Last updated on:
Finishing things on a remodel or renovation?
Getting those baseboards and molding around the windows isn’t an easy task. You want them to look discrete, uniform, and like they’ve always belonged—that’s where a brad nailer comes in handy.
These shoots something called brads (which you might have expected), which are just another word for really thin nails that you wouldn’t want to hit with a hammer, because you’d ding and bend them.
To give you the list of the best brad nailer models on the market, we first had to see what made them tick and take all the little picadillos into account.
After rigorous testing, and going off of capacity, operating pressure, overall weight (which heavily factors into long-term use on a day-to-day basis), and other aspects, we’ve come up with the elite five of brad nailers.
Best Brad Nailer – Reviews & Buying guide for 2020
Best overall: Bostitch Brad Nailer
Brad nailers aren’t designed to cost an arm and a leg, and Bostitch, one of the most-trusted tool companies in the United States, firmly believes that.
They created the all-around best brad nailers, whether you’re a seasoned professional or this is your first nailer.
We were prepared to pore over every detail of these tools for our brad nailer reviews, but what we weren’t expecting was a pencil sharpener.
Yes, you read that right: a pencil sharpener. With a reversible belt hook for ultimate convenience, you also have access to a pencil sharpener if you’re making markings on roof shingles.
This gives you some convenience that we just hadn’t really thought of, but when you’re dealing with 1,000+ square feet of roof space, it comes in handy.
Bostitch hit the industry standard of a 70-120 psi range on the driving power, and managed to keep this nailer fairly lightweight at just five pounds flat.
It doesn’t sound like it, but every additional ounce can wear down your wrists, especially with all the vibrations of driving nails. This is a happy medium on the size.
Bostitch includes dial control for fast fastener settings, as well as an oil-free engine that requires no repetitive maintenance. That being said, you aren’t going to get everything you want.
Be prepared for jams now and again, because while Bostitch does a good job at quality control, you can’t get everything right. We’re willing to bet that the assembly time of these is pretty quick and it leaves a gap in checking this.
I would say that we jammed about one in sixty nails, so it’s nothing major, just a minor annoyance that might impact your use.
Last but not least, I want to shed some light on the selectable trigger system, which gives you easy conversion between contact modes, to put it in Bostitch’s own words.
There’s even a trigger lockout if you’re working on a renovation in a home that still has people walking around.
Overall, it’s a solid price, and a really good brad nailer that anyone would be lucky to have. It’s even covered by a seven-year warranty with comprehensive coverage.
Runner up: Dewalt Brad Nailer Kit
Brad nailers aren’t the most difficult piece of machinery out there, but that doesn’t mean these simple tools can’t be done properly.
Dewalt is one of the biggest tool brands out there, you know this, and they put everything they’ve got into each of their tools.
Their brad nailer kit comes in as the best 18 gauge brad nailer with a 70-120 psi range, which is the industry standard, that you can control to a tee.
One excellent thing that Dewalt did though was make this ultralight at just 2.5 lbs, so it feels like a feather in your hand (compared to other brands).
They did this by removing some metal elements from it, most notably the housing, and replacing it with lighter, high-durability plastic.
While this would normally be a cause for concern in terms of durability, it’s actually just like their other tools with plastic bodies. It doesn’t make a difference, good or bad.
Dewalt delivers a whopping 900 inch pounds of driving power, as well as a minimal maintenance motor.
You don’t have to oil it before or after use, just try to do it once a month or adjust it based on the frequency that you use it. Overall, hooking it up is easy, and the safety features are great as well.
While I would have liked to see a bigger warranty, three years on a limited warranty is still over a thousand days for something to go wrong.
If you get use out of this like I think you will, I think you’ll put Dewalt through its paces long before you come close to that warranty expiration date.
alternative: KIMO Cordless Brad Nailer and Stapler Kit
In our 18 gauge brad nailer reviews, we weren’t expecting to go over a certain price point, but KIMO’s quality just can’t be contested or ignored, for that matter.
I want to kick things off by saying that their batteries are so powerful that they go through 1,000-cycle testing, so you get an average of two times more battery life than most other manufacturers.
As a general rule of thumb, most lithium-ion batteries only last for about 500 cycles or so.
