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

Nail guns are for versatile acts. You may want to use different nails in one nailer to ease your task or save money. But the harsh truth is using one nail gun for several nails makes your job tenacious instead of making it easy. Briefly speaking, you cannot use 18-gauge nails in a 16-gauge nailer. 

Can You Use 18 Gauge Nails in a 16 Gauge Nailer

The Difference Between 18 Gauges and 16 Gauges Nails

Generally, the available gauge sizes for nail guns are 15, 16, and 18 Gauge. The higher the gauge value, the thinner the nail. That means the higher the gauge number, the smaller the head. 

The gauge value stands for the number of nails per inch. For instance, you can put 18 pieces of 18-gauge nails per inch. Similarly, 16 gauge means 16 fasteners per inch. As you can see, 18-gauge nails have thinner heads as compared to 16-gauge nails.  

The Difference Between 16-Gauge Nail Gun and 18-Gauge Nail Gun 

A 16-gauge nail measures two and a half inches in length and 1/16 inch in width. These nails are thicker and longer than 18-gauge nails. While pressing the trigger of a 16-gauge nail gun, the fasteners can go through the wood as deep as 2.5 inches. 

Furthermore, 16-gauge nail guns are generally best for attaching thick pieces of wood. Besides, always bear in mind that they have more holding power. So, once you pull the trigger, it is permanently attached. 

On the contrary, 18-gauge nails are less than 2/64 inches in diameter, which is thinner than 16-gauge nails. They usually work like a charm for attaching thin pieces of wood. Thus, 18-gauge nail guns help to do detailed wood projects. 

Moreover, an 18-gauge nail gun drives the nails more than 1 inch deep into the wood. The thin heads of these nails leave a small hole that provides an aesthetic look to your wood project.

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What Happens if You Use Wrong Nails in a Nailer?

Manufacturers build each nail gun to accept specific sizes, lengths, and widths of nails.  The length and the width of the different gauge nails vary, as I said before. For example, a 16-gauge nail is two and a half inches long and 2/64 inches wide. It is thicker and longer than 18-gauge nails, whereas 18-gauge nails have a small head and short length.

The nail guns refer to the drive piston and the diameter of the nails to size accordingly. Besides, the aperture through which the nail gets shot needs to have the appropriate size.

18-gauge nails are narrower. When you use them in a 16-gauge nailer, the 16-gauge piston hits the full head of one fastener and part of the nail behind it. In consequence, the nail gun may drive nails well-handled at first. But after shooting some nails, the nail gun may refuse to fire or may shoot double nails at once. Therefore, it causes jamming problems eventually. 

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

Use Compatible Nails for You Nailer

From the above discussion, we learned that 18-gauge nails are thinner than 16-gauge nails. Besides, they are specified for a small woodworking project, while 16-gauge ones have more penetrating and holding power for finish and trim jobs. 

According to professionals, you cannot use 18-gauge nails in a 16-gauge nailer. These two will never match completely, no matter what.

Nail guns are meant to shoot specific types of nails. If you alter the fasteners to another gauge nail, this will ruin the tool. Furthermore, these may cause frequent jams, firing double nails at once and also refusing to shoot nails. 

A nail gun only contains the nails approved by the manufacturer. Therefore, nail guns support particular lengths and widths of nails. If you swap the nail sizes, it will damage the nail gun over time, even leading to an accident.

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Frequently Asked Question

Can you use 18-gauge nails for baseboards?

18-gauge nails have a small head for delicate wood projects. This thin head is not strong enough to hold a large piece of wood. In this regard, you can use 18-gauge nails for a thin piece of baseboard. But you cannot attach thick pieces. However, you may use them to attach two pieces of baseboard temporarily.

When would you buy a 16-gauge nailer?

A 16-gauge nailer is the most versatile type of nail gun. They are generally used for constructing permanent structures. As 16-gauge nails have more holding power, you can attach a large piece of wood spontaneously. For example, you may install baseboards or door frames into drywall.  


You see, you can’t force a tool to do anything out of its reach. Both 16-gauge and 18-gauge nail guns are for entirely different purposes. If you use 18-gauge nails in a 16-gauge nailer, it will cause jams or internal tool damage. You might even mess up the entire project. So, get nailers of different sizes alongside their corresponding fasteners to get a versatile yet safe nailing experience.

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