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10 Types Of Nail Guns & What They’re Used For

Anyone who knows a thing or two about construction knows what nail guns are: they're tools that drive nails into a surface, so you don't have to hammer them in by hand. It's extremely useful when you have dozens of nails that need to go into something.

Believe it or not, there are multiple types of nail guns out there, and they all have different purposes. Picking the best nail gun for the job is similar to picking the right drill. It will ensure you carry out tasks as efficiently as possible, making your work quick and easy.

Whether you need a tool to nail flooring, shingles, wood, or other things, here are ten different types of nail guns and their specific usage. 

10 Types of Nail Guns & What They're Used For

1. Brad Nailers

types of nail guns

Brad nailers are most often used to attach woodcuts or to put small stick molds together. Trim work, crown moldings, window casings, baseboards, and door casings are all perfect jobs for this type of nail gun. 

Brad nailers are very versatile and can be used for heavier work or finishing jobs. It's also fitting for any job that requires it to fire nails that are15-gauge or 16-gauge. The good thing about a brad nailer is they have a very thin head and are difficult to see against wood, so wood filler isn't always necessary for the holes. 

When people think of nail guns, they’re more often than not thinking about brad nailers. For the average homeowner, brad nailers are the perfect tool to add to your tool kit, since they are mostly what you will need for the typical work around the house and DIY projects. 

2. Flooring Nailers

Flooring nailers are exceptionally niche types of nail guns that have a very specific purpose: installing tongue-and-groove floorboards. Installing those or vinyl floorboards to wooden subfloors correctly (which prevents any future issues) is the only thing this type does, and unlike other nailers, you can't use it for much else.

It's worth noting that some manual models of flooring nailers require you to hit the plunger with a mallet, which is pretty tiring. One way or another, flooring nailers are probably the most niche type of nail gun out there, and you don't need it for anything other than the above. The benefits of a flooring nailer is that unsurprisingly, they're the best nail guns for flooring jobs.

3. Framing Nailers

Framing nailers are heavy-duty nail guns designed for the toughest jobs, namely nailing large boards together. It's perfect for wood sheathing, decks, wood framing, wood siding, and fences. 

A framing nailer is one of the most powerful choices and fire some of the most robust nails. They aren't ideal for small woodworking jobs since they might send a nail clean through your wood. However, a framing nailer is ideal choice for heavy-duty jobs, as it is one of the most potent options on the market.

There are two common types of framing nailers that use two different types of nails — clipped head and round head.  A round head nail is the typical nail most people are familiar with, while the clipped head nail has essentially half it's head clipped which causes it to look like a D. Ironically, the only difference between the two is that a nailer can essentially hold more clipped head nails than round heads. 

If you aren’t too handy with tools or don’t use them as much, then framing nailers might not be something you will need anytime soon. 

4. Palm Nailers

The reason palm nailers are called that is because they are constructed to fit into the palm of your hand. They are supposed to be as small and portable as possible, making them convenient for specific jobs with limited mobility.

They often come in cordless varieties as well for more convenience and use an air compressor for power. Palm nailers are ideal if you don't have a lot of room to maneuver or if there's just not enough space for a hammer or a bigger nail gun. Of course, these little palm-sized nail guns don't function the same way that regular nail guns do.

Palm nailers don't have nails loaded, but rather, you position them above a nail you have already planted, and the palm nailer rams it in. Needless to say, palm nailers don't have as much power as larger nail guns, and they can't be used with all types of nails.

That said, they are still quite useful for tight spaces.

5. Roofing Nailers

roofing nail guns

As the name implies, roofing nailers are created to nail down shingles and subflooring on rooftops. Technically, you could use them for other tasks, but they wouldn't do very well. Roofing nailers are designed specifically for use with common roofing materials, like waterproof tar paper, asphalt, and fiberglass.

These use coil roofing nails and not the standard nails, so you can’t use them anywhere else in the house. That’s why it would not be a very good choice for non-roofing jobs and materials. It has a pretty niche usage, but it still fulfills that better than others when doing roof work.

The main buyers for them are mainly roofers, as expected. Still, homeowners with experience and who are comfortable getting on the roof might find a roofing nailer perfect for installing new shingles or replacing old ones. 