Right from there, it’s a pretty good start. Most of the time, carpenters like myself will discredit 20V for heavy duty tasks, because the power just isn’t there.
However, KIMO was able to do something special here, because even with that 20V power supply you still get over 1,000 inch-pounds of driving power. It’s a bit mind-boggling to try and figure out how they got there, nut hey, we get to benefit from it.
The one part we don’t benefit from is the price. It’s premium for sure, but it’s what you have to pay for this level of power and durability.
You can drive 80 nails per minute, though for a brad nailer, I don’t really see you exceeding 45 or 50 in an hour, even if you know what you’re doing, so we’re good on capacity.
With the battery charge, you should be able to drive about 700 nails before it gives out.
The battery pack doesn’t take too long to charge, but even so, if you’re on a job that requires over 700 nails through a brad nailer, it’s safe to assume someone else brought one as well.
Alternative: Valu-Air 2 in 1 Brad Nailer and Stapler
Valu is in the name, but it’s not exactly your value choice. You’re getting away with a low price, but it’s going to come with some little picadillos along the way, so strap in.
As the most inexpensive brad nailer capable of shooting true, 18 gauge brads, this comes in at just 3.2 lbs, which is a pretty even, middle-of-the-road weight so your wrist won’t get worn down.
It’s not the best pneumatic brad nailer you can get, but you have to think that because you don’t have to supply power through a 20V pack and worry about charging, it brings the price down a lot.
It’s not going to just come with an air compressor, so that’s all external. This comes in with a slight less bit of power than most, at a range of 70-110 psi. Still plenty of power to get most projects down since the average most people use is 90.
So where do the issues come into play, you might be wondering? For one, this jams up about once per thirty nails. That can be a pain, especially if you’re just trying to attach some trim indoors.
However, the lightweight aluminum alloy design is inexpensive to produce, so you can keep costs low without skimping on quality.
Your exhaust is completely adjustable to keep that heat out of your face, while the no-mar rubber tip keeps things nice and smooth upon nail driving. You can also use this for commercial staples as well.
But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. There’s no warranty to be found anywhere, which is a bit of a pain in the behind. With a product priced this low, we don’t expect them to make that information public at any point.
Dealing with this customer service team was challenging, to say the least, and it’s not something I’d rank them highly on. Good product, it just has a bit of a wildcard feel to it in the event that you need to contact customer care.
Alternative: Metabo HPT Pneumatic Brad Nailer
Metabo hits a sweet spot, especially after personally testing over a dozen brad nailers. In the end, this turned out to be the best brad nailer for woodworking because of its versatile design.
You’re able to use this at an angle, and holding it flat is also pretty comfortable. The carrying and storage case you get is pretty good as well, so there’s no need to worry about that.
Despite being in the middle of the pricing range, Metabo is still packing the industry standard 70-120 psi for driving power, giving you a wide range and versatility depending on the job, and what you’re doing.
Every air compressor you have should fit this thing. When I was talking about how ergonomic it is, I wanted to also point out that it’s ultralight at just 2.2 lbs, so it feels nice and comfortable without pulling on your wrists.
Even with this price, you still get over 900 inch-pounds of power, so you’re not left in the dark with a hard-to-handle project. With tool-less depth adjustment and a wide range of fasteners, you can tackle most tasks.
Metabo gives you a five-year warranty as well, but they just don’t cover enough in their warranty. It’s very situational, so you might find that you fall in between the cracks in their clauses.
Read it over carefully before making a full decision. They’ve been around the block for a while, and they’re a good brand to work with, providing long-lasting tools, but it’s still something you want to be aware of before committing to a purchase.
Brad Nailer Buying Guide & FAQ
Do I Need a Brad Nailer?
That depends. Do you have a lot of home renovations coming up? Are you a carpenter? Do you just like tools?
A brad nailer is used for casing, baseboards, paneling, fastening molding to the wall (not crown molding, we’ll get into that in a minute), and trim work.
It can also be used for lightweight shelf and furniture building. If that sounds like something you need, or could see use for, then you definitely need one.
If you go through any of these brad nailer reviews, you’re going to find that most of them aren’t that pricey. They’re much easier to manufacture now than they ever have been, so we get to reap the rewards of the pricing.
