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

a framing nailerWhile advent of the nail gun revolutionized the way we nail wood, to many people it is still a marvelous new invention that has yet to be used. The different types and their functions must be investigated.

The Framing Nailer

Large projects, whether building a deck, finishing a basement recreation room or framing a shed or garage, require a framing nailer. A heavy duty nailer, it makes light work of the heavier types of carpentry work, suitable for the 3 ½” nails needed to construct framing, etc. with 2 x 4 studs. There are two kinds of framing nailers – the clipped head and the round head.

The advantages and disadvantages of round head nails over clipped head nails, and vice versa, is a topic of great and ongoing debate. In terms of nailers, the clipped head nailer is often preferred because the magazine is able to hold more nails, meaning less time spent in reloading. However, like the nails themselves, there is great debate over which type is best. Suffice to say, a clipped head nailer is probably the best choice for high volume work.

The Finish Nailer

finish nailerAs its name indicates, the finish nailer is used for finishing, i.e. for fastening trims, baseboard, moldings and paneling. It is also the one to use for cabinetry and building furniture.

The finish nailer is used with thinner and shorter nails than the framing nailer, generally 14 to 16 gauge 1 to 2 ½ inch nails allowing a smaller imprint on the wood. Some have a rubber tip that can be slipped over the nose to prevent to prevent damage to the wood or molding. Finish nailers also have a safety nose which is depressed before the trigger can engage.

While each is designed for a specific purpose, both framing and finish nailers are available in air compression and cordless models. The main differences are in the delivery of the power to fire the piston that drives the nail into the wood – either via air compression or by a fuel cell and battery. There are also two types of firing action – dual-contact, which lets you fire a nail each time you touch the wood while squeezing the trigger and sequential firing where you set up and fire each nail separately.

The nailer – for whichever purpose – is a power tool that is continuously being improved upon, so it is always best to take the time to research your purchase before you make it.