How to Choose the Right Power Nailer

Posted on January 12, 2015

choosing a power nailer

There are as many types of nail guns out there as there are ways to utilize them. It’s important to know which ones work for what type of materials and to use each device correctly. The wrong nail gun (or an unreliable nail gun) can damage the material with which you’re working, and the wrong use of the tool can hurt the user. A reliable nail gun can ensure the job is done right and in a clean, efficient manner. In addition, a reliable power nailer can allow contractors to install thousands of nails in just a few hours. For big jobs, power nailers are essential. They are efficient and allow for contractors to install nails at the same time performing other duties, since most nailers require just one hand. Nailers are also great because they allow workers to install nails in tight, awkward spaces where one normally can’t fit a hammer. However, there are some large nail guns available that exist for high-volume jobs.

There are many types of power nail guns out there. There are nail guns for basic work, crown molding, chair rails, woodworking, framing, crafting, interior trims, roofing, building a deck or other wooden outdoor projects and more. With pneumatic nail guns, the investment is small and the outcome is big.

When searching for a basic nailer, there are a couple things to keep in mind. First, what the nailer will be used for the most (and how often) and how big or small the spaces will be where you will be using the gun. Most contractors have a variety of nail guns since there are so many speciality versions, so it’s smart to know what’s out there and what will provide the most for your investment. 

Professional Contractor Tools

There are two types of nail guns for big construction jobs. There are stick-style nail guns that use collated nails. These nails are formed into a stick that is inserted into an oblong nail magazine. These nail sticks vary in length, usually from 20″ nails to 40″ nails.

Then, there are coil-style nail guns that use nails wired into long strings that are stored in a round nail magazine. Since the magazine rolls the string of nails, many nails can be loaded at once.

Pneumatic nail guns are the most commonly used nail guns. These nail guns require consistent air pressure from a small air compressor for power. They operate on pressure measured in pounds per square inch (PSI), and require a certain amount of pressure for certain operations. Pneumatic nail guns also require a volume of air to operate, measured in cubic feet per minute (CFM). When using a pneumatic nail gun and an air compressor, make sure there is no restriction in the air hose. Make sure to use air compressor hoses that are the right size, ensuring constant, efficient performance of both the gun and the air compressor as well as ultimate safety.

Make sure the PSI and CFM levels meet the nailer’s specific requirements, either at an equal amount or greater, but never less. The nailer will not perform efficiently or even work correctly if there is not enough air pressure or volume. Never increase the air pressure of the air compressor to up air volume.

Nail Gun Features

Each tool has specific features and capacities for specific uses. There are different types of nail firing powers, for example. For production work, a nailer that lets you hold down the trigger and tap the tool to the material to drive the nail is helpful. This allows for control.

Some nailers are activated once they touch the material. These nailers take practice to manage smoothly, because they work very quickly. Some nailers allow users to fire nails one at a time, such as staple guns. This is a simple operation. In addition, some nail guns allow users to choose the firing style depending on the project.

Nail Gun Specifications

There are nailers available that allow you to set detailed specifications of the nail for an exact setting. These are smart investments, but again, many nailers are for specific jobs. Many nailers with custom adjustments are designed for speciality projects.

Look for nail guns that have exhaust ports built in so that debris and air shoot away from the operator and the work surface. Since safety is the ultimate concern at any job site, this is an essential feature to look for when purchasing a power nailer. Operators should always wear protective head and eye coverings when using power tools. 


Each nail guns has specific nail requirements that must be met to ensure the tool works properly. Never place just any nail gun nail into a power nailer. Some power nailers require a very specific type of nail, so using just any nail made for a power nailer is unwise. The wrong nail can immediately break the power tool. Make sure any nails you place into your nail gun magazine are designed for that nailer.