Pneumatic Nailers 101

By thewriteDuffy •  Updated: 05/08/24 •  5 min read

When you renovate your home completely DIY, one thing you quickly have to learn about are all the different types of nailers.

Aside from a good saw, they are the tool that’s going to make the biggest difference to the speed and professional look of the job you’re doing, be it framing, trim, or other odd jobs.

Below, I’ll take you through all the different types of pneumatic nailers, and answer some frequently asked questions about them too. But first let’s just very quickly establish what a pneumatic nailer is.

What is A Pneumatic Nailer?

A pneumatic nailer is a tool that uses compressed air to drive nails into wood or other materials. Some alternatives to pneumatic nailers include manual old-fashioned hammers, cordless nail guns, electric drills with nail attachments, and cordless drills with nail attachments.

With the possible exception of cordless (battery-powered) nail guns, these alternatives are less powerful, slower, and more labor-intensive than pneumatic nailers.

Cordless nail guns are a good replacement for pneumatic nailers however they are often heavier, more costly and take a longer time to use (meaning they shoot less nails per minute) than pneumatic nailers.

What Are the Different Types of Pneumatic Nailers?

The 23-Gauge Pinner

Senco FinishPro10 23 Gauge Air Micro Pinner

Uses: The 23-gauge pinner is used for smaller projects like picture frames or birdhouses.

The number in a 23-gauge pinner refers to the diameter of the fastener.

The 1/2 inch to one-inch fasteners used with this tool can be used to hold pieces of crown molding together at the corners, or to assemble small things like picture frames or birdhouses.

The small fastener creates a barely noticeable hole and is less likely to split thin pieces of wood than a larger nail.

The 18-Gauge Brad Nailer

Senco – 18-Gauge Brad Nailer FinishPro 25XP

Uses: This nailer is perfect for decorative and delicate molding, paneling, casing, and trim work. An 18-gauge brad nailer accepts a nail length of 0.5 to 2.5 inches and a thickness is 0.0475-inch. 

This is the first nailer that we bought and it definitely has paid its dues and has been handy in a number of situations in addition to all the trim and casings in our 1986 renovation home.

If you’re only using this nailer for the occasional trim, I recommend going cordless. We LOVE our DeWalt 18-gage brad nail gun and it lasts longer than we do on most days.

The 18-gauge brad nailer has an adjustable depth-of-drive so that you can countersink the fastener.

The 16-Gauge Brad Nailer

FinishPro 32 16-Fauge Finish Nailer

Uses: The 16-gauge brad nailer is perfect for construction work involving real wood including exterior trim, flooring, casings, cabinets, and chair rails.

A 16-gauge brad nailer takes 1 1/4 inch to 2 1/2 inch straight collation nails with flat t-heads. It also has an adjustable depth of drive.

The 15-Gauge Angle Collation Tool

SENCO 41XP 15 gauge 2-1/2″ Finish Nailer

Uses: 15-gauge nailers can be used for cabinet and furniture construction, picture frame assembly, trim and molding installation, and upholstery trim.

The 15-gauge collation tool has an adjustable depth-of-drive tool and is angled to allow you to get into corners easily.

A-15 gauge angle collation tool releases 1 1/4 inch to 2 1/2 inch round-headed nails.

Framing Nailers

Framing nails.

Uses: You can use a framing nailer for fencing, decks, roof sheathing, subflooring, and (of course) framing.

Framing nailers use a special type of nail. They have full round heads in a plastic collation.

The full round heads require the fasteners to be spaced a little farther apart than most fasteners used in pneumatic tools. Therefore, a much larger magazine is required to accept the same number of nails.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Pneumatic Nailers Need a Compressor?

An air compressor and air hose are needed to power pneumatic nailers.

There are cordless options out there, but while the advantage of cordless nailers is that they allow greater freedom of movement, they also consume a lot of battery power when doing power-intensive tasks.

What Is the Difference Between Pin Nailer and Brad Nailer?

A brad nailer uses 18-gauge nails, while a pin nailer uses a 23-gauge headless nail. Pin nails leave a smaller hole, but aren’t as strong as brad nails.

Do I Need a Brad Nailer or A Finish Nailer?

You should use finish nails on thick wood and brads on thin wood. If your project needs to be durable, go with finish nails. If your project is delicate or needs to look flawless, go for 18-gauge brad nails.


At home, April is a mom, wife, and DIY darling. Among other home projects, she helped her husband Dan renovate their 1986 bungalow and is currently designing and decorating the 2023 custom home they are building themselves. Professionally, April is a writer, author, and online marketer with 15 years of experience writing for newspapers and magazines, building online authority websites, and publishing books.