How do I Choose a Framing Nailer Gauge or Gauge Nailers?

Written by tom becker
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How do I Choose a Framing Nailer Gauge or Gauge Nailers?
Choosing and gauging a framing nailer like this one can be done in a few steps. (Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

Framing nailers or, as they are more commonly known, "nail guns," are a useful tool in a number of home-remodelling applications. From attaching lighter decorative elements like crown moulding, to heavier structural construction such as framing carpentry, framing nailers make for quick, precise nailing. They come in several gauges, so knowing how to choose a framing nailer gauge or how to gauge nailers is crucial when selecting a framing nailer.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Check the body of the nailer. The gauge will generally be written on the body of the nailer itself. If it is loaded with nails, they will frequently be labelled with their gauge.

  2. 2

    Check the size of the nails. Nail gauge numbers decrease as the thickness and length of the nail increases. The lower the gauge, the bigger the nail.

  3. 3

    Match the nailer to the job. Light construction requires higher gauge nails, whereas nailing heavier construction elements requires lower gauge nails. For construction that requires nailing of a variety of different materials, choose a nailer with a gauge in the middle of the highest and lowest gauges available.

  4. 4

    Test 24 to 22 gauge nailers. These are the smallest nailers available on the market. They generally have no head so they sink below the surface of the nailed material. They use nails 0.61 to 0.70mm in diameter and 10 to 50mm long. This gauge of nailer is useful for attaching lightweight materials like plastic sheeting, paper, and moulding.

  5. 5

    Test 18 gauge nailers. These nailers use nails 1.22mm in diameter and 12 to 50mm long. This gauge of nailer can be used in the lightweight applications for which 24 to 22 gauge nailers are used, or for nailing heavier materials. Their nails generally have heads on them and are referred to as "brad nails."

  6. 6

    Test 16 and 15 gauge nailers. These are the mid-range of nailer gauges and are some of the most commonly used. They use nails 1.63 and 1.83mm in diameter and 16 to 64mm long. This gauge of nailer is best suited for nailing MDF, plywood, baseboard, and other soft woods.

  7. 7

    Test 8 to 10 gauge nailers. These are some of the heaviest-duty nailer gauges. They use nails 2.9 to 3.1mm in diameter and 50 to 90mm long. This gauge of nailer is best suited for nailing heavy materials as in framing carpentry or nailing fencing.

  8. 8

    Test lower-gauge speciality nailers. A variety of speciality nailers are available that are only for nailing very heavy materials. They drive large spikes which can be as long as 6 inches or more.

Tips and warnings

  • When nailing, press the nailer guard to the surface of the material to be nailed, then depress the trigger. Keeping the trigger depressed and then striking the guard against the surface to be nailed is a faster method, but results in inaccurate nailing and can result in injury.
  • Use extreme caution and wear proper safety equipment when operating a framing nailer. The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that between 1996 and 2001, nail gun injuries nearly doubled from 8,966 to 14,625, and are today among the most common causes for emergency room visits.

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