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What Size Finish Nailer for Trim? 15, 16, 18, 23 Gauges?

What Size Finish Nailer for Trim
Written by Brent Butterworth
Last Update: May 3, 2023

Finish nailers are one of the most useful tools in the woodworking industry. They offer a lot of productivity and convenience to the woodworker.

Here is a detailed guide on how to know what size finish nailer you need for trimming.

What Size Finish Nailer for Trim?

15-gauge nailer

15-gauge nailers can shoot 1-1/4” to 2-1/2” long nails. Their bulky heads have remarkable holding power so you can nail thick baseboards and trim when necessary.

These nailers have a large and heavy piston while the angled magazines allow you to work on tight spots.

15-gauge nailers make significantly large holes that you can fill or paint to cover.

16-gauge nailer

16-gauge nailers shoot thinner nails that have smaller heads. The holding power is good enough to shoot 3/4” to 2-1/2” inches long nails for interior trimming.

The 16-gauge is versatile and you don’t need multiple guns for professional work or DIY projects. You want to use this gun near a wall or in a closet where flooring nailers can’t work.

18-gauge brad nailer

18-gauge nail guns leave tiny holes that are less likely to split thin woods. The holes are hardly noticeable so they don’t always require sanding and filling.

The thinner shank offers less strength than a 16-gauge tail. You may want to spend extra bucks on a gun that handles up to two-inch nails.

23-gauge pinner nailer

Pinner nailers shoot tiny pins that have a small or no head on the top. The pins don’t have enough strength for most jobs but they help nail small parts.

You can shoot half to one-inch long pins with 23-gauge pinner guns. This is a great addition to your toolbox if you already have a 15-or 16-inch gauge nailer.

Things to Consider When You Choose a Finish Nailer

Finish Nailer buying guide


Straight finish nailers work perpendicularly to the surface while angled finish nailers stand offset at a specific angle.

Both types are effective in their way but most carpenters prefer to work with angled finish nailers. You can use either of these types to finish a project that needs a straight finish nailer.

Nail Magazine

Coil and nail stick magazines are the two most common magazine types for finish nailers.

The circular shape of coil magazines makes them the most preferred choice for different circumstances. They carry a significantly larger number of nails in less space so your work surface doesn’t fill up with extra items.

Nail stick magazines are bulky and you may find it hard to work on non-flat surfaces.


Most finish liners come with a 2-or 3-year warranty but some even offer a 5-to 7-year warranty for their finish nailers.

Check out the warranty period to decide which model can serve you long.

Pneumatic Nailer vs Cordless Nailer: Which Type Is the Best for Trim?


Cordless nailers are more expensive than their pneumatic counterparts. You need batteries and chargers to run cordless units while pneumatic uses compressors.

However, the cost of pneumatic nailers may match with cordless when you include the price of hose and fittings.


Battery-powered finish nailers are significantly heavier.

A pneumatic unit with a hose can weigh around two pounds while a cordless seven pounds or more.

But you don’t need to drag a hose with a cordless model which is a big disadvantage for pneumatic nailers. You can work at different heights and angles with cordless nailers and your body won’t tip over.


Pneumatic nailers fire immediately when you pull the trigger but cordless nailers take some time. The mechanism of battery-powered nailers is the reason for this lag.

Tips for Installing Trim

Watch the angle to avoid blowouts

Master the angle technique to shoot nails exactly where you want.

Position the center of the gun’s tip on the wood where the nail has to enter. Carefully align the nail gun with the shooting path just like you would line up a pool cue to strike a ball.

You can point the gun slightly to the hidden side when you nail into door jambs where only one side is visible.

Differences between DA vs FN finish nails and nailers

Every finish nailer is designed to support either DA or FN finish nails.

DA style nails are widely compatible with different tools where the FN variants stand a little behind.

DA nailers and nails offer a greater product range while the FN nailers have a better nail collation density.

Pre-finish parts

Finish nailers allow you to finish trim before the installation so you can get the result in less time.

You want to make sure that the soft rubber tip is on the gun when you shoot.

Tack trim to mark

Hold the trim in place to mark the length and prevent errors in measurement.

Tack one end to the wall with a braid nail if the wooden piece is long enough to hold alone. Do the mark before you pull the trim off the wall.

This gives you an accurate cutting mark with an extra nail that you can fill later.

Don’t worry about studs

You can’t always expect studs to be located in the right place.

A good solution is to drive nails into the drywall at 45-degree angles after dabbing construction adhesive on the back of the trim. This allows the trim to hold tight against the wall while the adhesive dries.

The technique is called “trap nailing” that works great with both the brad and finish nailers.


1. Can a finish nailer be used for framing?

Ans. Finish nailers don’t have large nails to support framing work. The most powerful finish nailers can shoot 2.5-inch long nails whereas framing needs 3.5-inch long,16D nails.

2. What do I do if nails don’t come out of my finished nailer?

Ans. This problem happens when the nail feed mechanism gets stuck or the nails bind in the magazine. You need to remove nails to lubricate the magazine and use spray silicone.

3. What do I do if my finish nailer doesn’t fire with loaded nails?

Ans. The nattier needs more air to perform shoots. Check if the compressor is plugged in and the fuse or circuit breaker is ok. Also, take a look at the pressure gauges to make sure both gauges are set high enough.

4. What type of nailer should I use for baseboards?

Ans. You can use a finish nailer for baseboards. Different versions are available, which are compatible with 15 or 16-gauge nails. This versatile tool can also be used in cabinets, crown molding, chair rails, millwork, hardwood flooring, and decorative trim.

5. How long should a finish nail be?

Ans. Finish nails are between 2.5cm to 10cm (1 inch to 4 inches) in length. The size can also be measured by penny units where the letter d is used to represent length. 2d nail means they are 2.5cm or 1 inch long whereas 6d means 5cm or 2 inches.

6. Can you use 18 gauge Brad nails for baseboards?

Ans. Yes. However, the holding power of 18-gauge brad nails will be lesser than 15 or 16-gauge nails.

7. Which is better: a brad nailer or finish nailer?

Ans. Brad nailers are weaker than finish nailers and finish nailers are weaker than framing nail guns. If you work with lightweight boards, a brad nailer would be better whereas the finish nailer is better with plywood, MDF, and baseboards.

About the author

Brent Butterworth

A Professional Woodworker & Custom Furniture Builder

Brent lives in Wisconsin and is a woodworker, custom cabinetmaker, interior consultant, and a freelance writer who got the opportunity to write several magazine articles for different publications on home improvement and woodworking. He’s always amazed at the depth and breadth of woodworking all over the globe, and feels proud to be a part of this great effort. Brent has built everything one can imagine, from unique art furniture to different types of home furniture to canoes and even a sailboat.

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