There are a few different types of nailers to choose from including framing nailers, roofing nailers, siding nailers, finish nailers and brad nailers. In this article, we’ll explore the world of finish nailers. Finish nailers are great for internal carpentry. This includes applications such as crowning, molding, base boarding, and chair railing.
Basically, finish nailers allow you to elevate the aesthetic appeal of your work. If you want to add some flair and personality to your work, you will love our list of the best finish nailers of 2020. I know you’re eager to find out what is the best finish nailer on the market. So, without wasting more time, let’s dive right in with the winner of our tests, the Dewalt D51257K.
(Best for the money)
(Best Cordless option)
|Hitachi NT65MA4||5 Years||4.3/5|
|PowRyte Basic 100191||2 Years||4.1/5|
Typically, a pneumatic finish nailer’s list price ranges from $250 to $300. If you go by the discounted prices, they cost between $150 and $200. The DEWALT D51257K’s price falls within this typical range. So, this product is reasonably priced. Now, let’s look at its performance and functions.
This finish nailer uses 16-gauge nails between 1 inch and 2.5 inches long. You can use finish nails from size 2d to size 7d, and perhaps even size 8d, without any problems. This will cover most of your interior carpentry needs. Bear in mind, this is a straight finish nailer. If you use the tool upright, you’re not going to have any problems. But, if you try using it at an angle, you will run into accessibility issues.
As for features, the DEWALT D51257K comes with tool-free depth adjustment, tool-free jam clearing, 360° adjustable exhaust, adjustable belt hook, and no-mar tip. In short, it includes everything except an actuation selector.
The model comes with a sequential trigger pre-installed. If you want to run the machine in bump mode, you must buy and install the bump action trigger kit separately. Unless you’re working on time-constrained and large-scale projects, you can get by without bump mode. So, you can omit this shortcoming as it is fixable if needed.
Lastly, the D51257K comes with a 3-year limited warranty, along with a year of free service and a 90-day money-back guarantee. When I look at all that I’m getting, this product does justice to its price tag. There’s no doubt about it, this is the best 16-gauge finish nailer on the market.
This product’s price tag puts it in the category of low-cost pneumatic finish nailers. But, for a low-cost option, this product sure does have a lot of features. Like the DEWALT D51257K, our top pick, the NuMax SFN64 offers an ergonomic design, tool-less depth adjustment, no-mar tip, a sequential actuation trigger, and adjustable exhaust. Even the gauge and range of nails are the same for both machines.
The similarity doesn’t end there. Both machines are straight finish nailers, their dimensions are nearly the same, they weigh almost the same, and they have the same magazine capacity. So far, the Numax SFN64 is standing toe to toe with the champ.
Coming to the differences, the SFN64 does not have an adjustable belt hook. This could be a problem if you’re not working on the floor. Another factor that’s different about the SFN64 is that it has a quick jam release, not tool-less jam release. Although the jam release allows you to access the jammed nail quickly, you may need a screwdriver or pliers to remove the jammed nail. This is where the D51257K scores a lot of points against the SFN64.
NuMax grants a warranty of 1-year on this product. This may seem like not a lot. But, consider the context – you’re paying approximately what a meal for two would cost and getting a year’s worth of protection. In my opinion, that’s a pretty good deal.
Now, we come to a new category of finish nailers, the cordless type. If you work somewhere it is impractical to carry a compressor, the Paslode 902400 is the best cordless finish nailer you can buy. But, you should be aware that cordless finish nailers cost a lot more than pneumatic finish nailers. So, don’t compare the 902400 with pneumatic finish nailers.
Performance-wise, this machine accepts 20° angled 16-gauge nails between 1.25 inches and 2.5 inches long. So, you can’t use 2d nails with this nailer. Another notable difference is that this is an angled finish nailer. Angled finish nailers allow easy access to hard to reach areas. At the same time, angled nails cost more than straight nails. So, the long-term cost of operating an angled finish nailer is greater than that of operating a straight finish nailer.
Another factor that increases the operating cost for this finish nailer is its need for a fuel canister. The power to operate the machine comes from a gas canister and a 7.4 Li-ion battery. The battery lasts for 6000 nails per charge and the fuel lasts for 1200 nails per canister. The canisters are easy to swap and the battery takes less than 30 minutes to charge fully. This keeps the downtime on this machine to a minimum.
Paslode offers a 5-year limited warranty on this machine. More importantly, it gives a 1-year “full” warranty as well. Since the product is expensive, this sort of purchase protection gives me a lot of confidence.
If you’re looking for one of the best 15-gauge finish nailers on the market, the Hitachi NT65MA4 is a product worth considering. It’s a pneumatic finish nailer with a 34° magazine angle. The angled magazine allows you to take your nailer to places where a straight finish nailer can’t reach.
But, what excites me most about this machine is the actuation mode selection switch. Using the switch, I can easily shift from sequential mode to bump mode without any trouble. In addition to this, the NT65MA4 also has a no-mar tip, an adjustable exhaust, an integrated air duster, and an ergonomic grip.
What this machine lacks is a tool-free jam release system. Although most of the release process is tool-free, you will need a screwdriver to remove the jammed nail. In a way, this is like the quick jam release mechanism on the NuMax SFN64. You should also know that this machine cannot use 1-inch nails. The smallest size of nail it accepts is 1.25 inches, and the largest size is 2.5 inches.
Now for the best part, the Hitachi NT65MA4 comes with a 5-year limited warranty. Overall, this is a great alternative for those who want bump mode actuation and amazing purchase protection at a reasonable cost.