6. Finishing Nailers

Finishing nailers also have a very specific niche line of work. They are explicitly used for carpentry and fire finishing nails instead of the regular brad nails. Of course, finishing nails have more holding power due to the environment they’re commonly used in.

Finishing nailers are ideal for baseboards, crown molding, and relatively bulky pieces of wood. Because finishing nails aren't suitable for all types of woodwork, these nailers aren't as versatile as brad nailers, but they do have their uses.

These nailers come in various power types, with different levels of power available, making it easier to drive nails into different surfaces. Most nailers have multiple power types, so you can get one for your specific purpose and need. 

7. Pin Nailers

Pin nailers are unique because they fire some of the tiniest nails compared to other nail guns. They can use nails as thin as 23 gauge headless nails, which leave very tiny holes that are difficult to see. This makes it ideal for situations where appearance matters and you don't want large nails to be seen.

This includes delicate trim work, furniture repair, cabinetry, wood veneers, and crown molding. Of course, because the nails pin nailers use are thin, they aren't suitable for heavy-duty work where the construction deals with harsh things from the elements or otherwise.

On the other hand, pin nailers are very precise and can be used even on extremely small or thin pieces of wood. It's one of the most accurate nail guns out there, but that accuracy is achieved through low power and thin nails. Pin nailers are great for delicate jobs, but little else.

8. Siding Nailers

As the name implies, siding nailers are used for siding work, first and foremost. So, in other words, it joins wood to other materials. If you’re placing wooden mounts, wood sheathing, installing siding, or joining wood to synthetic materials, a siding nailer is the way to go. Apart from just wood, some siding nailers can also use aluminum nails to install aluminum siding.

While you could potentially use one for other types of projects, other versatile nail guns would do better in almost any other scenario. That makes it a pretty niche nail gun, but all niches have tools that get the job done, and when it comes to siding, a siding nailer is second to none. 

9. Metal Connector Nailers

The name of it makes it pretty obvious what it’s made to do: connect metal to things. These types of nail guns are potent nail guns intended to drive nails through metal materials. This makes them ideal for metal framing hardware, wall bracing, strap ties, and joist hangers.

It goes without saying that a nail gun powerful enough to go through metal could easily go through the wood. But that doesn't mean you should use it for woodwork. It's more potent than what you might need it to be, and the nails could possibly go through the wood you're working with. Certainly, this isn’t something you want it to do, and if used in the wrong way, you can expect expensive repairs later down the road. 

If you're working with metal, get a metal connector nail gun. But if you aren't, there's no need for it.

10. Specialty Nailers

Specialty nailers include pretty much any nail gun that's not in the categories mentioned above. They are made for extremely niche and particular jobs that don't fit into any of the other nine categories. If you need a specialty nailer, you'll probably know it, but the average homeowner likely won’t need them. Professional contractors like home remodelers specifically use them for custom jobs like fastening uncommon materials or fire nails that are custom made. 

Nail Gun Power & Motor Types

There are two types of firing modes for nail guns: bounce and sequential. Bounce firing allows you to hold down the trigger, and a nail will be fired every time you bounce the nose of your nail gun against the surface you are working on. Sequential firing requires you to pull the trigger every time you want to fire a nail.

As for motors, there are two common types — electric and pneumatic. Pneumatic nail guns use compressed air to fire and offer the greatest level of power. However, they require air tanks/air compressors to function. Electric nail guns use cords or battery packs and are easier to move around and power but don't offer as much power as pneumatic nailers who use air pressure.

You also have to consider whether the motor is brushed or not. A brushless motor is more powerful and durable but also much more expensive. Brushed motors are cheaper but don't offer as much power. This means a pneumatic nail gun with a brushless motor is the most powerful option you can get.

All of these factors need to be taken into consideration when you’re buying a nail gun. After finding out what type of nail gun you need, it's all about determining exactly how powerful of a tool you need along with it. But if it comes down to it, you can always count on a brushless pneumatic nail gun to be powerful enough for any job. For the typical homeowner who just needs a standard nail gun for DIY projects, a brad nailer is the go-to choice.

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Andrew Wilson

Andrew Wilson is the founder of Contractor Advisorly. He has over 15+ years of professional experience as a home improvement and home construction contractor. Whether you're looking for DIY advice, tool recommendations or anything home improved-related, he's happy to share his insights.