Framing Nailer vs Finish Nailer

It can be difficult for people, especially amateurs, to figure out what kind of nail gun they should use for each kind of job.  That is where I aim to help you out. In this article, I will be going over the difference between two very common types of tools, framing nailers and finishing nailers.

I am going to tell you what the major differences between the two are; as well, I’ll also tell you what kind of jobs each is best suited for.

The main difference between a framing nailer and finishing nailer is in the size of the nails they can shoot. A finish nailer is designed to shoot 14 to 16-gauge nails whereas a framing nailer can shoot bigger nails from 0.113-inches to 0.162-inches in size.

Now let’s dig little deeper, shall we?

What is a framing nailer?

A framing nailer is a heavy-duty power tool designed to handle large projects. Think of projects that require a lot of large nails to be driven into thick material.

For example, professional use framing nailers mostly on home building projects. If you are building a house from scratch or adding a room to a house, then a framing nailer is essential. Likewise, other major building projects, like building a deck, also require a framing nailer.
Framing Nailer
Typically nails from 1-1/4 inches to 3-1/2 inches are used with framing nail gun. They have enough power to join 2x 4s, fences and works great for nailing plasters without cracking.

Round and Clipped Nails

There are two sub-types of framing nailer, round-headed and clipped headed. Generally speaking, there is no consensus among professionals as to which is better. On the one hand, clipped headed nailers hold more nails than rounded headed ones. However, certain building codes prevent clipped headed nails from being used. So, each one has positives and negatives.

If your building code allows you to use clipped headed nails, then go with that. However, professionals who have to take their nail gun from job site to job site (and thus have to deal with potentially different building codes) might find it simpler just to use a round-headed nailer.

To learn more about these nails, read my guide on round head vs clipped nails where I explained about 3 types of framing nails.

What is a finishing nailer

Much like with the framing nailer, the finish nailer’s name alone probably gives you a good idea of what you should be using it for. A Finish Nailer is a power tool intended for shooting nails to do finishing projects such as paneling, installing trims and moldings. These tools aren’t meant to be doing the heavy-duty or bulk of the work. Finish Nailer with angle base

Because of this, finishing nail guns use smaller nails. Typically 15-gauge and 16-gauge nails are used on these tools.  Depending on the job, you will only use around 1 to 2 ½ inch nails with your finishing nailer.

Another tool you should know is the brad nailer. This power tool is also used for finish nailing but shoots smaller 18-gauge nails. For more details, read this guide on brad nailer vs finish nailer.

Difference between framing nailer and finishing nailer

There are a few key differences to keep in mind when it comes to framing nailers and finishing nailers. Firstly, framing nailers make a much bigger impact on whatever it is that you are nailing. So, beware that when using a framing nailer, you are going to have to do a lot of filling as well. On the other hand, because they use smaller nails, finishing nailers tend not to leave big holes, which means that you don’t need to do as much filling.

Another key difference between these two kinds of nail guns is their accuracy. Framing nail guns are a bit less precise than finishing nailers. This is because of the jobs each does. Finishing nailers are meant for things like building furniture (tables, cabinets, etc.). You are also supposed to use them for fastening things like molding, paneling, trims, and baseboards. These are all jobs that require a high amount of precision; so, that is what a finishing nailer delivers.

Comparison Chart

Framing Nailer Finish Nailer
Nails used 11 ½ to 8 Gauge (0.113 to 0.168-inches) 14 to 16 Gauge
Nail Length 1 ¼ inches to 3 ½ inches 1inch to 2 ½ inches
Uses Construction and Home building.

Fencing and Roof Sheathing.

Heavy duty carpentry work such as building decks

Plaster works

Install decorative trims


Paneling and crown moldings

Small furniture building and DIY projects

Recommended Products Best Framing Nailer
1-1/2-Inch to 3-1/2-Inch Framing Nailer
BOSTITCH Framing Nailer
Best Finish Nailer
Makita 15 Gauge Finish nailer
Makita AF635 Nailer
Both the power tools are available in battery powered cordless version and pneumatic or air powered models.

Who should get each kind of nail gun

Because each kind of nail gun has a fundamentally different role, it should be easy for you to choose if you know what type of job you want to perform. Ideally, you would get both of them, so that you could use each one on in the situation that it is best suited for. Obviously, that isn’t going to be the case for everyone, some people have limited budgets to work off and can’t fit both kinds of nailers into their budget.

Personally, I think amateur DIYers will get more use out of a finishing nailer. A finishing nailer’s precision is more useful for the sort of home projects that DIYers tend to do.

The sorts of projects that framing nailers are good for (framing rooms, building big projects like decks, etc.) are the sorts of thing that people tend to call professionals for. That being said, if you know for a fact that you have a big job coming up that is going to require the use of a framing nailer, it might be wise to invest in one sooner, rather than later. This will give you an opportunity to get used to using one.

Finishing Nailer or Framing Nailer?

I hope that if you were on the fence as to what nailer you should buy, that this guide has been useful.

In summary,

  • Framing Nailer: For heavy duty projects like building construction, fencing and decks.
  • Finishing Nailer: For light-duty works like installing decorative trims, window paneling, building furniture, cabinets, home improvement and small woodworking projects.

If you are still unsure about what kind of nail gun you should use in a situation, consult an expert. You will be able to describe the job to them and receive personalized feedback.