Hand nailing seems to “draw” boards together tight, while power nailing seems to “shoot” the nail through one board into another with the possibility of leaving a small gap between framing members.

This tiny gap can shrink when the framing is “loaded”. Because the glue on the nail will heat up when shot into the framing, it tends to glue the boards instantly together. If the boards are not “set” tight together and already perfectly fitting together, they remain that way until loaded.

After the initial construction and wall finishes are installed, the framing could move when loaded, (i.e.: wind, earthquake, etc.) When this load causes the board to move, it 1) causes nails, etc. to move in finish wall material, 2) weakens the structure by allowing greater movement than anticipated.

Does hand nailing eliminate this possibility and make the framing stronger and more stable?

  • I know a guy who was proud of the special California framing hammer he wielded as a young man--heaviest made and he fitted special long handles. He told his framers he wanted cuts to the nearest 32nd and joints tight. Prolly his custom California houses have been marvels of earthquake resistance. But he was an early adopter of nail guns, which must have saved a lot of elbows. But Larry Haun wielding a framing hammer is pure poetry. Jul 18, 2018 at 16:19
  • @JimStewart I know...I hold my 12 oz. hammer about half way down the handle.
    – Lee Sam
    Jul 18, 2018 at 18:40
  • RIP Larry Haun google.com/…: Jul 18, 2018 at 18:46
  • 1
    It's all in the wrist. I can drive 16d nails with two blows, and I'm not a stout fellow. I cringe when I see a noob holding it as Lee describes, swinging from the shoulder and grimacing like mad as the nail laughs him off. For a chuckle, here's the man who taught me how it's done, still leading the pack at 68.
    – isherwood
    Jul 19, 2018 at 2:52
  • That is funny I have done that a few times but most of the time zing as the nail lands under my truck tire.
    – Ed Beal
    Jul 19, 2018 at 19:26

2 Answers 2


In the early days of air nailers hand nailing was better because the heads were moon shaped. I believe the moon shape was outlawed but not sure, but full round heads used with a properly adjusted gun are just as good in my opinion. If you think hammers are better to save your arm set the gun so the head sits up 1/8 inch and finish it off with the hammer. Go

  • It was the shape of the nail heads on early nails .
    – Ed Beal
    Jul 27, 2018 at 12:12

You're correct that air nailers are more prone to leaving gaps, but that's mostly a matter of the level of effort the carpenter puts in. If I saw a gap after the first shot I'd drive it tight with my hammer before continuing. Inexperienced carpenters will try to tighten things with more shots, but this is counter-productive--the more nails the more friction.

Hand-nailing has its weaknesses, too. It's more difficult to hold boards in position while you swing, so alignment could suffer. That's also a matter for the carpenter to be aware of and handle.

No, framing isn't less robust since the advent of air nailers. There have always been shoddy carpenters and there always will be. The tools aren't to blame.

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