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18 Gauge Brad Nail vs16 Gauge Finish Nailer

Deciding between an 18-gauge brad nailer and a 16-gauge finish nailer can be tricky. While both excel at joining wood, their strengths lie in different areas. This article will break down the key factors to consider, like nail size, holding power, and ideal applications, to help you pick the perfect tool for your project.

What are Brad Nails?

A brad nail has a slender profile and it is made of 18-gauge steel. If it comes with thinner nails, it will have higher gauge numbers. Brad nails can be great for paneling and wood trimming due to the small diameter. It also comes with a small ahead and can prevent splitting on any kind of delicate material.

Brad’s nails are ideal for woodworking projects as they can provide a clean finish with a subtle appearance. It makes sure that the results will be great and will show fewer holes before painting between. Brad’s nails are ideal for thinner cuts of different materials including plywood and fibreboard. You can use a brad nail with a brad nailer that operates just like a nail gun. The only difference is that it will not shoot nails but shoots brads.

What are Finish Nails?

Finish nails are also called finishing nails. They are composed of 15 or 16-gauge steel wire. In comparison to brad nails, it has a slightly thick diameter. With finish nails, you will be able to make a stronger hold. It can be perfect for heftier applications including baseboards and cabinets. If it comes with a large diameter, the fastening can have a wider whole. It is for this reason that you will have to conceal the spots to have a clean look.

As it has a thicker profile, the likelihood of splitting delicate or thin wood trim is high. Just like a brad nail, a finish nail also has a similar profile. However, they are only suitable for specific purposes. Finish nailers are stronger and can accommodate nails of different lengths. The nails are headless and make the surface blend with the wood.

What Does Gauge Mean?

The word gauge means the fastener thickness. However, one should never go with the actual ratings. Gauge is actually the number of nails that are lined up. This indicates that 16-gauge nails are thicker and can hold better when compared to 18-gauge brads. You will have to keep in mind that a low gauge number will have a thicker nail.

16-Gauge vs 18-Gauge

For any project, the right fastener is very important. When you have the proper nail thickness in woodworking tasks, there will be high quality results. Here are some of the points that differentiate 16-gauge from 18-gauge.

About 16-Gauge Finish Nailers

With a thickness of 0.0625-inch, 16-gauge finish nailers can hold better when compared to 18-gauge brads. It is supplied in lengths of 1 to 3.5-inch. 16-gauge finish nails are perfect for dense pieces of wood. It serves great for different types of construction work including exterior trim, flooring, casings, cabinets, and chair rails. A 16-gauge finish nail is great for different purposes.

However, you will have to keep in mind that it also comes with many drawbacks. As it is perfect for larger works, you will not be able to use it for delicate tasks. It can easily split small moldings due to the power. Additionally, it also comes with a larger head and you will have to fill the hole to give a perfect finish.

Finish Nailer Pros:

  • It can easily penetrate to thick wood including MDF.
  • The versatile design allows use for different purposes.
  • With the collated angle, it can easily reach corners.
  • It has better holding power compared to 18-gauge brads.
  • Accommodates nails of different lengths.

Finish Nailer Cons:

  • It is unsuitable for thin woods.
  • It leaves a large hole that needs to be concealed.
  • Can be a bad choice for narrow boards and thin trims.

About 18-Gauge Brad Nailers

18-gauge brad nailers are perfect for fragile pieces making them great for decorative molding, paneling, casing, and trim work. It has a nail length of 0.5 to 2.5 inches and the thickness is 0.0475-inch. The best thing is that it is very handy and can provide an intricate finish. Due to the small head of the 18-gauge brad nail, it will leave a small and less not noticeable hole. With it, you don’t have to go for additional work like sanding or filling.

If we have to talk about the limitations of the 18-gauge brad nailers, then it uses very little power. Apart from this, it also does not have much holding power due to the thinner shank. However, it does perform great to prevent harming the work or splitting the wood.

Brad Nailer Pros:

  • It is perfect for delicate and fine work.
  • Does not require sanding or filling of the hole.
  • Perfectly accommodates lengths of different sizes.
  • It will not usually split the trim.

Brad Nailer Cons:

  • It has very little power.
  • May not be able to penetrate MDF properly.
  • Does not hold large boards, moldings, and heavy wood.
  • It is unsuitable for tight spaces and hard-to-reach corners.

Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer Comparison Table

  Brad Nailer Finish Nailer
Nail Type 18-gauge nails 15-gauge and 16-gauge nails
Capacity Low holding power High capacity compared to brad nailer
Hole Size 0.0475-inch Maximum of 0.0720-inch
Suitability Does not splits while attaching thin trims Perfect for finishing of different carpentry works
Uses Lightweight molding and boardings Baseboards, plywood, MDF etc.

Differences Between Brad Nailer and Finish Nailer

1. Hole Size

Both brad nailers and finish nailers can create holes of different sizes while using them on wood. Professional woodworkers and carpenters often use putty to fill in the holes due to the nailing task. A finish nail can create a larger hole and often requires filling them. If we compare this with a brad nailer, then they don’t leave noticeable holes. However, there can be holes if the material is thin or weak. All you have to do is to use a little bit of putty to conceal the look.

2. Nails

Finish nail guns use nails of 15-gauge or 16-gauge. A brad nailer shoots nails of 18-gauge. However, a finish nail of 15-gauge uses a nail length of 0.720-inch. For 16-gauge, it is 0.0625-inch. On the contrary, an 18-gauge brad nailer has a nail size of 0.0475-inch.

Power Source: Battery or Air?

a. Battery Power: Battery can be a great choice for people who don’t like to deal with wires. It also gives the flexibility of taking the nailer anywhere you want. This makes battery power perfect for remote places. Another great advantage of the battery is that it eliminates noise. You don’t have to worry about having an air compressor. However, do keep in mind that there should be a fully charged battery while working.

If it is drained, you will have ave to recharge it or swap the battery. For this reason, it is important to have a spare battery. Lithium batteries can break and are more sensitive to physical shocks. General batteries can wear out and that can be an added cost. If you happen to use the nailer frequently, you will have to keep on buying new batteries at some point.

b. Pneumatic Power: With an air compressor, there will be an endless stream of power so that you can work non-stop. However, you will have to reload the nails frequently. Pneumatic power also lets you deal with the hose that makes it difficult to get into some places.

While working, you will have to manage the hose and there can be chances of scratching surfaces when you drag it. Also, pneumatic power can be loud that can create disturbances. It requires a lot of accessories including connectors, fittings, and hoses. All these can cause additional expenses especially if you happen to be in a mobile operation.


There exists a lot of similarities and differences between the two types of nail guns. However, they are both meant for general as well as specific purposes. When you happen to use a brad nailer, it will not crack or split thin pieces of wood. Many carpenters prefer brad nailer as it creates fewer damages and you can even get into corners. A brad nailer is perfect for lightweight tasks including boarding and moldings. Finish nailers can be great for different types of finishing carpentry works. It is also perfect for dealing with hardwoods including plywood, baseboards, and MDF.

18 Gauge Brad Nail vs16 Gauge Finish Nailer – FAQs

1. What is the primary difference between an 18 Gauge Brad Nail and a 16 Gauge Finish Nailer?

Ans: The primary difference lies in the gauge of the nails they use. An 18-gauge brad nailer utilizes thinner nails compared to the 16-gauge finish nailer, which uses slightly thicker nails.

2. What are the typical applications for an 18 Gauge Brad Nailer?

Ans: An 18-gauge brad nailer is commonly used for light to medium-duty tasks such as trim work, crown molding, and other applications where a smaller, less noticeable hole is desired.

3. In what scenarios would you choose a 16 Gauge Finish Nailer over an 18 Gauge Brad Nailer?

Ans: A 16-gauge finish nailer is suitable for heavier applications, including baseboards, door and window casings, and other tasks that require a sturdier and more robust fastening.

4. Can both nailers be used interchangeably for certain tasks, or are there specific applications where one excels over the other?

Ans: While there is some overlap in their applications, 18-gauge brad nailers are better suited for finer and more delicate work, while 16-gauge finish nailers are preferred for heavier and more structural projects.

5. Which nailer is more suitable for fine woodworking projects 18 Gauge Brad Nail or 16 Gauge Finish Nailer?

Ans: For fine woodworking, an 18-gauge brad nailer is often preferred due to its smaller nails and less noticeable holes, which helps maintain the aesthetic quality of the project.


Both broad nailer and finished nailers have their own purposes. Even though a brand nailer can be great for different purposes, it comes with its own limitations. For professional purposes, it is important to understand what the two nailers offer and how to deal with them. From the above, you could have now understood the difference between a 16-gauge and an 18-gauge nailer.

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