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Framing Nailer vs Finish Nailer | Differences, Which One to Buy?

Power Tools are one of the best things that happened in the world of Tools. You can get power tools for drilling holes, cutting metal, and even driving nails. That’s right. Gone are the days when you spend hours of time hammering long nails one by one to finish a project. Power Nailers or Power Nail Guns can get the job done in an easy, quick, and efficient manner. Just like every other power tool, even Nailers are available in several types. Instead of covering all of them, we will try to focus on two popular types, Framing Nailers and Finish Nailers.

If you are a beginner, then figuring out the right type of Nailer for your project can be quite challenging. This is where we can help you out.

In this guide, we will learn about the basics of Framing Nailers and Finishing Nailers. We will see their typical applications, advantages, and disadvantages. We will also make a side-by-side Framing Nailer vs Finish Nailer comparison against some important parameters.

After going through this guide, we are sure that you will get an in-depth understanding of Framing Nailer vs Finish Nailer. So, let’s get started.


Nailers or Nail Guns are very popular power tools. The job of a nail gun is simple and straightforward. Hold a bunch of nails, and use some sort of power to drive them into different objects.

Carpenters and construction workers are the two main customers of Nailers. Technically, you don’t need a Power Nailer to finish a project. But they can save a lot of time and you can avoid fiddling with driving nails one after the other using all your strength.

The problem with power Nailers is they are very specific in the sense that they can hold and drive only a particular size and kind of nails. As a result, you have to own at least two or three types of Power Nailers.

We can categorize Nailers by the type of power they need (corded electric, cordless electric, pneumatic) and the applications they serve (framing, roofing, finishing, flooring).

An important tip for beginners: First, choose the type of nails you want to use in your project. Then you can select an appropriate Nailer to drive these nails.

What Is a Framing Nailer?

FRAMING NAILERThe Framing Nailer is the big daddy of power Nailers. It is a powerful and heavy-duty tool that can easily drive large nails into thick objects. They are the perfect tools for DIY or professional construction projects.

As the name suggests, a Framing Nailer or Nail Gun is used for framing the skeleton of a house or building with wooden studs and timber. Whether you are building a house from scratch, adding an extra room or garage, or a deck, you need a Framing Nailer.

To frame those thick 2×4’s, you need large nails. Framing Nailer can work with nails that are 1-1/4 inches to 3-1/2 inches long. Additionally, you can also use a nail with diameters from 0.113 inches to 0.162 inches.

Another way to determine the right Nailer is by the Gauge of nails it can work with. In the world of nails, the term “Gauge” is different. It is the number of nails that can fit in an inch.

So, when we say 12 Gauge Nails, then it means you can fit 12 nails in an inch. Coming to Framing Nailers, they can work with 8 Gauge Nails (with a nail diameter of 0.162 inches) to 11-1/2 or 12 Gauge Nails (with a nail diameter of 0.113 inches).

The nails that use for Framing Nailer are available in the form of Strips where nails are laid in a slating position. The angle of this slant is also important as each Framing Nailer can work with a specific slant angle. 21° and 30° are the two common angles for Framing Nailers.

Another important parameter in choosing nails for a Framing Nailer is the type of head, its diameter, and also shape. The three popular types of nail heads are:

  • Full Heads (Normal Round Heads)
  • Clipped Head (Crescent Shaped Notch)
  • Offset Head (Nail Head isn’t centered on the Shank)

Apart from the large framing nails, a Framing Nailer can also work with small nails that you use in plywood, fencing, sheathing, etc.

You can get different power options for Framing Nailers. They are:

  • Pneumatic Framing Nailers (use compressed air)
  • Electric Framing Nailers (Corded)
  • Cordless Framing Nailers (Battery Powered)
  • Powder Actuated Nail Guns (use Gunpowder to fire and drive nails)
  • Gas Powered Framing Nailers (use a can of compressed fuel)


Here is a small list of common applications of Framing Nailers or Framing Nail Guns.

  • Homebuilding (laying out Frames of the house)
  • Regular Construction
  • Building Garages, Outhouses, or Sheds
  • Roofing (Sheathing)
  • Fencing
  • Decks
  • Subflooring
  • Siding


  • Very Powerful
  • Heavy-duty
  • Can easily drive large nails
  • Also suitable for small nails (for plywood)
  • Efficient and more accurate than manual driving of nails for framing


  • Large and bulky tool
  • Might be too powerful for small jobs

What Is a Finish Nailer?

