Sometimes, even I hire other people to do some of the work around my house. Like when I hired a contractor who specializes in laying hardwood floor, to redo my entire house. This is a mega-job that certainly required more than just me to get the job done. But, when it came to putting in the new edge moldings, this was a task I chose to DIY.
For around $30, you can have the best brad nailer on our list. It has a decent array of features, like an adjustable exhaust port, great ergonomics, very low misfire rate, and a lightweight aluminum frame. This is a pneumatic brad nailer that won’t disappoint.
This is a battery-powered system that will set you back a good bit of money. However, this brad nailer has a lot of great features, including an excellent depth adjustment system, lights to brighten up your working area, and a battery that will work all day. Getting rid of the air hose or cord is a major improvement in the portability and usability of this tool. It is dependable, consistent, well-balanced, and easily one on my favorite choices.
This corded electric brad nailer will set you back less than $40. The good news is that it does double duty as a stapler, firing heavy-duty staples for tasks like stapling insulation into place. The bad news is that it only fires three very short sizes of brads. It will work fine for detailed trim, such as on doll houses and cabinetry. But if you need to use brads longer than 5/8”, you’re out of luck.
This is the highest rated cordless brad nailer that money can buy. It will take a good pile of cash to invest in the nailer and necessary batteries, but you will have a professional grade system that simply will not fail you. If your living depends upon getting the trim job done well and fast, look no further.
Why Do You Need Such a Power Tool?
If you are building a new home, an addition, or remodeling an older home, a brad nailer is not only beneficial. It is essential. Let’s say you need to put a quarter molding around a room that has just had a new floor installed (yes, that was my task). With a good brad nailer, this would be finished in minutes.
How long would it take you to nail that flimsy piece of soft wood in place using a hammer? How many dents would you leave in that molding from the hammer head? How many times would you hit your finger with the hammer while you tried to hold those tiny nails in place? How many times would you cause the molding to split? How many times would you utter words so nasty that your dog would cringe?
I think you get my point. If your woodworking projects involve nailing small pieces of wood trim, whether it’s on flooring projects, furniture or cabinetry, a brad nailer is an essential tool for the job that money can buy.
Our Testing and Selection Process
Our searching process began by studying the design of nearly a hundred different models. We looked at the performance, usability, and versatility of each nailer. As an example, it is often necessary to get into tight corners and spaces with this gun, so it has to be designed in such a way that it will fit where you need it to go. If you can’t put the brad where you need it, the gun is pointless, and will never make it into this review.
Performance is another major factor. By that, I mean the nailer has to drive the brad with enough force to make sure it goes completely below the surface. The last thing you want to have to do is go around with a hammer and manually finish the job. Also, a nailer that misfires with regularity isn’t going to get a good review.
Then, I look for added features, like a hook to hang the nailer when you take a break. How does the trigger feel? Is the tool well-balanced, and not too heavy? What does it cost? What is the warranty?
I could go on through the fifty or so major factors I consider when picking my recommendations, but they will become apparent as you read this review.
So, Should We Be Trusted?
This review can be trusted for one very simple reason. My only motivation in creating this list is to help you sort through the wide range of options you will find at the hardware store. I do NOT make recommendations based on brand name. I do NOT get paid by any manufacturer to promote their products. The name plate on the machines I review isn’t a part of my comparison in any way. I only care that you get the machine that’s right for you.
Another reason you can trust our list is that it’s not just my opinion. Our team scours the internet searching for reviews of these machines from real world owners who actually use them in everyday applications. This kind of community-based testing and review helps us find pros and cons to each machine that we may never have found ourselves. So, these brad nailers not only get high marks from us, but also from real owners.
Our Top Ten Product List
Our review is fascinating in that it features nailers from eight different manufacturers. Many product reviews end up getting dominated by four or five tool companies, simply because they transfer many of their good ideas to more than one model in their line-up. But it turns out, may companies have “nailed it” when it comes to offering a top-rated brad nailer.
About Brad Nailers
What is a Brad Nailer?
Brad nailers do one job. They fire 18 gauge (in other words, very thin) brads into trim and other small wood pieces to mate them to larger elements. They drive the brad into the wood, so that no nail head is visible. This is how most wood floor trim and a lot of cabinetry trim is held in place. You can do this with a hammer, but why? You will end up with hammer head dents in your wood, visible nail heads, and a lot of time spent doing a job that could have been done in a flash.
When Should You Use Brad Nailers?
The only time to break out the brad nailer is when you are doing these small trim pieces. It doesn’t use nails that are large enough to frame or mate substantial pieces of wood together. It is strictly for the trim finishing projects. That means it will spend a lot of time in your tool box collecting dust. But when you need it to give a project that polished and professional look, no other tool will do.
The primary jobs that brad nailers are designed strictly for finish trimming. If you just had new flooring laid, the quarter round molding that covers the seam where that floor meets the walls is the perfect task for a brad nailer. An entire length of molding can be securely mated in place in seconds with a brad nailer. By hand, you could spend 20 profanity-laced minutes doing the same job with inferior results.
How Brad Nailers Are Different from Other Type of Nailer?
Brad nailers have the upper hand over most of the other types of nail guns. Put simply, this all has to do with the size of the nail being driven. It might seem like a nail gun should be able to fire any size nail, with reason. But it just isn’t so. The piston that drives the nail must match the exact size of the nail, or it will leave an ugly gash in the surface of the trim pieces you are nailing in place. If you want to drive a bigger nail, get a bigger hammer.
- Brad nailer vs finish nailer
A finish nailer uses larger nails capable of mating larger pieces of wood together. These larger fasteners simply have more strength. So, let’s say you have decided to take on the task of installing the baseboard and quarter molding in the room where you just had a new carpet laid. You are going to use a finish nailer to install the baseboard, and then switch to the brad nailer to install the quarter molding.
