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A quick one: can you use 18 gauge nails for baseboards?
Now, usually, the best nails to use for baseboards is, in general, 16 ga finish nails on the account of their better holding power compared to 18 gauge nails.
But you could run out of 16 ga nails in the midst of the project and you have a nailer that fires both 16 ga and 18 ga brads and you have a bunch of brads around..
So, can you use 18 gauge nails for baseboards really?
Well, the answer is yes and no…read on to find out what I mean.
Can you use 18 gauge nails for baseboards? Long answer
Now, it is not a good idea to use 18 gauge nails for baseboards due to their weaker holding strength..
They’re not just adequate because of their almost-zero head on top- the truth is 18 ga nails lack the necessary hold for baseboards, no matter how you look at it.
But there’s one major exception to the above rule..
Now, 18 gauge nails will probably work just fine If you have (note this please) straight walls..to be sure of this, you need to check if the boards are sitting flush against your walls.
If that is the case, the caulk is likely to hold your baseboards almost better than the nails so you can go ahead and use your 18 gauge fasteners.
If your base is 1/2” and your straight drywall is 1/2” too, then with a 2” 18ga brad nail you will have about 1” of a very fine nail going into the framing which can be enough.
Keep in mind that the maximum nail length for 18g is typically 2”.
But if you notice gaps in any area/spot between your wall and baseboard, then it is unwise to use the 18ga brads.
You should instead bring out your 16 finish nailer and use it to shoot the longest 16ga fastener you have into the boards- the idea here is obviously to press it flush.
Bonus tip: once you do this- that is you have run a sufficiently long nail until it sits flush, be sure to add 1-2 extra nails. This helps keep it from pulling away (slowly) over time.
So to cut a long story short….
18 ga nails are excellent for smaller/thinner/ more delicate projects (think about fastening scotia, cove, bullnose modelings, delicate trim joints, shoe molding, and the like) and not baseboards mainly due to their smaller gauge.
In fact, 18ga nails are perfect for anything material around 1/2″- the holes are, of course, nice and small..
On the other hand, if you’re working on 3/4″ thickness, you really want 16 ga finish nails. Use a narrower gauge and you risk the trim pulling away mainly because of seasonal moisture changes.
A Practical Illustration
If your baseboard is >1/2” then you should stick to 16g nails, say 2 1/2” long (they make longer 16g fasteners anyway and I have seen 3 1/2” long 16g finish nails).
Okay, I know that the holes 18g nails leave are pretty small and super easy to fill but the thing is, 16g is the way to go when it comes to baseboards.
It’s bigger, sure which means some extra filling work sometimes but its larger size is what makes it produce a better hold.
I should mention that 18ga nails are terrible to hammer too by hand (if you might want to try it)- they are literally like a needle across thus they bend annoyingly easily.
What gauge nails to use for baseboards? Recap
Overall, using 18 gauge nails for baseboards is not exactly advisable- you will find 16ga finish nail’s pulling and holding power/strength far better than 18ga’s
Sure, it will leave a significantly bigger hole to fill but you could still need to fill + hide with 18ga nails anyway.
And, just to add, a lot of folks use 2” to 2-1/2” 16ga nails for baseboards for long-term holding power (always be guided by the board’s thickness).
In contrast, then 18g nails are usually better for light trim work, for example, inside edge of base/casing though I have seen some done all their baseboards with 18ga nails (Can you recall the exception?).
PS: If installing baseboard, crown-molding, trim, etc. using a finish nailer (and the right length finish nails) I suggest you also use some construction adhesive too. That way, you can be sure it is going to hold/last for years.