18 Gauge Brad Nail Vs 16 Gauge Finish Nailer | What You Actually Need

The 16 gauge finish nailer is best suited for thick pieces of wood and trims that need more holding power. On the other hand, 18 gauge brad nails are thin in size and best used in lightweight wood trims. These nailers leave clean holes that do not need filling.

18 Gauge Brad Nail Vs 16 Gauge Finish Nailer

18 Gauge Brad Nail Vs 16 Gauge Finish Nailer

Whether it is an 18 gauge or a 16 gauge nailer, people often become very confused about which one to buy. In this section, we have discussed their benefits and drawbacks while comparing them in certain aspects.

Gauge Size

If you are a homeowner looking to buy your first nail gun, you will be wondering what “gauge” refers to. The simple way to describe is that it is the number of nails lined up in an inch side by side. Therefore, for 18 gauge brad nailers, it can fit 18 nails into one inch. On the other hand, 16 gauge finish nailers can fit only 16 per inch.

So, it should be pretty obvious that 18 gauge nails are thinner compared to 16 gauge nails. In other words, the lower the gauge number, the thicker the nail is.

Hole Size

The 16 gauge finish nails have a shank thickness of approximately 0.0625 inches. In lengths, they are typically supplied in 1-3.5 inches. The thicker size of the nail allows it to hold better. However, these nails are thick enough to split small moldings. The 16 gauge finish nails have a larger head and as a result, they leave bigger holes that need to be filled.

On the other hand, the 18 gauge brad nails are typically 0.0475 inches in thickness and supplied in 1.5-2.5 inch lengths. As thinner nails, they are fragile and not suited for thick pieces of wood. These nails generate lesser power but leave smaller holes that do not require to be sanded. 

Holding Power

In terms of raw holding power, a 16 gauge finish nailer is the clear winner. It offers more holding power when it comes to jobs like heavy or thick trimming and such. Using an 18 gauge brad nailer is not suitable for this type of job as it will not make the trim secure. 

If you are forced to use the brad nailer nonetheless, the trim or molding will eventually fall apart. Therefore, in the case of hardwood or thick plywood, you will need more power. The 16 gauge finish nailer is better suited as brad nailers do not have enough power to handle that sort of wood.


We are already aware that brad nailers use 18 gauge nails. The 18 gauge nails being thinner compared to the 16 gauge nails, do not split or crack thin pieces of wood. For applications where you need to reach corners or fasten lightweight wood trims, brad nailers are perfect.

Using a 16 gauge nailer in thin pieces of wood will cause thin trims and narrow boards to break apart. The 16 gauge nailers also produce larger holes compared to the brad nailers that require filling.

However, the 16 gauge finish nailers are a more versatile and common choice among homeowners and carpenters. They are better suited for woodworking, furniture building, crown molding, flooring, exterior trimming, and other heavy tasks.

16 or 18 Gauge Nailer for Baseboard

Both 16 gauge finish nails and 18 gauge brad nails can be used for installing baseboards. The rule of thumb says that the thicker the nail is, the greater the holding power will be. Conversely, a thinner nail will provide lesser holding strength.

It is also clear that the lower the gauge size, the thicker the nail a nailer shoots. Therefore, to put the pieces in place, it should be obvious that baseboards installed with a 16 gauge nailer will have more holding power. This is because of the bigger trim nails of such finish nailers.

However, there is a chance of splitting the baseboard when using the 16 gauge finish nailer. These hefty nails may also leave bigger and uglier holes behind that will need filling. Therefore, when installing delicate and thinner baseboards, you should go for the 18 gauge route.

Can You Use 18 Gauge Nails in a 16 Gauge Nailer?

Any nail gun will shoot only its designated nail size. Therefore, long story short, a 16 gauge nailer cannot shoot 18 gauge brad nails.

As explained before, gauge size refers to the number of nails that can be fitted in a straight line in 1 inch. The 18 gauge nails are thinner compared to the 16 gauge nails. As a consequence, the 18 gauge nails will not fit into 16 gauge nailers as they are designed to fit only 16 gauge nails.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Should I get a brad nailer or finish nailer?

You should go for a nailer according to your purposes. If you are working on thinner woods and delicate trims, go for a brad nailer. However, if you working with hardwood or plywood, then definitely go for a finish nailer. 

Can I use my brad nails for plywood?

A brad nailer is not suitable for plywood because it uses 18 gauge nails that are thin in size. These nails do not have enough strength to go through thick objects like plywood.


Choosing the right size of nailer is significant to safely and accurately aid the carpentry task. Whether the nail size is 16 gauge, 18 gauge, or any other, the size you choose depends on the type of work you are doing. Therefore, doing your research here is important.

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