16 Gauge Vs 18 Gauge nailers

16 vs 18 gauge nailers

Nails guns can help to eliminate the ugly hammer dents while making it possible for you to set nails without any effort. With a pull of a trigger, you can easily drive nails. However, when shopping for a brad nail, one of the key considerations you will want to make is on choosing between an 18 gauge and a 16 gauge nailer.

While both the 18 gauge and 16 gauge nail gun have similar features and structures, your choice will mostly depend on your personal preference and the kind of material you will be working on.  For instance, a trim carpenter may require multiple guns that can shoot nails with a gauge of 15 to 23. But if you need a multi-purpose nail gun, it can get more complicated. To help you make the right choice, we have provided you with the most important information about both types of nailers and the nails they use.

Gauge meaning

The gauge is a measure of the thickness of the fastener. However, the actual rating can be a bit confusing as 16 is thicker than 18. Therefore, a nail with a lower number will be thicker as compared to another with a higher number.

Understanding the 16-gauge nails

As compared to the 18-gauge nail, the 16 gauge is usually larger. The nail usually has a diameter of 1/16 which is still small. This nail is often preferred as it offers better support and stability. When two boards are connected with a 16-gauge nail, this will ensure that your project doesn’t collapse particularly when you pair it with wood glue.  As you would guess, the 16 gauge nail gun uses this kind of nail.

Applications of the 16-gauge nails

The top finish nailers use the 16-gauge nails. These nails are commonly used for the installation of crown moldings and boards where the workpiece gets attached to the drywall. To ensure that the pieces remain in place, you might need extra holding power and this is usually provided by the 16-gauge nails. Therefore, a 16-gauge nail is a good choice for strongly attaching pieces.  Some of the common applications of the 16 gauge nails include:

  • Cabinet
  •  Flooring
  •  Staircase
  • Exterior trims
  • Crown/base moldings
  • Chair rails

When not to use the 16-gauge nails

There are two instances when you should avoid using nails with a gauge of 16.  These are:

When nailing crown molding or boards that are extremely thin. Using the 16 nailers with these materials will likely cause cracks and splits. While a 16-gauge nail has a thickness of 1/16, it will easily break light trims.When nailing materials temporarily. If you want to temporarily nail items, you should avoid using the 16 gauge nails. This is because the nails are headless and can be hard to pull out using a claw hammer.

16 Gauge Vs 18 Gauge nailers: Which is Right For Your Needs?

Understanding the 18 –gauge nails

These nails have a diameter of not more than 2/64 of an inch. You can easily bend them using your fingers. The nails are usually more delicate as compared to the 16-gauge counterparts. But due to their thinness, they are a good choice for attaching crown molding and trims.

Applications of the 18 gauge nails

Due to their thin diameter, the risk of the 18-gauge nails splitting or cracking thin boards or trim pieces is significantly low. The nails hardly make any contact and when they are fired through thin and dry lumber, they will not leave a mark. The 18-gauge nails are the most commonly used in brad nailers. One of the reasons why 18-gauge nails are popular is because they don’t leave a visible hole in the material. They are, therefore, often used to add to the aesthetic value of the workpiece.

The nails are also a good choice for holding boards together temporarily or for attaching the very delicate trims. The 18 gauge nails are suitable for materials like:

  •         Trim work
  •         Baseboard
  •         Casing
  •         Decorative molding
  •        Paneling & veneer

Cons of the 18-gauge nails

One of the cons of the 18 gauge nails is that they are usually very thin and without any support. You should understand the weight of the material and whether it can be held in place by the workpiece. You can use this gauge for attaching the crown molding to drywall as it’s very light and thin. But when you try to attach bigger and thicker materials, there will be a problem.

The other con of the 18 gauge nails is that they haven’t been designed to fire through thick materials. You should, therefore, avoid firing the 18-gauge nails into MDF boards as they will end up bending and will not penetrate, no matter how powerful you set the air compressor.

Final thoughts for 16 vs 18 gauge nailers

If you are engaging in heavy-duty tasks, we suggest that you choose the 16 gauge nails. But if you are doing baseboards, framings, and trims, you should go with the 18-gauge nails. Therefore, whether you should buy the 16 gauge nailer or the 18 gauge nailer will depend on the task at hand.

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