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

If there’s one thing you need to avoid, it’s using the wrong tools for the job. It could end up becoming a costly mistake that kills your aspirations of becoming a handyman or woodworker.


Finish Nailer

A nail gun is a handy tool to have around. It practically eliminates the need of a hammer and the risk of bashing your thumb or fingers.

One might that that a nail gun is an all-purpose piece of equipment that shoots nails of any size. Unfortunately, if you get all your information from games, then this simply isn’t true. There’s a lot more behind a nail gun than you would initially think.

The main point of confusion behind which type of nailer you need usually stems from the types of nails each gun can shoot. By type of nail, we mean the length and width of the nails as well as the purposes they each serve.

In this article, we’re going to discuss what the differences are between framing nailers and finish nailers. We’ll also talk about what each of them can do, what they aren’t meant to do, as well as which of the two would be the one-tool-does-most option to get.


Framing Nailer



What is a Framing Nailer?

A framing nailer has been referred to as the “tank” or the “pick-up truck” of nailers. It the heaviest-duty type of nailer available and made to handle huge projects.

The nails shot through a framing nailer vary in length, thickness, and materials. Framing nailers use nails between 1 and 3-1/2 inches that can either have pointed or rounded, semi-circular ends. However, you should be aware of what your local regulations are regarding whether you can or cannot use round-end nails on large construction projects.

Framing nailers can be powered by either electricity or air. There are both corded and cordless framing nailers, each having their benefits (uninterrupted power vs extreme portability). Pneumatic framing nailers are much more popular and more powerful. They require between 70 and 150 PSI to operate, so if you do decide to get a pneumatic framing nailer, make sure that you purchase/have an appropriate air compressor on hand.

What can a Framing Nailer do?

A framing nailer is designed to attach two huge boards together without there being any fastening problems. With a framing nailer, you can build decks and other add-ons to your home without needing to lift a hammer.

The two types of framing nailers available – electric and pneumatic – offer different firing power. An electric framing nailer has less firing power and shoots smaller/shorter nails. With this, you could construct furniture and other woodworking projects without fear of sending nails flying through your boards.


Finish Nailer

Downsides of a Framing Nailer

Since framing nailers use larger nails to provide better support between boards, this gun isn’t suitable for light-duty work like fastening crown moldings. You’re going to need to choose another nailer for that job.

Furthermore, a framing nailer will leave visible holes in the nails’ wake. To conceal these nails, you’re going to need to make/purchase wood plugs or utilize wood putty. For large projects like building decks, visible nails aren’t going to be a problem, but for furniture-building projects where aesthetics mean everything, this will be a pain to work with.


Framing Nailer

What is a Finish Nailer?

When it comes to nailers, you’ll want a delicate gun for delicate jobs. A finish nailer is a nail gun designed for finishing jobs that don’t require the power of a framing nailer.

Finish nailers typically use nails between 14 and 16 gauges, the latter being thinner. Despite their small size, they have some rather considerable holding power so attaching boards permanently with a finish nailer is possible. This is where the nail gun gets its name from – the ability to help with final fastenings. A bonus is that the nails are hardly visible even from a short distance.

What can a Finish Nailer do?

Whether you’re attaching crown molding or working with larger workpieces, a finish nailer can come in handy.

Apart from being almost invisible, the thin 16- to 18-gauge nails hardly pose any risk at cracking or splitting thin workpieces. This is something to consider if you plan on working with thin pieces like decorative trim.

Unlike a brad nailer – another type of nail gun that shoots brad nails which are even thinner than finish nails – a finish nailer can be used to build furniture. It provides enough holding power to keep your work pieces together until the end of time. That is, of course, unless you take a hammer and swing at your furniture, then the finish nails will crumble and die.


Finish Nailer

Downsides of a Finish Nailer

To many, the finish nailer is considered the most multi-purpose type of nailer out there. Unfortunately, this means that it has considerable drawbacks where other nailers excel.

For instance, even though a finish nailer can fasten together large boards and keep them in place, this nailer doesn’t provide the type of holding the power that you would get from a framing nailer, and it’s thicker nails. Compared to a brad nailer, even though their nail sizes are almost similar, the finish nailer’s nails will leave a considerably more noticeable hole in their wake. This means concealing any marks with wood putty which can be an obstacle if you’re trying to give your workpiece a seamless look.

Framing Nailer vs. Finish Nailer – Which to Get

So if you had to choose between the two – a framing nailer with its large-board holding power or an all-purpose finish nailer with its small yet durable nails – we would recommend getting a finish nailer.

Our reasoning for choosing a finish nailer over a framing nailer is simple. A finish nailer is much more versatile both in indoor and outdoor projects. The only time a framing nailer would be worth the investment is if you build decks and work on other large construction projects regularly. Since most DIY-ers don’t, a finish nailer would be the more appropriate choice.

What makes the finish nailer even better is its ability to keep long 2x4s in place though admittedly only temporarily. You’ll still need to drive longer, thicker nails to keep large workpieces together permanently.


Framing Nailer