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Framing Nailers vs Finish Nailers: What’s the Difference?

DEWALT 20V MAX Cordless Brad Nailer Kit, 18GA (DCN680D1) (2)

Have you ever used scissors to cut a hedge? How about hedge trimmers to cut your nails? Although both of these tools are used for trimming, the two types of scissors serve different functions. If you use those clipping appliances as described, you really need to research how to clip your grass and nails.

Framing nailers and finishing nailers are the same way. They both perform the same general function. That is, they both nail pieces together, but you wouldn’t use them interchangeably either. Instead, you would use the framing nail for larger jobs, while you would use a finishing nail for small detail work.

Still, there is more to the picture than that. To find out exactly how framing nailers and finishing nailers are different, read on. We provide a complete overview of both nailer types and offer advice for choosing between the two.

Read on to find out more.

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Overview of Framing Nailers:

Framing nailers are the most heavy-duty nailers. They are perfect for heavy construction jobs and building. That is why they are called “framing” nailers – they work for jobs that require 2x4s frames and other large lumber. Most nailers are suitable for nails sized 1¼ inch to 3½ inches. These nail sizes are perfect for nailing together 2x4s that are required for large projects.

close up NuMax SFR2190

Framing Nailer Nails

Framing nailers work with nails of different sizes and lengths, but they are suitable for three nail head types: round head, clipped head, and offset head. As a result, there are three different types of framing nailers, and the framing nailer type depends on the nail head used.

  • Round Head: A round head is a typical nail. It is a perfect circle and sits directly over the nail body. These nails provide great holding power and conform to building codes. When you think of a nail, this is what you think of.
  • Clipped Head: A clipped head is like the round head with one exception. A small portion of the head is taken out of the head, making it look like a semi-circle. These nails can improve productivity since more nails per strip and paper collation provides more safety and higher work quality.
  • Offset Head: An offset head is a perfect circle, but the head doesn’t sit perfectly on the nail body. Instead, it is offset to one side of the body. They can be collated closer together, allowing you to maximize space if needed.

Framing Nailer Types

The exact framing nailer you select depends on the nail head you want. Many professionals opt for rounded head framing nailers. These nailers ensure that all buildings meet legal requirements, making round head framing nailers more reliable and dependable.

At the same time, many professionals select offset head nailers, too. To use these nails, though, you would need to check your local regulations to see if offset nails fulfill your area’s legal requirements. If they do, they look the same as full head nails from the outside, but they are more efficient.

DIYers and homeowners almost exclusively use clipped head nailers. Clipped nails do not meet most standards, which is why they are used for personal projects. They make personal projects go by faster since you won’t have to get more nails as often.

Best For

Once again, framing nailers are best for large, heavy-duty construction jobs. Here is a complete list of ways to use a framing nailer:

  • Construction
  • Homebuilding
  • Fencing
  • Roof sheathing
  • Heavy-duty carpentry
  • Plaster works

Takeaway

Framing nailers are a necessity for professionals and DIYers alike. You would use a framing nailer to nail in round, clipped, or offset head nails into large lumber. Only use this nailer for heavy-duty jobs and constructions.

Pros
  • Powerful
  • Strong enough to nail together larger pieces of lumber
  • Comes in 3 nail head options
Cons
  • Too strong for small work

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Overview of Finishing Nailers:

Finishing nailers are basically the exact opposite of framing nailers. These nailers are designed for small detail work. They provide just enough power to force the smallest nails into delicate places without splintering the wood. Since these nailers punch in barely-there nails, they are not suitable for large jobs and construction. Leave those projects to the framing nailers.

using 3PLUS HDA1564SP 15 Gauge Angled Finish Nailer

Finishing Nailer Nails

Given the purpose of finishing nailers, they are designed to force the smallest of nails into the surface. Some of the nails are visible to the naked eye, although some nails are so small that you barely see them on the surface.

You will use finishing nailers on small detail work, such as those around windows and doors. To provide just the right amount of pressure, they normally include 15-gauge and 16-gauge nails. Nails sized 1 inch to 2½ inches are most often used in finishing nailers.

It is important to mention that finishing nailers are not designed for brads. Brads, which are incredibly small and not exactly nails, require a brad nailer. Brads are not the same as nails, so they require a different tool, but you would use the brad nailer similarly to how you would use the finishing nailer.

Finishing Nailer Types

Since finishing nailers use small nails for detail work, they only use one head type. This is because the head is ideally so small that the head shape doesn’t matter. The less area the head takes up, the less you have to worry about running out of space.

For this reason, there are not multiple types of finishing nailers. All finishing nailers tend to have the same specifications about what kind of nail can be used in the nailer. Though the nails’ length may vary, the nail type shouldn’t vary among most finishing nailers.

Best For

Finishing nailers are great for small detail work that you don’t want to mess up. As their name tells, you should use these nailers to finish jobs that require delicate detailing. These nailers get the job done, but they make the finishing touches on your work look perfect and delicate.

