Nail Gun for Fence. Right Nails for Pickets & Rails.

Building or repairing a wooden fence requires using the right nails and nail gun for the job. The right nail gun can let you assemble the boards quickly, make fast repairs, or replace older, weathered boards with new ones fast and simple.

What Nail Gun is Best for Fencing?

Nail Gun for Fence
A coil nail gun, specifically a siding coil nail gun works best for fencing. It can shoot ring shank nails up to 2-1/2-inches long. A framing nailer can also be used for fencing work.

The best nail gun is one that delivers the proper size and type of nails depending on the wood being used for the fencing. In addition, the nail gun needs to be ergonomic, lightweight, yet powerful enough to quickly drive in the nail, so you can move quickly from one picket or paling to the next.

#1. Coil Siding Nail Gun

When using this type of nail gun with 1 ½″ ring shank nails that are galvanized, this is arguably the best nail gun for the job. The coil nails are ideal because they have a large head that better secures the nail to the picket or paling. You can force the nail in easier and it will stay secure. Be sure that the nail is galvanized, or it will quickly rust.

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However, a coil siding nail gun is rather expensive and limited in its use. So, you may find yourself stuck with a specialized nail gun that has few other uses in your possession. This depends on the type of work you do and how often you need a nail gun of this type.

#2. Framing Gun

This is a less expensive option if you can find the right type of nails that will fit the nail gun. The nails need to be less than 2-inches, ring shank, and galvanized. The issue with framing nail guns when working with pickets or palings is the blow-through which can be problematic, but it can be avoided. Another potential issue is finding a framing nailer that will work with relatively short nails. While they tend to start off okay, when they reach the end of the clip misfires are more likely to occur.

Building fence with framing nailer

Can I Use a Finish Nailer for Fencing?

Do not use a finish nailer or bard nailer for fencing. While they are good for placing the wood in position, the diameter of the finish and brad nails are too small for fencing.
You can however use a power stapler which the contractors often use for building fence and wood floorings.

Screws Vs Nails for Fence

While both can secure the pieces together, the right size screw is arguably better compared to a nail. This is because the screw will not only hold better, it will help prevent the boards from warping. More importantly, screws tend to stay in place while nails move around.

One of the major advantages of screws is that they can be removed, and rework is easy.

However, screws take longer to install compared to a nail gun. Plus, the right nails should last for a long time, so replacement will be infrequent. If you want to ensure that the boards stay in place and avoid the possibility of nails moving about, then go with screws. Otherwise, using nails from a good nail gun can work quite well.

You could also use screws to secure the rails and nail the fence pickets to the rails or stringer.

Galvanized vs Stainless steel Screws & Nails

For most non-pressure treated wood, you can use galvanized or zinc-plated steel screws or nails. The exception is the cedar fence. When the rainwater enters inside the zinc on galvanized screws will react to the chemicals released by cedar and pressure-treated wood. This will result in dark corrosion streaks abound the nails or screws.

For pressure-treated wood and cedar pickets, use stainless steel or hot-dipped galvanized nails or screws.

Nail Size for Fence

Of course, for both fence pickets and palings, the size of the nail will vary depending on the thickness and type of wood that is being used. But first, what is the difference between pickets and palings?

Fence Pickets vs Palings

These are two terms that you often hear people use interchangeably. A picket is in fact a 1 ½″ pole with a round or pointed top and the palings are flat boards that we fix on the cross rails or stringer. However, today when someone says fence pickets they are usually refereeing to the flat boards.

What Size Nail Gun for Fence Pickets or Paling?

You need a nail gun that can deliver the right size nail into the pickets which hold them together without splitting the picket itself.

Assuming that you are going to nail 5/8″ pickets (which is the most common size) to 2×4″ rails, 2-inches long nails would be perfect. Keep in mind that the widely available 2-3/8″ long nails will protrude out of the rails which you should avoid.

Given that most wooden fences have similarly sized pickets, the best size of the nail would be 6d to 8d, 1 ½″ to 2-inches ring shank nails. Your nail gun will need to hold that size of nail to be useful in securing fence pickets.

Be sure to use ring shank nails as they work the best. These are nails that have rings or concentric ridges that go all the way down the shaft. The rings will grip the wood properly and secure it for a long time. However, they are difficult to pull out, so if you need to replace the paling or something goes wrong with the nail, you will have to do some work to get it out.

Alternatively, you can use 1 ¼″ to 1 ¾″ long screws to secure the pickets, but this will take considerably longer to apply. In both cases, you will need to use galvanized nails or screws, otherwise, they will rust after a relatively short time.

Test Nail First

The bigger the gauge, the more secure the nail will be in the wood. However, going too big means damaging the wood. 6d or 8d nails work quite well, offing the size needed with little danger of doing damage to most types of wood. It is advisable that if you are not sure, use a practice board or two of the same size as the picket or paling and judge the results.

Nail Gun for Fence Rails

For this work, you will need nails that are 16d or 3 ½″ long to secure the fence rail or stringer to the fence pole. You could also use 20d nail if you are securing a 2×4 fence rail to 4×4 post.

However, I strongly recommend you go for 4-inch screws to attach rails to the fence poles since screws are much more secured. Use stainless steel or hot dipped galvanized screws for best results.