Distinguishing brad nails vs. finish nails at a quick glance can be difficult. The two nail types appear similar, but the slight difference in size make brad nails and finish nails suited for their own uses.
What is a Brad Nail?
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?
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
When it comes to choosing brad nails vs. finish nails, it depends on your project and the type of wood you’re using. In general, go with finish nails for thick wood and brads for thin wood. Finish nails are stronger than brads, so choose them if your project needs to be durable.
There are some differences between nails meant to be driven with a hammer and a collated nail meant to be driven with a power nailer, commonly known as a nail gun.
- Brads are thin, 18-gauge nails made for more delicate woodworking jobs.
- They’re available in collated strips for nail guns or individual pieces.
- Brad nails are commonly available in length ranges from 1/2-inch to 2-inch.
- Most brad nails are for interior use.
- Their slim profile reduces wood splitting.
- They leave small holes that are easily filled.
Common brad nail uses include decorative trim, picture frame and paneling. They work well on thin or narrow pieces of wood. Brads are excellent for trim work, including narrow trim around windows or doors, shoe moulding and quarter-round moulding.
- Finish nails are versatile nails with a 15- or 16-gauge diameter.
- Finish nail length ranges from 1-inch to 3 1/2-inch.
- They’re available in collated finishing nail strips for nail guns or individual pieces.
- Their heavier gauge brings greater holding strength to projects when compared to brad nails.
- They have small heads that are easy to cover with wood putty for finish work.
- Some are available with coatings for exterior use.
Finish nails are used for interior and exterior trim, window and door casing and chair rails. They’re ideal to fasten baseboards and crown moulding too. You’ll also find finish nails on stair treads and risers, as well as part of general light carpentry and cabinets.
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