FINISH NAILERDriving large nails into thick pieces of wood will not be the only job of construction or woodworkers. If you have a tiny piece of wood that you need to nail, then the brute force of the Framing Nailer might cause severe damage to the wood.

You need a small and precise Nailer that produces enough power to drive small to medium size nails without breaking or splintering the wood. This is exactly what a Finish Nailer or Finishing Nailer does.

A Finish Nailer, as the name suggests, is useful to provide finishing touches to a piece of wood for paneling, crown molding, cabinetry, installing trims, furniture making, etc.

Finishing Nailers, unlike Framing Nailers, aren’t designed for heavy-duty jobs. Rather, they are much more suitable for small detailing works. For example, if you are working on framing windows or doors, you just need to drive small nails that you can barely see on the surface.

The size and gauge of nails for the Finishing Nailer are different from Framing Nailer. The finishing Nailer or Finishing Nail Gun can accept strips of 14-gauge to 16-gauge nails (0.0625 inches to 0.08 inches in diameter).

Coming to the length of the nails, Finishing Nailers are suitable for nails of 1 inch to 2-1/2 inches in length. From these numbers, it is clear that nails from a Finishing Nailer aren’t good enough for holding frames.

They have just enough power to drive nails through plywood (even slightly thicker pieces), MDF, and hardwoods.

As the nails for Finishing Nailers are so small, there aren’t many types of nails or nail heads. Hence, all finishing nailers available in the market can accept all the nails, provided they are the correct size.

Finish Nailers are relatively low-power tools. Hence, we can find several Cordless Finish Nailers from many reputable brands. As they have been around for a long time, the cost of cordless Finish Nailers is also less (when compared to a Framing Nailer).


Here are some common applications of Finish Nailers or Finish Nail Guns:

  • Installing baseboards
  • Installing decorative trims
  • Attaching window and door trim
  • Attaching exterior trim
  • Installing crown moldings
  • Installing chair rails
  • Attaching paneling
  • Assembling staircases
  • Working on small furniture and DIY projects


  • Small and compact tool
  • The preferred choice for detailing work and finishing touches
  • Works well with smaller size and length nails
  • Just enough power to drive nails into plywood without breakage or splintering
  • Suitable for small and DIY Projects
  • Even Cordless Finish Nailers are not that expensive


  • Not suitable for large projects
  • Doesn’t provide the holding power of small nails to join large construction wood or lumber

Framing Nailer vs Finish Nailer: Differences

Now that we have seen the basics of both the Framing Nailer and the Finish Nailer, let us quickly look at the differences between these two.

1. Size

When talking about the physical size of these two Nailers, then the Framing Nailer is much bigger and bulkier of the two. The Framing Nailer must drive relatively large nails into thick pieces of construction wood.

This means it has to house a bigger motor (drive mechanism) to drive the nails. On the contrary, Finish Nailers deal with small to medium-sized nails. Also, they aren’t that powerful.

So, the size of Finish Nailers is small and compact. Even DIYers can easily use it.

2. Power

The impact of the drive or the power at which these Nailers drive the nails is vastly different between a Framing Nailer and a Finish Nailer.

Framing Nailers are tough and heavy-duty nailers. We often use them to drive nails into thick pieces of wood (for framing and other construction work). Hence, the impact or power of a Framing Nail Gun is very high.

Finish Nail Guns on the other hand are lightweight tools that must produce just enough power to drive small nails into plywood, hardwood, panels, etc. Hence, their impact is significantly low.

3. Nail Size

This is a crucial differentiating factor between a Framing Nailer and Finish Nailer. Framing Nailer is suitable for 8-gauge to 12-gauge nails and the length of the nails can be anywhere between 1-1/4 inches to 3-1/2 inches.

Finish Nailer is suitable for much smaller nails. The popular nail gauges are 14-gauge, 15-gauge, and 16-gauge. The length of the nail is also small, anywhere between 1 inch to 2-1/2 inches.

4. Accuracy

Framing Nailers are known or used for their accuracy. The main use case of Framing Nail Guns is to drive large nails into the framing of a house so that it firmly holds the wood or lumber together. Power has priority over accuracy.

