16 Gauge vs. 18 Gauge Nailer

These days, it seems like everyone has a nail gun. Moreover, there's no reason why not. Not only do they make setting nails a breeze, but they also prevent ugly hammer dings. They're cheap, and there's a particular delight in rapidly driving nails with a single trigger stroke. If you are in the market for one, know that you are not alone.

Whether you want a nail gun that fires 15- or 18-gauge nails is a major decision. What you may and cannot do in your store will depend on your choice. Don't worry; once you know the differences between the two, making a decision is much easier.

What Does Gauge Mean?

Gauges are used to indicate the diameter of a nail. Nails are gauged similarly to electrical lines, with a greater gauge indicating a thinner nail.

The gauge generally indicates how many nails fit into one inch when lined up in a row. The conclusion is obvious: nails with a density of 18 per inch are thinner than those with a density of 16. Always bear in mind that a lower gauge number indicates a thicker nail.

Nail length is also important, but it is not as critical to your shortlisting because most nail guns can shoot nails within 2 and 2-1/2 inches in length.

Overview of a 16-Gauge Nailer

Typically sold in 1- to 3-and-a-half-inch lengths, 16-gauge finish nails have a shank thickness of 0.0625 inches. It holds better than 18-gauge brads since it's thicker. It may also be used to secure heavier, denser pieces of wood and is a good general-purpose gun.

There are two major reasons to avoid using 16-gauge nailers. The first is if you're just using incredibly thin boards or crown molding and don't want to risk cracking them. Even though these nails are still quite small, firing one through light trim may cause it to split.

If you're in the middle of a woodworking job and don't want to nail anything down permanently, 16-gauge nails might not be the best choice. A 16-gauge nail fired from a finish nailer is designed to stay on the board indefinitely, especially in the case of finish nailers.

Lastly, the greater head size (compared to an 18-gauge) frequently results in a bigger hole that must be sealed and sanded.

Read Also: Finish Nailer vs. Framing Nailer


  • Strong holding power
  • Can penetrate MDF and thicker wood


  • May split and crack thinner and more delicate wood
  • Requires filling and sanding of nail heads

What Is A 16 Gauge Finish Nailer Used For?

Essentially, nails with a greater thickness provide stronger support and enhanced stability. Your project shouldn't fall apart if you use 16-gauge nails to attach two boards. This is especially true if you use wood glue to hold everything together.

The finish nailer is the most typical variety of nail guns that uses nails with a gauge size of 16. Most of the time, this tool is utilized during the installation of boards and crown molding in situations where the workpiece is directly linked to drywall. To maintain the stability of your components, you will want more holding force, which may be provided with strong 16-gauge nails.

Carpenters use them for many jobs, including installing interior trim, baseboard, and crown. You may use them to install stair risers, and they are an excellent alternative for nailing down tongue-and-groove flooring in areas where a flooring nailer would be ineffective, such as close to a wall or inside a closet.

Cabinets, exterior trims, chair rails, and other applications where you are finished with the project and are certain that you require the parts to remain fixed can also benefit from using 16-gauge nailers.

Overview of a 18-Gauge Nailer

Nails with an 18-gauge diameter are much less likely to break or split thin boards or trim. Brad nailers, a special nail gun used for firing nails through thin materials or temporarily holding boards together before the glue is applied, typically employ 18-gauge nails. To remove brad nails, pry the boards apart with your fingertips.

This nailer has several restrictions. To begin with, it utilizes less power to avoid splitting or damaging the work. However, that also prevents it from penetrating materials like MDF or solid wood. The narrower shank reduces the nail's gripping strength compared to a standard 16-gauge nail.

Read: Pin Nailer Vs Finish Nailer


  • Gentler and suited for delicate
  • workLess filling and sanding needed


  • Less strength
  • Lacks power to penetrate MDF properly

What Are 18 Gauge Nailers Used For?

An 18-gauge brad nail gun will be useful for detailed finishing work.

You can use the 18-gauge nailer in Casings, Baseboards, Paneling and veneer, crown molding, and other decorative moldings.

One of the most notable cases for using an 18-gauge nail gun for the above-mention projects is that they won't leave a noticeable hole in your prized workpiece. From a distance, the surface will look flawless, but up close, you can see that one of these nails is present.

Moreover, since they won't make a big enough hole, you won't have to fuss with wood putty to cover up any holes left by 18-gauge nails. The primary function of these nails is cosmetic rather than structural.

The primary issue with 18 gauge nails is that there is very little support due to their thin size. You should consider how much weight your workpiece has and whether or not this nail can support it. Crown molding is light and thin enough to attach to drywall without issue, but anything heavier or thicker might be a problem.

In addition, these nails aren't made to break through tough surfaces. Avoid using 18-gauge nails on MDF boards, as they will flex and not stay regardless of how strong your air compressor is set.

The Difference Between 16 Gauge And 18 Gauge Nailer
Finish nail guns deploy 16-gauge nails. A brad nailer fires 18-gauge nails, while a 16-gauge finish nail has a nail length of 0.0625-inch. An 18-gauge brad nailer, on the other hand, has a nail size of 0.0475-inch.

Brad and finish nailers may make different-sized holes in wood. Because of the nailing process, professional woodworkers and carpenters frequently utilize putty to patch up the gaps left by the nails. A finish nail might leave a bigger hole that you must fill. 

Compared to a brad nailer, the holes left behind aren't particularly obvious. However, holes are possible if the material is thin or fragile. All you need to do is disguise the appearance with a small amount of putty.

Nailer Gauge Type


16-Gauge Nailer

  • Able to penetrate harder wood.
  • Has fixed binding force.
  • Extremely flexible.
  • Useful for a variety of surfaces.
  • It makes it easier to get into tight areas.
  • Not recommended for thin surfaces.
  • It might leave large holes, necessitating the use of wood filler.

18-Gauge Nailer

  • Excellent for more fragile wood trim.
  • Reduces the need for wood filling.
  • Easy to take off once the objects are in place.
  • Offers insufficient holding force
  • Not advised for use in framing.

What Is Better: 16 Gauge Or 18 Gauge Nailer?

Both types of nailers are among the most popular nail guns. They have innovative designs, are driven by air, do not require batteries, and are simple to use.

So, in general, the selection of which one is the best for you is determined by the work you require it for. However, these additional considerations are important predictors of your decision. When you can't work with completed nails or require a flat surface with no big holes, you can't justify purchasing a 16-gauge nailer.

You must keep in mind that the materials do not limit you. Most people prefer the 16-gauge nailer since it has a broader range of capabilities and can operate for an extended period without needing to be refilled. Others may disagree or find it more complicated.

To summarize, you should not base your decision on the popularity of one nailer over another; each nailer has distinct qualities that outperform the other.

Which Nail Gun is Right for You?

You should use a finish nailer and 16-gauge nails if you don't frequently work with crown molding and fine trim. It is simply the better general-use gun of the two.

To begin, they provide a lot of support for a thin nail. You'll have to pound on the boards until you can pry them free from the nail.

Second, they don't leave a significant gap in their wake while being far thicker than 18-gauge nails. They'll keep your building sturdy, yet from afar, they'll blend right in. If you drive a nail too deeply, a small amount of wood putty should be sufficient to conceal the hole.

Third, their size makes them ideal for joining heavy, solid wood planks. Injecting the nail at the proper depth is doable. However, it may take some time (unlike with an 18-gauge brad gun).

And if your budget permits, you should include both in your toolbox. Many shops have one of each, allowing them to use the appropriate nail or brad to secure a range of moldings and wood.

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