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I am replacing all the trim along the floor in the house, 3 bedrooms, office, living room, hallways, and media room. To save some effort I'll be getting a nail gun. For wall trim like this would a brad nail gun (18 gauge) be okay or do I need a finish nail gun (16 gauge)?

Thanks

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  • Related: Soft touch for trim nailer? – Mazura Mar 6 '16 at 0:11
  • If you're only buying one gun, I'd give serious consideration to a cordless. Preferably one that matches your drill / impact. (Though there are plenty of good arguments regarding how battery powered tools are a poor choice when used infrequently.) FWIW, I have both 16g and 18g battery nailers (as well as 23/18/15 pneumatic tools) and I'll happily do a few rooms of base/case with the 18g. More than that, and I'll pull out one of the compressors. – Aloysius Defenestrate Mar 6 '16 at 18:41
  • This question is a matter of opinion. When I was a pro I'd use both routinely, often having each on a forked air line. 16 ga. 2-1/2" nails are great for hanging interior door jambs and fastening other heavy pieces, such as large base board moldings. 18 ga. 1-1/4" and 2" nails are better for door casing and smaller pieces. Get what makes sense for your scenario. – isherwood Mar 9 at 16:23
  • Also, the term "brad" doesn't universally apply to 18 ga. nails. To me, brads are something different altogether (short, usually brass hand-driven nails for upholstery, etc.). These are all just trim or finish nails. – isherwood Mar 9 at 16:28
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for all you fully armed and operational weapons out there, remember there are wires and pipes inside walls. usually the min. setback is 1 1/4 from the stud face. so if you put a 3" "finish" nail through a 1" casing and 1/2" drywall, you are well within the realm of punching a hole through something wet or something sparky.

we have been using nothing but 18ga brads for 20 years to do everything from trimwork to cabinetry. never had a warranty callback for any of it.

remember its not the size of the nail, but how you use it.

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  • There should be protection plates that negate this worry, but good point. should be. – Mazura Mar 6 '16 at 2:12
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    no - thats not correct. plates are only required when the setback is less than standard. there is no requirement for protective plates in a stud 2x4 or greater if you use the spec'd setbacks. – personal privacy advocate Mar 6 '16 at 2:16
  • You are correct (see Bryce's answer). Plus one. – Mazura Mar 6 '16 at 2:18
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A finish nail gun is for finish carpentry, exactly what you're talking about: wall trim, etc.

A brad nailer is for super delicate work; building furniture and such, like attaching the cardboard backing to ikean cabinets or tiny moldings that would shatter with a larger gauge.

If your brad nailer can fit 2" nails I guess you could use it for trim, but I don't think most of them will fit fasteners that long. The larger gauge is also preferred as well for base shoe trim, which is going to get abused.

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  • Thanks, the brad nail gun I was looking at will hold 2" nails – Wayne In Yak Mar 6 '16 at 1:00
  • @WayneInYak - Sometimes even that's not long enough, YMMV. Would it be OK? Like I said, I guess. But what you're supposed to use are finish nails. – Mazura Mar 6 '16 at 1:19
  • I probably should have said 3" nails. There's nothing worse than nailing something and then it just falls off. aww screw this, just gimme the 3s. Speaking of which, there are trim screws, but not if you're going to be doing a lot of trim. – Mazura Mar 6 '16 at 1:46
  • 16 ga. trim nailers rarely (if ever) take 3" nails. Most are limited to 2-1/2". Also, most of my window casing was installed with 18 ga. nails. 16 ga. nails leave too big a hole. – isherwood Mar 9 at 16:25
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A 2"- 18 gauge gun will be fine.

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  • Reinforcing what @mike says above, do not make the mistake of cheap ing out and buying a brad nailer that shoots up to 2.25" brads. These are not long enough to go through the trim, drywall and 1" into s wall stud. Get the 2" gun....or rent one! – DAS Mar 10 at 4:56
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You don't need a finish nailer. An 18ga brad nailer with 2" brad nails would be more than okay and has a number of advantages.

  • Smaller holes that need to be touched up.
  • less likely to split the wood if too close to the edge.
  • lighter weight gun
  • less expensive gun if you want to go cordless

I replaced the trim in my entire house with an 18ga brad nailer and it has held up with zero issues for years of my kids slamming doors and bumping into things.

You might end up putting a few extra nails in compared to a 16ga, but the pros out way the cons.

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Chances are you'll need both, depending on the size of nails you're working with. IMO, brad is for up to 1-1/4", finish for 1-1/4"-2" but that also depends on the type of your nailers. YMMV.

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