16 Gauge Finish Nailer vs 18 Gauge Brad Nailer :Which is the best?

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16 gauge finish nailer vs 18 gauge brad nailer..which way?

A nailer is a power tool that you can’t finish a job without.

However, choosing the right one is never easy because there are different types, to do different tasks.

Here, we’ll walk you through a matchup of the two most common nailers out there: 18 gauge brad nail vs 16 gauge finish nailer.

We hope that this will go a long way in helping you make the right choice.

Let’s dive right in.

16 gauge finish nailer vs 18 gauge brad nailer – the key difference

The most standout difference between the two woodworking tools is the nail size each is capable of shooting.

Now, you should go for a 16-gauge nailer when you need to tackle hefty woodworking projects- it shoots the slightly larger 16-gauge nails so it works best for the larger stuff (because the nails offer increased holding power).

Side Note: It is important to note that the smaller the gauge number, the thicker the nailer when it comes to nails.

On the other hand, the 18 gauge nailer fires the thinner 18 gauge brads.

These nails are suitable for attaching narrow, thin wood pieces to bigger wood objects.

Of course, you’re likely to split such smaller wood if you drive in fatter nails hence the practice of using the slender finish nail sizes.

16 gauge finish nailer vs 18 gauge brad nailer – what specific projects are these nailers good for?

As mentioned above, the 18 gauge brad nailer is suited to the more fragile pieces because of the smaller nails while the 16 gauge finish nailer is perfect for projects where a strong bond is key.

Here is a summary of where to use each tool:


18 gauge brad nailer uses

Overall, this is your go-to tool if you’ve some finish work to do- you’ll love the results especially if you’re attaching decorative moldings.

Use it for these projects:

  1. Casing- Use your nailer to fasten doorway casing and cover those unfinished gaps. Needless to say, it works perfectly for window casings as well.
  2. Baseboard- The tool works well too for the nailing work when installing or repairing baseboards to create that chic transition between floors and walls.
  3. Interior Trim work- On a related note, the tool is handy if you’re planning to trim out your rooms on a weekend.
  4. Wall Paneling –The 18-gauge brad nailer is also ideal when you want to install wood paneling to inject some architectural flavor into your home.

Side Note: 18 gauge Brad nailers also feature smaller noses and will allow you to easily drive nails into the most elaborate moldings without leaving unsightly holes behind.


16 gauge finish nailer uses

A 16 gauge finish nailer is intended for heavy woodwork- the meatier nails give the final structure more stability and strength.

As such, you should utilize the tool for the following applications:

  1. Fixing large baseboards/plywood
  2. Attaching larger crown molding
  3. Stair work- some carpenters use them to do stair risers.
  4. Flooring– the nailer is a great option in situations where flooring nailers won’t work such as the installation of tongue-and-groove floors near a wall/closet.
  5. Other general carpentry jobs– this is quite versatile and can handle a variety of other tasks including building cabinets.

16 gauge finish nailer vs 18 gauge brad nailer– cost comparison

The 16 gauge Finish nailer is typically more costly, since it’s more powerful and meant to drive large fasteners through dense wood into heftier substrates.

16 gauge finish nailer vs 18 gauge brad nailer – summary of other differences

There are other fine differences between the two nailers that you might need to know.

Here they are:

  18 gauge brad nailer 16 gauge finish nailer
About nails deforming Because it’s nails are so much slender than its 16-gauge counterpart, nails tend to become deformed when passing through grain in wood/knots Nails are less likely to curve or lock up
About nailing in tight spots The 18 gauge brad nailer has a smaller nose and gets into tight spots more easily. The larger nose can be a challenge when nailing in hard-to-reach spots.
Power Not that powerful making it excellent for delicate pieces. Way more powerful making it amazing for even hardwoods


16 gauge finish nailer vs 18 gauge brad nailer – pros and cons

18 gauge brad nailer- pros

  • Less likely to cause splitting issues- the .0475-inches thick, ½ to 2½-inch long brad nails the nailer typically shoots have a smaller head and it is unlikely to split thinner wood surfaces.
  • Less expensive- As stated earlier, you pay less to acquire a brad nailer.
  • Smoother, perfect finishes- the nails blend into your wood completely for a mint, mirror-like finish.

18 gauge brad nailer- cons

  • Not as flexible– The nailer is a bit limited and only best for precision work such as fastening casings to windows, nailing decorative trim to door jambs, fixing cove moldings, and the like.
  • Insufficient holding power– This you already know too: brads don’t have adequate holding power to be used for serious projects though adding some glue could solve the problem.

16 gauge finish nailer – pros

  • Maximum holding power– the tool fires 0.0625-inch-thick nails, from 3/4in to 2-1/2in inches long (some from 3/8” to 2”) and with a larger head. These have excellent holding power and strength.
  • Easier penetration on denser wood- they pierce through heavier wood (and MDF boards) more easily due to their fatter nails.
  • More versatile– In general, it’s easier to adapt a 16 gauge nailer to a larger variety of tasks (just feed it with the right finish nail).

16 gauge finish nailer – cons

  • Risk of splitting wood– delicate trims can easily be split by the thicker fasteners.
  • More conspicuous holes- the larger-sized nail head leaves more conspicuous holes on wood surfaces and you’ll spend longer to fill them.
  • Costlier- I already explained that you have to dig deeper to own this nailer.
  • Blemished finishes- Because the nails tend to not blend into wood as well as when driven with a brad nailer, it is more difficult to achieve a quality finish without extra touching-up.


Final thoughts

The 16 gauge is more universal – you can, in fact, dial down the power and/or use shorter nails where necessary.

That said, it’s mostly outstanding for the larger, denser woodworking projects.

On the converse, the 18g brad nailer is the star if installing moldings on doors, walls, windows etc.

It, however, flounders when it comes to the more serious furniture/woodworking work.

Finally, there are combos like this, intended for those who want to get the best of both worlds (and find the idea of owning multiple nailers ridiculous).

Keep in mind that both nailers have pneumatic and cordless versions.

Choose wisely.


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