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You’re building something substantial: a new deck, an addition to your home, a custom man-cave shed/office hybrid, or perhaps even the framing on your new home.
You can’t afford to make a mistake here, because whatever you make is literally going to be the roof over someone’s head, or the foundation for the floor they’re standing on.
With the best framing nailer in your arsenal, you won’t have to worry about a thing. You need a tool that doesn’t give up, and ensures you’re framing correctly.
With your know-how and a reliable nailer, there isn’t anything you can’t do. We’re going to introduce you to the top five framing nailers on the market, and then break into your burning questions surrounding them.
Best Framing Nailer – Reviews & Buying guide for 2020
Best overall: BOSTITCH Framing Nailer
Did you really expect anything else?
Bostitch is known for being one of the top tool brands, no matter who you ask. They’ve recently been coming out with more premium-priced tools, but with their durability, quality, and reputation, you can’t really blame them.
As the best cordless framing nailer, it comes with a variable operating pressure from 80 up to 120 psi. You have over 1,000 inch-pounds to work with, so you’re looking more than good when it comes to power requirements. It’s going to get the job done, whatever it is.
Bostitch is basically the king of tools, ruling alongside Dewalt and Stanley, and they need a way to stay different and fresh from their competitors. In this instance, they went with a smoother handle and frame, which didn’t really work out too well.
There’s not a lot of grip on the handle, despite the rubberized cover, which can force you to reply on a tighter grip to keep things in place.
It wears down quickly, but right out of the box it will keep you steady for a while. You can always buy replacement rubber grips to slap on.
Framing nailers are heavy. Heck, any nailer is heavy, but Bostitch did something fantastic without skimping on quality – they made this ultralight.
You only need to support 4.1 lbs on your wrist, so you can maneuver this tool without worrying about swaying or losing control. You’ll see that it’s about 60% lighter than some of the other framing nailers on this list, and that’s something to celebrate.
This particular framing nailer is also built with even weight distribution to make it easier to use.
To close things out, Bostitch includes a seven-year warranty with extensive coverage. They want you to know that if you run into any problems, you’re totally covered from head to toe.
In the box, you get the nailer and two quick-change nosepieces, and nothing else. It would have been nice to get a protective case of sorts as well, but sadly they don’t offer that.
Runner up: Hitachi Pneumatic Framing Nailer
If you haven’t used Hitachi tools before, it’s time to fall in love with them.
This framing nailer operates in the standard 70-120 psi range, but it supplies you with a whopping 1,000 inch-pounds of driving power. There’s a catch though, as you knew there would be: it’s heavy.
You’re not going to get away from heavy framing nailers. It’s just part of how they’re built.
However, I can’t help but to think Hitachi could have swapped out some parts and toned it down from 10 lbs, because this is a beat when you’re holding it. Part of the reason is the capacity, which is definitely a benefit.
As one of the best pneumatic framing nailer, it’s backed by a stellar five-year warranty, which covers just about everything under the sun.
Hitachi doesn’t leave you wanting for more, or have you wondering if you got a good deal or not. Totally solid there. With the two-piece anodized aluminum magazine, it’s super simple to remove and replace nails as you need.
This thing is built to last you a lifetime, through tons of framing jobs and back again. The only thing that’s not going to last that long is the rubber grip with finger inlays.
It works well for about six months or so, but it’s under the stress of you using it all the time, so you end up wearing it down. If you want to prolong its life, use gloves while you’re framing.
Two-step nail loading makes it easy to keep going, regardless of what your project is. Now that we know all the good, it’s time to explore the bad habit of this gun jamming up.
It’s about once every fifty nails or so—nothing life-changing—but it can still be an annoyance. Jams are going to happen, I just want you to know this going into it.
Performing any kind of maintenance on this is a big no-no. The machinery inside is very pressurized and complicated, and I’m saying this after having fixed up half-a-dozen nail guns or so in my day.
If you run into issues, you need to call upon the warranty to get issues resolved properly.
Alternative: Metabo HPT Framing Nailer
Very similar aesthetic design to the Hitachi, but without the same high price associated with it.
Metabo has been providing great middle-of-the-road tool solutions for years, giving you a budget-friendly or at least budget adaptable option, while keeping a lot of the high bells and whistles on their tools.