Finishing nail guns are best for the following:

  • Installing decorative trims
  • Baseboards
  • Paneling
  • Crown moldings
  • Small furniture
  • Small DIY projects

Final Takeaway

Finishing nailers are a great choice for small, detailed work. They are different from the framing nail when they cannot handle large nails required for 2x4s and other heavy-duty materials. Instead, the finishing nailer is designed for small, precise nailing purposes. Use these nailers for molding, trim, and other delicate detail work.

Pros
  • Great for detail work
  • Does not distract from the more delicate finishing touches
  • Suitable for any small nail
Cons
  • Not powerful enough for larger projects

What’s the difference between a framing nailer and a finishing nailer?

Comparison Table

  Framing Nailer Finishing Nailer
Nails Used 1½ to 8-gauge 14 to 16-gauge
Nail Length 1¼”-3½” 1”-2½”
Use Construction

Homebuilding

Fencing

Roof sheathing

Heavy-duty carpentry

Plaster works

 

Installing decorative trims

Baseboards

Paneling

Crown moldings

Small furniture

Small DIY projects

 

Impact

The level of impact is the number one difference between the two nailer types. The difference in impact power allows the framing gun to be best for heavy-duty jobs and the finishing nailer to be best for fine, detailed work.

Since framing nailers need to press nails through thick lumber, they offer a bigger impact than the finishing nailer. This impact level is great if you accurately place the nail where you want it to go, but the power means you will have to do patch jobs if you mess up.

In contrast, the finishing nailer offers less of an impact. For fine work, this is a great feature. It means that there are fewer mess-ups, and the nails will not splinter through the material. On the flip side, the lower impact makes it less suitable for thicker materials or heavier jobs.

Accuracy

Framing nailers and finishing nailers also differ in terms of accuracy. Framing nailers are less precise than finishing nailers. The reason for this is due to the purpose of the nailer: framing nailers just bring together large pieces. Precision doesn’t matter that much.

For finishing touches, though, precision matters a lot. For this reason, finishing nailers are much more accurate than their framing counterparts. This allows the nailers to fasten small, detailed work like molding and baseboards accurately.

Category of Nails

As we discussed previously, certain nails are designated for each nailer type. On the one hand, nails up to 3½ inches are great for framing nailers. Meanwhile, finishing nails can only handle a nail up to 2½ inches. This means you will need to buy specific nails for your nailer.

Additionally, you will have to consider the nail head for the framing nailer. The head will determine what kind of nailer to get. Consult your local regulations to find out what nail heads are best for you.

What about cost?

Generally speaking, framing nailers and finishing nailers cost about the same amount. The exact model you get will determine the cost, but there won’t be a large discrepancy in price between the two nailer types. Part of the reason for this is that both nailers are equally important, just important for different reasons.

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Quick Look: Our Top Choices

  NuMax SFR2190 Pneumatic 21 Framing Nailer  3 Plus HDA1564SP 15 Gauge Angled Finish Nailer
Nails Used Full head “DA” styled angled finish nails
Nail Length 2” – 3½” 1¼”– 2½” / 15-gauge
Weight 8.58 lbs. 5.51 lbs.
Cost $ $

 

Our Favorite framing Nailer: NuMax SFR2190 Pneumatic 21 Degree 3 ½ inch Ful Round Head Framing Nailer

NuMax SFR2190 Pneumatic 21-Degree 3 ½” Full Round Head Framing Nailer

The NuMax 21 Degree 3 ½ inch Full Round Head Framing Nailer is a leading 21-degree pneumatic framing nailer. This framing nailer operates at 70-115 psi and can hold 55 fasteners. It features a depth adjustment and no-mar tip, making your job easier. The nailer even comes with an interchangeable trigger that allows you to change between quick-fire and single shot. All around, this nailer offers high-power nailing abilities that will come in handy for installing sub-floors, roof decking, and more.

Our Favorite Finishing Nailer: 3PLUS HDA1564SP 15 Gauge Angled Finish Nailer

3PLUS HDA1564SP 15 Gauge Angled Finish Nailer

The 3PLUS 15 Gauge Angled Finish Nailer uses 1¼ – 2½ inch 15-gauge “DA” style angled finish nails. The nails are propelled with a 360 degree fully adjustable exhaust portal. This makes it easier to get more precise and accurate results. It also has an interchangeable trigger with a single shot or bumper fire function. To control your nailer completely, the 3PLUS features a tool-free depth adjustment that controls the nail’s impact. As a result, this nailer is a great choice for nailing your finishing touches.

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Conclusion

Even though framing nailers and finishing nailers are both nailers, they are far from the same, and you should not use them interchangeably. Just as you wouldn’t use scissors to trim a hedge, you shouldn’t use a framing nailer to finish fine, detailed jobs.

You use framing nailers for bigger jobs, such as construction, carpentry, and decking. On the other hand, finishing nailers are best for detail jobs that are often found around doors and windows. With this in mind, decide which nailer to get based on your intended use. From there, the choice should be easy.

Just remember: find the right tool for YOUR project. That’s what it all comes down to.

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