turns out that brad nailers are best for weaker elements, and finish nailers can go through much harder pieces. Besides, the stronger finish nails can hold in place heavier workpieces, unlike brads.

Another feature of nails is their length, but it will be the same with either finish and brad nailers. While length is essential, it is not the factor making the tools different. Length determines how deep the nail can go while width shows how heavy materials the nail can pierce and hold in place.

Read our best brad nailer review here.

Brad Nails vs Finish Nails: Functions

From the standpoint of functions, brad and finish nailers do not have some specific features distinguishing one from the other. You can’t just look at a tool and say, “It has X feature, it surely is a brad nailer!” The features would vary between different types of nail guns but not types of tools. Although it is more likely that you see a certain feature in one or the other type.

For example, because brad nailers are much more precise and are praised for their overall better accuracy, you could find many more brad nailers with only sequential mode than finish nailers. The sequential mode allows for more precision by driving one brad at a time. This would make more sense with brad nailers, although we cannot say that finish nailers do not need accuracy.

Some of the features are more related to the power source of the tool than the thickness of the nails. Pneumatic tools typically have rear exhaust to drive away oil while electric nailers don’t have it because it is just not necessary. Another such feature is swiveling hose attachment.

As for other functions, there is nothing that could surely indicate the type of the tool. Even the magazine capacity is the same, which makes not so much sense because you could fit more thin brads than finish nails in the same magazine, right? Strangely, that’s not the case. You will typically see tools with around 100 nail capacity regardless of the type. Some tools can accept more while others take less.

So all in all, when people choose between brad and finish nailers, they do not do so because of some exclusive features. People just know what each of the tools is capable of and pick what is required the most. We advise you not to focus on the features and instead look into your needs when comparing a brad nailer vs finish nailer.

Best Finish Nailer Comparison Chart

Hitachi NT50AE2 
Hitachi NT65MA4 
Paslode 902400

Difference between Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer

Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer: Pricing

The price of brad and finish nailers differs slightly, but the variations will not be substantial. An over $200 brad nailer has the same functions as a finish nailer for the same price. Things somewhat making the cost of the tools different is their power, reliability, materials, and functionality.

What matters much more with the price is whether the tool is pneumatic or electric. Usually, electric tools cost much more than pneumatic. This applies to both brad and finish nailers. But there is something more specific regarding power sources.

While electric brad and finish nailer will cost you much more initially, they are much more cost-efficient in the long run because they require far less maintenance. You won’t need to think about oil check-ups and other procedures with them. On the other hand, pneumatic tools cost much less themselves, but expenses on their maintenance add up and may become even more than with electric tools.

Overall, it is quite evident that comparing the prices of these tools is not the wisest thing to do. Because they offer different features, there is no point in going for the cheaper tool. Each of them will have its place in your instrument arsenal. We think that going for one or the other for the price is not the best choice if you have concrete needs.

When to use Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer: Usage

Because the 16- and 15-gauge nails of finish nailers are significant, there are much more suitable for working on thicker and more substantial materials. The strong and bulky nails driven by your finish nailer will deal with the task of keeping a massive piece of wood in place correctly. Additionally, the tougher nails are less likely to bend when you try to drive them into thicker woods, baseboards, home improvement as well as other strong materials.

The price for such power and durability is less precision and overall roughness of the tool. You won’t be able to work with more thin and delicate materials with any finish nailer. If you try to drive the big 16-gauge nails into a wooden trim, you will probably just shatter it and render it useless. Not to mention the lower accuracy of finish nailers. Additionally, the big heads of finish nails will require you to putty the nail holes.

As for brad nailers, their advantages & disadvantages, as well as applications, mirror the ones of finish nailers. Brad nailers work with much thinner 18-gauge brads, which inevitably won’t damage less durable materials. Apart from that, handling a brad nailer is much more comfortable, which results in a much higher precision level. That’s part of the reason why brad nailers are better for delicate materials.

