16 Vs 18 Gauge Nailer :Which one?

Each time you make up your mind to buy a brad nailer or any other type of nail gun, the first point you deal with is the term “gauge”. This is the most fundamental question asked prior to buying a nailer model. A proper understanding of it will lead you to a step forward during the product selection. 

A gauge refers to the nail dimension. In case of a brad nailer, the gauge indicates the head dimension and thickness of the nail. In this content, you will get a vivid description concerning a 16 gauge vs an 18 gauge nailer. If you are a beginner in this domain and are confused in choosing between the two, the below attributes might help eradicate your doubts shortly. 

16 Gauge Vs 18 Gauge Brad Nailer

18 Gauge Nailer

In this section, you will get a clearer comparison between a 16 gauge nailer and an 18 gauge nailer. Then you can accordingly decide which one to purchase.

1. Nail Size

The thinness of a nail is determined by its gauge size. The higher the gauge value is, the thinner is the nailer. So, the 18 gauge nail is slightly thinner compared to the 16 gauge nailer piece. Thinness has an important role to play in crown molding and in attaching trim and crown molding. Plus, there is the least possibility of cracking thinner trim pieces or splitting boards with an 18 gauge nail. Both the 16 and 18 gauge nails can be easily fired through dry and thin lumber without leaving a visible mark/hole on the workpiece.

18-gauge nails are widely fired through brad nailers (a nail gun that is typically that provides temporary power of holding the nails power between boards, especially while firing nails through intricate workpieces or for gluing purposes. Once you are done with your task, if you want to remove the nails, then you can do that by simply pulling apart the boards. At a close range, you can guess that it is either a 16 or an 18 gauge nail. But if seen from a distance, then the nailed surface will appear markless, as if nothing is there. Added to that, since an 18 gauge nail hardly leaves any gap in the hole, you will not have to worry about filling the gap with wood putty. Both the 16 and 18 gauge nailers are more frequently used to maintain the workpiece outlook and not for its structural integration. 

2. Heavy-Duty Tasks

If you are a professional woodworker who deals with hefty pieces of wood, then the 16 gauges nailer is the one to use. It allows you to use thicker nails compared to an 18 gauge nailer. Therefore, it is fit for doing those jobs that require better stability and more structural integrity. If coupled with an adhesive, then you get a better and indestructible finishing. These are the things that make a 16 gauge nailer perfect for performing heavy-duty, constructive work.

Unlike the 18 gauge nails, the 16 gauge nails give better support in holding two boards together. Plus, there is the least risk of getting the workpiece from collapsing, typically when used with wood adhesive. The 16 gauge nail guns are commonly the finish nailers and are commonly used in the installation work of crown molds/cornices, boards, etc., where the workpiece has to be directly fitted to the dry ceiling or wall. 

On the contrary, the 18 gauge nailer is used to get smooth and cleaner work finish. However, the nails greatly lack in maintaining stability and strength to hold the workpiece in place. So, the discussion between the 16 or 18 gauge nailers concerning baseboards considers the former type as the winner, as it promises increased durability with better stability to hold the project intact.

3. Trims

Both the external and internal trimmings on doors, windows, and baseboards need high holding power, much precision, and crafting stability. So, if you are confused about what nail size you should go for baseboard trims, then 16 gauge nail is the solution. 

All types of trimming works require firmer and more balanced work. While doing door frames or baseboard fitting, the 16-gauge nailer nails ensure better balance and grip. There are many other relevant examples like repairing or furniture making, etc. by using a 16 gauge nailer.

4. Power Source: Battery or Air

​Both the 16 and 18 gauge nail guns are available in battery-powered and pneumatic versions. But, both the types come with respective strengths and weaknesses which we will be discussing so that you can make the better choice.

5. Battery Power

If you are looking for a free hand brad nailer, then a battery powered nailer is the one for you. It frees you from the hassle of dealing with a hose, every time you fire a nail to the workpiece. This type of nailer is easy to carry around anywhere without thinking of tying the hose to connect the gun to the air compressor. If you are a professional who is always on a move, then go for this nailer option.

Batteries reduce the budget of your nailer and it also generates minimal to zero noise during its use. But make sure your nailer battery has full charge in it. You need to keep extra batteries so that it does not hamper your work in the middle. Here the extra expense may be due to the spare batteries, however, it is yet lesser compared to buying a pneumatic nailer kit.

Note: Be careful with the Li-ion type batteries as these are susceptible to thermal cum physical shock, and may end up breaking. Though there is the least chance of experiencing so, it is better to be on the safer side and keep some new batteries if you want a pause-free work.

6. Pneumatic Power

This is an ideal nailer for those who are looking for an unlimited power stream for a nail gun. A pneumatic power nailer is good for prolonged projects without a pause, unless you are required to reload nails quite frequently.A pneumatic nailer demands buying an air compressor (if you do not have one already), fittings, hoses and connectors, etc. to bring the air supply to the nailer. These will add an extra expense to your nailer budget while installing a compressed air in shop or for mobile projects.

16 or 18 Gauge Nailer: Which is Right for You?

Well, there is no such universal solution to this question. Which nailer type is right for you depends on what type of work you deal with. For projects like attaching staircases or crown molding, fitting thicker wood pieces, etc. require durable installation. So, in that case, you must choose the 16 gauge nailer.For thinner workpieces such as wall paneling or decorative molding, etc., an 18 gauge nail gun is the apt choice for quicker and convenient installation of wood without getting it ripped or split. If you have a good budget, then it is better to add both the options to your toolbox. Many professionals or shops keep both the 16 and 18 gauge nailers to perform an array of tasks including a variety of wood fittings or moldings with the appropriate brad nailer. 

Setbacks You Must Know

The 18 gauge nail gun, as mentioned earlier, does not guarantee stability nor does it promise structural strength. This is a must-have feature that any woodworker looks for in a nailer. This means less holding power of the nails compared to 16-gauge nailer nails.Moreover, the 18 gauge nails are hard to fire through thick and hard wood, typically ash, walnut, oak, beech, etc. Therefore, 16 gauge brad nailer is a good choice if it is about structure and frame making, or other repair works.However, the 16 gauge nail gun comes with some substantial set of cons. Firstly, the gauge size can be an issue. The thicker size of the 16 gauge nail could leave a wider gap around on the workpiece.

Consequently, you will have to fill the hole gap with wood putty. But then it will not give a smoother, perfect finishing to your work.Lastly, a thicker nail (16 gauge) will end up cracking or splitting the wood surface you are working on. Therefore, a 16 gauge nail gun is not a good choice to perform sensitive types of woodworking.Both the nail guns have different aspects and so, are utilized for performing different tasks. So, selecting the right nailer type entirely depends on your project. Experts recommend the 16 gauge nailer to be a better fit to work on hefty workpieces. 


All the details and differences between the 16 and 18 gauge nailers are provided. We hope that it helps you to make the correct selection of the brad nailer. The rest depends on the buyer’s preference and the type of project to be performed. Our only advice would be whichever you buy, make sure to carry out the operations in a safe and environment-friendly place, typically away from the children’s reach. 

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