If you aren’t the type of person to tackle home repair jobs on your own, and you don’t plan on renovating or working in carpentry/construction, a brad nailer might not be the right fit for you.
What is Better: A Brad Nailer or Finish Nailer?
The top rated brad nailer versus the god-tier finish nailer: who would win?
They both serve completely different functions, despite having relatively similar aesthetic designs. A brad nailer is used for trimming and light work, while a finish nailer is basically one step away from being a framing nailer.
A finish nailer uses 14 to 16 gauge nails, while a brad nailer uses brads, another term for thin 18 gauge nails. They serve different purposes.
Sometimes you can run into brad nails that are 3 ½”, but with a finish nailer, you’re typically not driving anything over 2 ½”.
A finish nailer will be used to install paneling, perhaps even siding depending on what type, and crown molding.
You could use a brad nailer for the baseboards, but crown molding is heavier, and you don’t have gravity on your side keeping it tethered to one spot like you do with baseboards. Because of this, you want thicker nails, even though they’re shorter.
You can get custom crown molding done, so I can’t generalize what every single weight of crown molding will be, but as long as 50% of the nail is driving into the wall/appropriate studs, then it’s good to go.
Brads for lightweight work, finish nailers for medium grade and some heavy work, and then above them would be framing nailers.
Can I Use a Brad Nailer for Baseboards?
That’s their intended use. You can absolutely use your brad nailer to snap those baseboards against the wall. You can even use finish nailers for the same task, which always has people wondering what the hype around a brad nailer is in the first place.
Brad nailers have 18 gauge nails, which are very thin. They go deep, but you don’t have a super heavy or dominant nail head on top, so it just blends into the baseboards like it’s always belonged there.
Baseboards aren’t just something you pop against the wall, hit with a brad nailer, then dust your hands off and call it a day. They’re still something that requires some attentiveness.
You need to inspect the baseboard depth, the stud depth, and wall depth. From here, you’ll be able to know how long your brad nails should be.
What Can I Use Instead of a Brad Nailer?
If you don’t have a brad nailer handy, you can always substitute with a hammer and nails. Is it as effective? Yes. Is it nearly as aesthetic as a brad nailer?
No, it’s definitely going to be noticeable. You have a higher chance of hitting nails sideways and breaking the molding/baseboards, which is why no professionals really use a hammer if they’re trying to get a project to finish the right way.
Brads are the best 18 gauge nailers on the market, for sure, but you can get 18 gauges out of standard nail guns that aren’t technically aren’t classified as brad nailers.
You could also try using wood glue along with standard nails if you aren’t fully certain that you can drive them in all the way as needed.
Can You Use a Brad Nailer on Flooring?
If you want to use your brad nailer to install hardwood flooring, then by all means, be my guest.
If you look closely at hardwood flooring, you’ll see super small nailheads. That’s because most of them are installed with brads: low-profile, thin so they don’t split the wood as easily.
When you’re installing flooring, you want to sink the nail heads deep enough that they don’t snag on your socks when you walk on by, and a larger nail head would definitely get in the way of this.
Why is the Weight of my Brad Nailer Important?
There are a lot of different injuries you can sustain doing carpentry work, general contractor work, and construction as a whole.
One of the biggest ways you can get injured is through your wrists with improperly handling tools, and when a brad nailer weighs around five or six pounds in your hand, it’s a lot of pressure on one of your most-used joints. It’s not good.
A lot of the bigger name brands in the tool space try to make their nailers, and all of their tools, for that matter, as lightweight as possible.
This means substituting some metals for plastic, (not anything that matters on the inside though), and just trying to remove every gram possible from the overall weight. They want you to feel good using it.
You should absolutely get a brad nailer that you feel comfortable with, because anything less than that will poise you for problems after extended use.
Some of us are just built bulkier, so we can handle the 5-10 lbs of weight on our wrist. Keep in mind that you will also be lowering this and leaning it against the baseboards or flooring that you’re working on, so you will have those brief bits of relief.
Bind it Better
While you’re not going to use a brad nailer to frame your house, you can use it to frame the molding on your windows.
You can use it to handle lightweight, smaller tasks that you wouldn’t want large, ugly nail heads to be visible in. They have their uses, and should be in any carpenters arsenal if they’re serious about their career.