On the surface, the finish and framing nailers might look the same, and it is easy for some inexperienced users to think of them as interchangeable nail guns. But, the truth is that they are distinct tools meant for different applications.
As the names suggest, the finish nailer is meant for the finish of woodworking jobs, while the framing nailer is built for heavy-duty framing tasks. That said, the difference between the two is not that straightforward as there is a lot more to it. Here we explain more about this.
1. Nail Sizes: Framing Nailer Shoot Larger Nails
One of the main differences between the framing and finish nailers is the type and size of nails that they will shoot. And this is what makes them ideal for different applications.
The finish nailers will shoot the smaller diameter 14 to 16-gauge nails, which are typically between 1 and 2-1/2 inches long. These nails will provide enough holding power for most materials used for finish carpentry such as trims and moldings.
Although they will not provide as much hold power as you get with the framing nailer, the finish nailer delivers more hold power than other nail guns like the 18-gauge brad nailers.
Framing nailers will provide one of the highest holding powers among all the nail gun types. They shoot nails that are 8 to 11.5-gauge, which means they will have a thicker diameter to provide more hold power. Also, the nails are often longer than what the finish nailer will use as they are between 1-1/4 and 3-1/2 inches long.
2. Applications: Finish Nailer is perfect for Light-Duty Use
Given the differences in the gauge and length of nails that these different nailers will use, they will also be ideal for different applications. And this is even though many nail gun users have a bad tendency of using the same nailer for all their projects despite it not being suitable.
Finish nailers are some of the most versatile, and hence most commonly used nail gun types. They are ideal for light-duty finish carpentry and will be suitable for projects like installing baseboard and trim, building small furniture, and general DIY woodworking jobs.
The framing nailers, on the other hand, are heavy-duty tools that will be perfect for heavy construction projects. Some of the most common applications of the framing nailer include framing houses, building fences, building or installing decks, and also for roof sheathing.
While in some cases these nail guns can be used interchangeably, you need to be extra careful with this. For example, using the framing nailer for light-duty tasks can often lead to cracked workpieces as the nails are too thick, while the finish nailer will not provide enough hold power for most framing jobs
3. Typical Users: DIY vs. Professional Nailer
The finish nailer is the more versatile of the two tools. It is mostly because the nail gauge and size that it shoots will be ideal for most workpieces as their hold power is good enough and there is less likelihood of splitting wood.
Hence, for DIYers and regular woodworkers, you will get more service from a finish nailer than a framing nailer given their typical kinds of jobs. For home projects, the finish nailer will also offer more precision, and hence making it an even better option for DIYers.
But, for professional contractors and woodworkers that tend to do a lot of framing jobs, the framing nailer is the more useful tool. Also, the heavy-duty design of the framing nailer that allows it to take a lot of abuse makes it more ideal for professionals given that this is the typical kind of environment they work.
Ideally, getting both the finish and framing nailer will be the wise thing as you will have a handy nail gun for different situations. But, if you can only buy one, your typical projects should inform your choice.
For regular DIY and woodworking jobs in the workshop and around the workshop, the finish nailer is often the more useful tool of the two. But, for heavy-duty professional framing and construction jobs, the framing nailer will be more appropriate.