In particular, they have a high magazine capacity that lets you store more, and refill them less.
Getting right into it, there is a flaw here, where the operating pressure is lowered. The industry standard, or at least what you always see, is 70-120 psi. You get 70-90 here, which is justifiable within the price range that they’ve set.
That being said, most of the time, you’re not going to need more than 90 psi to get a job done, it’s just a shame that you don’t have the option.
It hits a good spot with weight for the capacity it has. Hitachi could have learned a thing or two here. They give you a 7.5 lb nailer, which is heavy for sure, but not as bad as it could be.
Metabo’s five-year warranty is basically everything you could ask for, because it covers more than just manufacturing errors. When you go into a purchase like this, you want to know that the brand has your back.
So if it has all this good stuff, then why isn’t it at the top of the list?
Jamming. While you have to understand that every nail gun is going to jam on you at one point or another, Metabo jams more frequently than it should.
It can get a bit aggravating on large projects where you just want things to flow smoothly, and as a heads up, this doesn’t count as a manufacturer’s error for that warranty. Thankfully, the blockage is easy to remove and you won’t have to get too invasive with it.
ALTERNATIVE: Freeman Pneumatic Clipped Head Framing Nailer
You want high degrees?
You’ve got it. Freeman goes above and beyond to provide this niche 34° framing nailer, giving you the best angles you can imagine for all those tricky angles in unorthodox designs.
With an entirely oil-free design, you aren’t constantly trying to maintain this, you just have to use it and stow it away. I would oil it about once every three months or so depending on how much you use it, just to be on the safe side.
Dry firing is a pain, which is why Freeman thought of a fix for it.
An anti dry-firing design means that if you accidentally put your nailer through the motions of dry fire, then the internal system mitigates potential damage and keeps things intact. In short, you won’t mess up your nailer forever just because of a mistake.
No-mar tip, no-slip teeth, and a truly comfortable grip to hold this with. It’s ergonomic, but it’s hefty. In fact, it’s 10.6 lbs, all in one hand, which can really weigh down on you after not that much time.
Thankfully, this stays put when you place it down, and the magnesium construction helps with vibration issues, but it’s still going to take a bit out of you.
Air filtration can be a bit of a bother here. The air filters get stuck from time to time, messing with the exhaust. If you can get those filters set right, then you’ll be able to enjoy the 360° exhaust along the top that gives you the option to direct it wherever you need to.
Last but not least, Freeman gives you a seven-year manufacturer warranty that covers you for more than most brands will offer.
Give their comprehensive coverage a look before you buy just to be sure it aligns with what you want. Their customer service is ultra helpful if you want them to run through it with you over the phone.
ALTERNATIVE: Max Superframing Framing Nailer
MAX USA isn’t flashy, they don’t have the classically visible bright yellow covers that Dewalt does, but they make a damn good framing nailer.
They managed to keep it as lightweight as possible at just 7 lbs, which is agreeable enough given the large-scale magazine capacity.
The heavy duty steel rafter hook keeps things rock solid and steady, while the maintenance-free end cap filter helps cut down on the time you’ll spend actually working on the nailer itself.
Max knows what you need when it comes to grip, evident by the high rubber handhold that feels super tactile against your palms.
Good power at 900 inch pounds and a 70-120 psi range give you plenty of durability, but why did they land so low on the list?
Their “tangle-free swivel plug” is anything but, for starters, and their five-year warranty is strictly against manufacturer defects. That means shipping errors are not their concern.
We reviewed Hitachi earlier, and I have to tell you, Max is often held in comparison against them. Even at the 90 psi on this, you might only drive nails with a 80-82 psi rating.
This nail gun works, but you have to set the psi higher to get the desired effects, which nobody should have to do. That’s the reason that it fell so low on this list, but even so, you still have that wide range that makes this a viable framing nailer for your needs.
Framing Nailer Buying Guide & FAQ
What is the Framing Nailer Used for?
So you grab the best air framing nailer, and you want to put it to good use. A framing nailer can be used for literal framing of your house, fencing, deck construction, and even flooring (more on that later).
Framing nailers are considered the “big guns” of construction, because they’re the one tool you turn to and trust to keep your home up, the dog house you built, your shed, and so much more.