- Brad nailer vs pin nailer
A pin nailer fires an even smaller projectile than a finish nailer. “Pins” are very thin nails used for the most delicate of attachment tasks. Brads are 18 gauge and pins are 23 gauge nails – that’s only slightly larger than the diameter of a common staple. Pins are only used on the tiniest of trim pieces and are frequently paired with another fastener, such as glue or other adhesive.
A tool does you no good if you never use it because you don’t like the way it feels in your hand, or you aren’t satisfied with the performance of it. So, it is important to get a tool that not only does the job well every time you need it, but makes the job easier for you. Here is a list of the things you should keep in mind when choosing your 18 gauge brad nailer.
- Power source (Air or Battery)
An air compressor is a standard tool on every job site. So, powering a brad nailer by way of a pneumatic hose is a very common practice. It has its advantages. For one, as long as there is air in the compressor tank, you have a functioning nailer. The downside is that you are dragging that umbilical hose everywhere you go. Moving quickly along a molding project, where you might encounter ladders, sawbucks, and other workers can be a challenging task.
That’s where the battery-powered brad guns come in handy. With no hoses or power cords, you can move quickly and freely. Most battery systems have enough power to keep you going on a single battery (with lunch break charging time) all day. The big downside is that Lithium Ion batteries add significant cost (and a bit of weight, too) to your nailer.
- Depth of Drive and adjustment
Make sure that whichever nailer you choose has an accurate and easy way to set the proper depth adjustment. The last thing you want to do is go back around with a hammer and nail the little buggers in because the nailer left them a bit proud.
The nose should be small enough that you can see exactly where you are placing the brad. It should come equipped with a rubberized tip to prevent marring the wood. And the firing safety mechanism should work simply, quickly and effectively every time.
I like nailers that allow me to switch from sequential to bump firing when the job allows. It just speeds up the work.
Go to the store, pick up the brad nailer that you are interested in buying, and hold it in your hand as though you’re going to use it. Yes, you might get a few wary looks from other patrons. Don’t mind them. They won’t be with you at the job site. And if you don’t use your brad nailer because you didn’t try it out to see if you like the balance, weight and design of it, it was a waste of money.
Does the brad nailer that interests you come with a storage case? Is it a hard sided or soft case? Do you care, or do you have your own tool kit to keep it in. A roughly handled brad nailer can be damaged, so this is a serious consideration.
All of the brad nailers in our review are equipped with a tool-free jam release, but some others are not. Jams happen, even to the finest models. It is important to be able to quickly pop the nose open and clear the jam so you can get back to work.
I personally consider this an essential feature a brad nailer can offer. If you can’t see the place where you want the brad to go, how can you be accurate? Of course, only the battery-powered nailers offer this, so it is one more argument for going cordless.
Again, this is a standard feature of all the units in this review, but make sure the nailer you buy has an anti-dry fire control. Firing without a nail in the chamber can damage and even ruin a nailer.
It matters. If the exhausted air is blowing in your face or kicking up dust in your working area, it gets real annoying, real fast. I like the systems that allow the exhaust port to rotate 360°. That way you are in complete control of the environment you are working in.
A warranty is something you hope you never have to use. But it sure is nice to know it’s there.
As for price, unless you are a professional carpenter who spends a lot of time driving brads, you don’t have to break the budget here. Ideally, if you are choosing to go cordless, you can get a brad nailer that uses the same battery system as your other tools. It won’t even cost that much more than a pneumatic one.
Usage, Maintenance and Safety Guide
How to Use Brad Nailers?
Remember that brads are 18 gauge fasteners, essentially pieces of very stiff wire, that are used for fastening smaller trim pieces. Brads do not have a lot of holding power and are not suitable for any job that requires the mated piece of wood to bear any stress. They are made to hold small pieces of trim in place, and that’s it. They are perfect for this task because a larger finish nail, in many cases, would cause the small trim pieces to actually split.
Brads also have no significant head, so they are designed to sink just below the surface of the trim piece, and essentially become invisible. You place you molding where you want it, snugly seat the nose against the wood, and pull the trigger. The brad is driven home in the blink of an eye.
Never, ever point a brad nailer at another living creature. Keep your fingers away from the point of any live and loaded nailer. Always wear safety glasses when using one of these tools. They can and do sometimes kick up enough dust to really irritate your eyes.
Used properly, a brad nailer is a relatively safe tool to operate. But remember that it is firing a sharp projectile under a lot of force and you never want to be on the receiving end of that.
Some pneumatic 18 gauge brad nailers need an occasional drop of oil to be sent through the airway to keep everything operating smoothly inside. Many do not. Battery powered systems generally don’t require any oiling, but the batteries do require careful handling and proper charging to continue delivering the power you need.
When not in use, keep your brad nailer safely tucked away in its case or other protective storage location. Water, dirt, and dust are the enemies of all power tools, and brad nailers are no exception.
Whichever brad nailer you choose, be sure to read the maintenance recommendations in the manual. Follow their suggestions, and the machine will give you great service for many years to come.
It’s Time to Wrap Up
I have worked very hard to give you a valid comparison of what I consider to be the best contenders on the market when it comes to 18 gauge brad nailers. I do this without regard to brand names, because I believe that accomplishing the job at hand is far more important than the nameplate on the side of the nailer.
This review is a great place for you to start your search for a brad nailer. The next thing you need to do is conduct your own research. Go to the store and look at them. Pick them up and feel them in your hands. Then think about the things I and the thousands of real-world owners whose opinions I have taken into account had to say about each tool. Only now are you ready to make your own decision and buy the 18 gauge brad nailer that is right for you.