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Brad Nails vs. Finish Nails

What is a Brad Nail?
A person using a nailer to fasten trim to stair risers.

Brad nails, or brads, are made of 18-gauge steel wire. Nail gauge sizes indicate the thickness of the nail. Thinner nails have higher gauge numbers. The small diameter of brad nails makes them easy to mask in wood trim or paneling. In addition to being thinner than standard nails, they also feature a smaller head.

The slender profile of brad nails helps to prevent splitting on delicate material. Their subtle appearance often makes for a clean finish in various woodworking projects. 

Because brad nails themselves are thin, they work best in thinner cuts of lumber, including fiberboard and plywood. The small diameter of brads means that your moulding and trim work will show less of a hole and might not need wood filler before painting.

What are Finish Nails?
A person using a nailer to fasten trim to a wall.

Finish nails, or finishing nails, are generally made of 15- or 16-gauge steel wire, making them slightly thicker in diameter than brad nails. The added thickness means that finishing nails create a stronger hold than brads. This makes them useful for heftier applications with thicker material, such as cabinets or baseboards.

The greater diameter of finish nails leaves a wider hole after fastening a piece of wood. For this reason, you’ll need to follow up with a filler to conceal the spots and tidy your handiwork.

Because they are thicker than brad nails, finish nails are more likely to split thin or delicate pieces of wood trim.

Brad Nails vs. Finish Nails
Brad Nails
Collated Finishing Nails
Description Thin, 18-gauge nails made for more delicate woodworking jobs. Available in collated strips for nail guns or individual pieces. Brad nail length ranges from 1/2-inch to 2 1/2-inch. Versatile nails with 15- or 16-gauge diameter designed for thicker cuts of wood. Available in collated strips for nail guns or individual pieces. Nail length ranges from 1-inch to 3 1/2-inch.
Feature/Benefits Slim profile reduces wood splitting and leaves small holes that often don’t need to be filled. Heavier gauge brings greater holding strength to projects.
Recommended For Brad nail uses include decorative trim, picture frames, paneling, birdhouses, narrow trim around windows or doors, shoe moulding, quarter-round moulding and other thin cuts of wood. Interior and exterior trim, window and door casing, chair rails, baseboards and crown moulding, stair treads and risers, general light carpentry and cabinets.

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