Overall, brad nailers are much more precision-driven, although the majority of models come with quick bump operation mode. Brad nailers can work both quickly and accurately, although you will surely feel the lower precision with the fast bump contact mode.

The main downside of brad nailers is that you cannot expect the thin and light brads to hold heavier materials. They are just not strong enough! Besides, 18-gauge brads probably won’t even go through thicker materials. Read what is a Brad Nailer and how to use it.

Brad Nail vs Finish Nail: Pros and Cons

We do not consider the price difference either an advantage or a disadvantage because as we already said, price depends on the features of the model much more than on its type. After all, they are capable of managing different tasks and cannot substitute each other.

Finish nailers

What we liked
The much bigger nails allow finish nailers to work with more substantial and thicker materials. Great for stricter nail driving projects.
What We Didn't Like
Lower accuracy. Are typically bulkier. More difficult to handle. The bigger nails will just destroy delicate materials. The big nail heads will require you to cover the holes with putty.

Brad nailers

What we liked
Are more compact. Thinner nails work much better with lighter and more delicate materials like wood trim. Are much more precise thanks to the overall easiness of handling. No need to put cover putties as the small heads of the brads do not leave visible holes.
What We Didn't Like
Won’t be capable of driving through thicker and stronger materials. The nails will not securely hold heavier workpieces in place.

These pros and cons do not take into account the power source of the tools. Regardless of whether the tool is pneumatic or electric, the features mentioned above will apply to the corresponding type. As for being either air- or battery-operated, both brad and finish nailers have the same upsides and downsides.

What we liked
A good choice if you have an air compressor. Less expensive.
What We Didn't Like
Less powerful. Less mobile. If your air compressor is electric, you won’t be able to use an air tool without a power source. Cost quite a bit more in the long run.
Cordless electric
What we liked
Mobile. Much more powerful. Requires less maintenance.
What We Didn't Like
Are more expensive. If the battery is NiCad, it will require additional maintenance because of the so-called memory effect reducing the held charge.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ):

frequently asked questions about the brad nailer

Q: Should I have both a brad nailer and a finish nailer?
A: If you are working with both heavy and delicate materials, you definitely should have both tools if you want to get good results. While buying two tools instead of one will obviously cost more, replacing damaged materials if you use improper tools could turn out much more expensive in the long run. If you want to avoid ruining your workpieces, consider buying both.

Q: Is there a point in buying an air tool and an air compressor?
A: Not if you will be buying an air compressor for that air tool only. Why buy two devices if you could purchase just one? On the other hand, if you are planning to get more air tools in the future, getting an air tool and an air compressor would make sense.

Q: I need both tools, but I can only afford one. Which one should I choose?
A: Buy the tool you need the most at the moment. For example, if installing wooden trim is your most urgent task, you should go for a brad nailer.

You could also consider buying two cheap tools instead of one expensive just for the time being. If you need a pin nailer, read our pin nailer reviews.

Click to read to our Cordless vs Pneumatic Nail gun: What’s The Best Choice?

Do you want to know Impact Driver Vs Impact Wrench: What’s the Best in 2018? Click here now.

In Conclusion

Now, you should see what we meant by “different yet similar.” There are things by which it is just impossible to instantly tell whether a tool is a brad or finish nailer. And those features are not the factors you should consider when choosing between the two tools.

What’s much more important is the kind of jobs you will be doing. Because brad nailers drive thinner 18-gauge brads, they would be better for more delicate materials.

On the other hand, finish nailers’ stronger 16- or 15-gauge nails are much more capable of penetrating harder materials. If you know what tasks you will be performing precisely, picking one or the other won’t be difficult.

But what could you do if you don’t have specific tasks? Well, the first thing to do is look into the jobs you will be doing. What do you need, precision and delicacy or penetration and more power? The right answer would put the things in their places. What if you still do not know the answer? In this case, think about it, maybe you don’t need a tool?

We recommend you to think thoroughly and research the topic of brad nailer vs finish nailer difference as much as possible. Only this way you will be able to buy what you need.

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