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If you have, after a lot of research, chosen to buy a finish nailer because it is the nail gun that suits most of your work, you still have to decide between a 15 gauge vs 16 gauge finish nailer.
It is not an easy decision and that’s where this article comes in…we will share with you the most important information about these two nailers starting with their major differences to help you make an informed choice.
Let’s jump straight into our 15 vs 16 gauge nailer comparison…
15 Gauge Vs 16 Gauge Finish Nailer
To begin with, you and I agree that both of these nailers are designed for finish work..
The question, therefore, is there projects for which one nailer is better than the other? Sure, there are…and we shall come to that shortly.
Before then, here is the standout difference between 15 Gauge Vs 16 Gauge Finish Nailer.
Now, a 15 gauge finish nailer is an angle nailer- and that is the first major advantage this nailer has over its 16-gauge counterpart(a 16-gauge nailer is straight).
Of course, you might be well aware that an angled nailer is way easier (to get into more tight places) than a straight nailer (for the most part).
That is not all- There is a second potential advantage when it comes to the 15-ga: You see, this nailer fires 15 gauge nails.
And what is 15 ga nail diameter again? 0.0720 Inches.
What about 16 ga nail diameter? 0.0625 Inches.
Question: Have you noticed that there’s a significant difference as regards the diameters? Good.
More importantly, these have a fuller head on top too!
Which brings me to the second key pro 15-ga nailers have over 16-ga finish nailer…. The fatter and fuller-headed 15-ga nails provide better holding power than the thinner 16 ga nails (The 15 ga nails are usually between 1-1/4” to 2-1/2” in length).
On the downside, these nails (They have better heads too) leave a much larger hole than 16-GAs and will definitely require some patching to go unnoticed.
That is surely not the case when it comes to 16-Gauge finish nailers- These The 16-ga nail are not only narrower but also have a smaller head(And while you might occasionally fill in the holes, many times you can get away with it and it will pretty much go unnoticed).
Just to be clear, 16 ga nails are typically between 3/4” and 2-1/2” inches long.
So, what we are saying, in short, is that yes, the two nailers are intended for finish work but there are definitely some important strengths and weaknesses with each.
15 Gauge Vs 16 Gauge Finish Nailer- projects to use each nailer for
I know the biggest question that is now bothering you most: Exactly, for which projects should you use each nailer for..
Here is what you should keep in mind: Use the 15-ga nailer (which means 15-ga nails) for tasks where it is absolutely necessary to have more holding strength since they hold super great (think of anything you expect to move and a lot)!
For that reason, the 15-gauge nailer is the way to go whenever you’re nailing up trim and any other bigger item (but be ready to do some filling to hide the holes)
Otherwise, the 16-ga finish nailer is probably going to be useful for more jobs than the 15-ga finish nailer.
To be honest, 16ga nails are still quite strong when it comes to holding strength not to forget that the smaller chance of splitting is a huge plus).
Here is the rule of thumb to point you in the right direction if you are struggling to decide what nailer is ideal for your applications:
If what you’re nailing is ¾” and also wider than 3, you can just use the 15-ga nailer.
On the other hand, just go for the 16 for anything that is thinner than 3/4” (always remember that the 15-ga will blow through thin materials sometimes so you could need putty).
Because I want you to get this clearly, below are some examples of projects/tasks I recommend you use each nailer for.
- Hanging doors, large mouldings, casings, and even base (sometimes depending on what exactly it is)- 15ga finish nailer
- Smaller casings, smaller bases, all light trim works – 16ga finish nailer (smaller hole will make painters happier)
- Base layer (for a two-piece crown along wavy walls with crowned piece s of trim)- 15 ga as it again holds much better.
- Siding, exterior trim? You guessed it right! The answer is 15ga!
Please note that for tasks such as fastening casing to jamb, you should probably use an 18-ga brad nailer such as this.
Can you use 16 gauge nails in a 15 gauge nailer?
Now that 16 ga nails will leave a smaller hole and the biggest pain with the 15-gauge nailer seems to be the holes, it could be very convenient if you can just shoot 16-ga nails with a 15-ga nailer
Put another way, some of you may want to buy the 15-ga nailer because their projects need a little more holding strength as long as the nailer can fire 16-ga nailers when necessary so can it?
Well, I have scoured the market for a 15-gauge nailer that fires 16ga nails as well and I have not been lucky (Please tell us in the comments if you know of any so that we can help other readers).
15 vs 16 Gauge Finish Nailer- Wrap up
If money grows on trees, you could just buy every other nailer out there (15-ga finish, 16-ga finish, 18-ga brad nailer, 21-gauge pin nailer, and 23ga-pin nailer) but it, obviously, doesn’t so you have to make some tough decisions.
One such difficult decision is choosing 15 gauge finish nailer vs 16 gauge finish nailer.
And as we have seen, the 15 ga nailer is greater for projects where you need better hold (like very heavy trim and exterior work- more structural applications, in general) while the 16 ga nailer is more suited to projects where you want more un-noticeable holes.
If you still cannot decide, do this:
Rent a 16-ga nailer and a 15-ga finish nailer for a day then try them both out. You will want to go for the nailer you like best!
PS: If you’ll go the 15-ga nailer way, just check if your normal shop has the 15-ga nails. They can be hard to find (at least in some regions and you’ll find folks use the 16-ga nailer due to this)
PS2: There are a few angled 16-gauge finish nailers in the market today including Dewalt Angled 16-ga nailer so the advantage of angling is no longer exclusive to 15-ga nailers.