But Finish Nailers are designed for small detailing works. So, accuracy is very important when driving small nails into trims, rails, panels, etc.


The application set of both these nailers is quite different. People use large Framing Nail Guns in all construction projects while they use small Finish Nail Guns to perform finishing touches (installing wood trims, attaching panels, etc.).

The following table shows a simple side-by-side comparison of Framing Nailer vs Finish Nailer.

Parameter Framing Nailer Finishing Nailer
Nail Gauge 8 Gauge to 12 Gauge 14 Gauge to 16 Gauge
Nail Length 1-1/4 Inches to 3-1/2 Inches 1-Inch to 2-1/2 Inches
Strength  High-power, heavy-duty Low power
Power Options Pneumatic

Electric (corded and cordless)

Gun Powder

Gas Powered

Cordless (Battery Powered)


Cost Pneumatic Framing Nailer: $100 and above

Cordless Framing Nailer: $300 and above

Pneumatic Finish Nailers: $120 and above

Cordless Finish Nailers: $200 and above

Applications Construction



Window and Door Trims



Which One To Buy, Framing Nailer vs Finish Nailer?

This is the important question, which one to buy Framing Nailer or Finish Nailer? From the previous discussion, it is clear that the power, price, and applications of both these nailers are quite different.

So, the answer to the question depends on the type of work you do.

Choose Framing Nailer or Framing Nail Gun if your work involves large construction projects such as building and assembling wooden studs and timber to form the framing of a house.

But if you work on small and delicate pieces of wood such as wooden trims, panels, crown moldings, cabinets, etc., then the work must be much more detailed and precise.

In this case, you cannot use a Framing Nailer as it might shatter the wood due to its huge impact. A Finish Nailer (or Finishing Nailer or Finish Nail Gun) is a better choice.

Can you use a Finish Nailer as a Framing Nailer? No. You cannot use it in such a way. The nails that the Finish Nailer supports are small in terms of both diameter and length. These nails are very weak for this job.

The main purpose of a large Framing Nailer is to drive long and thick nails to have significant holding power for thick wooden logs.

Also Check: Best Pin Nailer

Framing Nailer vs Finish Nailer – FAQs

1. What is the primary purpose of a framing nailer and a finish nailer?

* Framing Nailer: Used for framing and structural work, such as attaching studs and framing walls.
* Finish Nailer: Designed for finishing touches, such as attaching trim, molding, and other delicate work.

2. What is the typical gauge and size of nails used by each type of nailer?

* Framing Nailer: Uses thicker and longer nails, typically in the range of 2 to 3.5 inches with a gauge of 10-12.
* Finish Nailer: Uses thinner and shorter nails, typically ranging from 1 to 2.5 inches with a gauge of 15-16.

3. What projects are best suited for a framing nailer and finish nailer?

Ans: Framing Nailer: Ideal for large construction projects, framing walls, building decks, and other heavy-duty applications.
Finish Nailer: Perfect for projects that require a more polished look, such as crown molding, baseboards, and trim installation.

4. Are there cordless options available for framing and finish nailers?

Ans: Yes: Both framing and finish nailers are available in cordless versions, powered by batteries, offering increased portability.

5. Are framing and finish nailers interchangeable for certain tasks?

Ans: Interchangeability: While there may be some overlap in applications, it’s generally recommended to use the appropriate nailer for the specific task to achieve the best results.


Manually driving nails using a hammer is okay if it is just one or two nails. But if you are a professional or even a DIYer, then you will be in situations where you have to drive big nails in huge quantities.

Power Nailers or Power Nail Guns are the best tools for this job. Speaking of jobs, not all jobs that require driving nails are the same. Some need a big nail to hold large pieces of wooden blocks while some need very small nails to attach a piece of wood to a larger piece.

This is where we see the two popular types of Nailers or Nail Guns: Framing Nailers and Finish Nailers.

In this guide, we saw the basics of both these nailers along with their applications, pros, and cons. After that, we had a Framing Nailer vs Finish Nailer comparison against some common parameters. Finally, we gave a simple explanation regarding the important question, which one to buy, Framing Nail Gun or a Finish Nail Gun?

We hope that this guide could help in a better understanding of the two common types o Nailers or Nail Guns. But if you feel we missed something or want us to add something, do let us know in the comments section. It will not only help us but also other readers.

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