You will find different uses for each type of framing nailer, which are clipped head and round head. If you’re working on a commercial project and you need to sink nails fast, a clipped head nailer is best.
You can use a round head nailer if you’re building something for personal use, because the time difference isn’t overly huge on a smaller project like that.
Can You Use a Framing Nailer for Flooring?
Ideally, you would use a finish nailer instead of a pneumatic framing nailer for flooring. Framing nailers can support up to 3 ½” framing nails, which are just frankly overkill for flooring.
Most of the time, you will deal with 1 ½” nails or 2” nails. The average amount of distance between the top of your hardwood flooring and the bottom of your joists and/or subflooring will be 2” in total.
Now, could you finagle it and use a framing nailer in place of a finish nailer for flooring?
I’m sure you could. The angles are right, it can run on the same psi, so it’s all good, but it’s not recommended. Because framing nailers are generally heavier, you run a higher risk of accidentally scraping it against the finish of your floor.
Because it’s also heavy, you end up feeling more strained after installing flooring with one than you would with a finish nailer.
What Size Nails Should be Used for ¾ Inch Hardwood Flooring?
This is where it’s going to get tricky. You can use a framing nailer here for sure, but you can also use a finish nailer if you want. You should use 2” long nails for ¾” hardwood flooring, but it isn’t that simple.
Take your electric framing nailer with 2” nails, and drive them through the ¾” hardwood flooring. Underneath, ideally, you will have subflooring with floor joists that equal a total of 1 ¼”.
This will allow you to put the nails straight through and a finishing chisel to bang them underneath the main part of the flooring.
Then, from there, you can use your nailer to make 45° drives into the grooves of your hardwood slats, where you’ll be able to conceal most of the nails except for the perimeter of the room.
What Degree Framing Nailer Should I Buy?
Without being arbitrary, it is heavily going to depend on what you’re using it for. Yes, we know you’re using it for framing, but are you in tight, confined spaces where you need specific angles during particular builds?
On average, if you can find a framing nailer between 21° and 28°, you’re going to find your odds favorable in most situations.
30° framing nailers are also available, though they don’t offer the same versatility that 21-28’s do. However, the 21° angle is good for just about any task that you’ll run into.
The degree of your framing nailer is strictly for your comfort and convenience, and for whatever your current task is. You will see zero performance issues or disadvantages if you have an angled framing nailer.
What is the Difference Between a Framing Nailer and a Finishing Nailer?
You wouldn’t want to use a finishing nailer to frame your house, I can tell you that much. Framing nailers do exactly what they say: they help you build frames.
You can use a finish nailer to make a literal picture frame if you wanted, or the frame for a gardening planter box, but only a framing nail can provide the bond you need for the frame of a new building, such as a house.
Framing nailers are used for tough jobs, such as house framing, building a deck, major carpentry in remodeling, wood siding, fences, and other heavy-duty tasks. If it’s meant to withstand wind storms and constant stress, it’s built with a framing nailer.
Finish nailers can be used for medium to heavyweight projects. You would use it to hang crown molding, install some flooring, building furniture, shelving, cabinetry, and installing countertops.
If you’re here buying a framing nailer, chances are you’re working in construction or you’re a general contractor and you’re going to be engaging in these builds on a regular basis.
How Long do Framing Nailers Last?
Nobody wants to buy power tools with a guarantee of “This will last you for, like, two years.” We want durability beyond compare, because there are plenty of power tools that can last for decades with proper care. Framing nailers are one of them.
The number one major damage in framing nailers comes from the effects of dry firing. The second most likely damage you’ll see is electrical, meaning that a 120V cord has just been banged around too many times and it’s proving unreliable.
With due diligence and proper care, there’s no reason why your framing nailer can’t last for as long as you do.
Parts are cheaper now than ever before, but brands like Max, Hitachi, Craftsman and Dewalt continually use high-end parts with plenty of quality assurance (hence their prices).
Frame Like a Pro
Your tasklist is massive, and you don’t have time to mess around. Your framing nailer isn’t going to give out on you, so long as you choose the right one for the capacity of work you’re facing and you know how to use it.
You can frame like a pro in no time, especially since the learning curve to get the hang of one of these is practically nonexistent.