The most attractive quality of the PowRyte Basic 100191 is its price. This is the cheapest finish nailer on our list. Everyone can afford to buy one. But, does everyone need one? Let’s have a closer look. This product is a straight finish nailer that accepts 16-gauge nails from 0.75 inches to 2 inches. As you can tell, this nailer is meant for smaller sized nails. If you want to install thick baseboards, crowns, and casings this is not the product for you. However, if you want to do some light work like cap molding or shoe molding, this machine will suit your needs.
The 100191 includes a no-mar tip, an anti-dry fire mechanism, a 360° adjustable exhaust, sequential actuation mode, and belt hook. However, there’s no tool-less jam release system. More importantly, the machine does not have a depth selector.
Now, the question is, can I get by without that? Well, it depends. If I need a cheap finish nailer for a one-time project, then I wouldn’t mind buying this one. It provides bare minimum functionality at a throwaway price. On the other hand, if I am looking for something long-term, then this finish nailer won’t make the cut.
Selecting a finish nailer requires you to match the tool’s capability with your intended use. If you’ve never owned a finish nailer, this might be hard to do. So, I’ll walk you through the types of finish nailers and their application.
Gauge size is a popular way to categorize finish nailers. Gauge tells you the thickness of the nail the nailer uses. Here’s an example to illustrate how this works: Consider an 18-gauge nail. The number “18” lets you know that if you stack 18 of those nails, the stack will measure one inch tall. In other words, the gauge is just the number of nails per inch.
Now, for a 23-gauge nail, the number of nails per inch is 23. Thus, 23-gauge nails are thinner than 18-gauge nails. The main takeaway here is that as the gauge increases, the thickness of the nail decreases.
Two factors influence gauge selection: holding power and hole size. As the gauge increases, holding power decreases. So, a 15-gauge nail can carry more weight than a 23-gauge nail. However, the size of the hole that the nail creates decreases as the gauge increases. Consequently, a 15-gauge nail will leave a hole much larger than a 23-gauge nail.
Using holding power and the size of the hole as metrics, you can select the right gauge for your needs. Here’s a quick summary of each gauge and its application:
So, what do you want to accomplish with your nailer? Once you can answer that question, you can use the information above to select the right gauge for your finish nailer. After selecting the gauge, you must choose between straight finish nailers and angled finish nailers. In the next section, I’ll explain the differences between the two.
I know the gauge I need. But, how do I choose between a straight finish nailer and an angled finish nailer?
If you look at a straight finish nailer, you will see that the nail cartridge is perpendicular to the tip of the nailer. Now, in an angled finish nailer, the nail cartridge angles towards the grip. Due to this design, angled finish nailers offer easy access to hard to reach areas.
However, angled finish nailers are more expensive than straight finish nailers. Another fact you must consider is the nail cartridge. Nails for angled finish nailers cost more than the nails for straight finish nailers.
The angled finish nailer can do anything a straight finish nailer can. But, the reverse is not true. So, in my opinion, you should go for the angled finish nailer if you work at non-traditional angles. As your carpentry skill develops, you may find a straight finish nailer limiting.
Depending on the brand of your finish nailer, the cost difference between straight finish nails and angled finish nails becomes significant. For instance, a pack of DEWALT 2-inch 16-gauge angled finish nails costs twice as much as a pack of DEWALT 2-inch 16-gauge straight finish nails.
Therefore, the cost of operating an angled finish nailer is higher than the cost of operating a straight finish nailer. Unless you see yourself working at difficult angles, a straight finish nailer is better than an angled finish nailer, from an economic point of view.
What are some other important factors I should consider before selecting a finish nailer?
The gauge of the nails and the angle of the cartridge are the two main factors you should consider. In addition to this, these are some other important factors to look at:
Great, I’m looking forward to buying one. What are my options?
First, I suggest that you look at the products on our list of the best finish nailers of 2020. You’re likely to find what you need among the products there. But, if you want to use the information in the buying guide to do your own research, here are some brands I recommend: DEWALT, Bosch, SENCO, Hitachi, Paslode, and WEN.
Before I announce my personal favorite, let’s briefly go through the products on our list. First, we have the DEWALT D51257K. It’s reasonably priced, it has all the essential features, and it comes with a decent warranty. Then, we move on to the NuMax SFN64. If you’re looking for a great finish nailer in the budget segment, this is the tool for you.
In addition to these two, we talked about the Hitachi NT65MA4 and the PowRyte Basic. While the former gives a performance advantage at the cost of economy, the latter offers the opposite – economy advantage at the cost of performance. Lastly, we have the Paslode 902400, which is the no-brainer option if you’re going for a cordless finish nailer.
Now, which one would I buy? The DEWALT D51257K. Its only functional disadvantage is that it doesn’t offer bump mode actuation. But, you always have the option of buying and installing a bump mode trigger kit. So, this limitation is not necessarily permanent – I can do something about it. That’s why I’ll go for this machine.
If our top pick is not right for you, don’t worry about it. This guide has all the information you need to do your research. Even if your dream finish nailer is not on our list, I’m certain there’s one on the market that’s perfect for you. Hopefully, this guide has made it easier for you to find it.
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Hi there! My name is Adam and I write for HealthyHandyman. I have a great passion for writing about everything related to tools, home improvement, and DIY. In my spare time, I'm either fishing, playing the guitar, or spending quality time with my beloved wife. You'll also often find me in my workshop working on some new project!