How do I Choose a Framing Nailer Gauge or Gauge Nailers?

By Tom Becker

Framing nailers or, as they are more commonly known, "nail guns," are a useful tool in a number of home-remodeling applications. From attaching lighter decorative elements like crown molding, to heavier structural construction such as framing carpentry, framing nailers make for quick, precise nailing. They come in several gauges, so knowing how to choose a framing nailer gauge or how to gauge nailers is crucial when selecting a framing nailer.

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Choosing and gauging a framing nailer like this one can be done in a few steps.

Step 1

Check the body of the nailer. The gauge will generally be written on the body of the nailer itself. If it is loaded with nails, they will frequently be labeled with their gauge.

Step 2

Check the size of the nails. Nail gauge numbers decrease as the thickness and length of the nail increases. The lower the gauge, the bigger the nail.

Step 3

Match the nailer to the job. Light construction requires higher gauge nails, whereas nailing heavier construction elements requires lower gauge nails. For construction that requires nailing of a variety of different materials, choose a nailer with a gauge in the middle of the highest and lowest gauges available.

Step 4

Test 24 to 22 gauge nailers. These are the smallest nailers available on the market. They generally have no head so they sink below the surface of the nailed material. They use nails 0.61 to 0.70mm in diameter and 10 to 50mm long. This gauge of nailer is useful for attaching lightweight materials like plastic sheeting, paper, and molding.

Step 5

Test 18 gauge nailers. These nailers use nails 1.22mm in diameter and 12 to 50mm long. This gauge of nailer can be used in the lightweight applications for which 24 to 22 gauge nailers are used, or for nailing heavier materials. Their nails generally have heads on them and are referred to as "brad nails."

Step 6

Test 16 and 15 gauge nailers. These are the mid-range of nailer gauges and are some of the most commonly used. They use nails 1.63 and 1.83mm in diameter and 16 to 64mm long. This gauge of nailer is best suited for nailing MDF, plywood, baseboard, and other soft woods.

Step 7

Test 8 to 10 gauge nailers. These are some of the heaviest-duty nailer gauges. They use nails 2.9 to 3.1mm in diameter and 50 to 90mm long. This gauge of nailer is best suited for nailing heavy materials as in framing carpentry or nailing fencing.

Step 8

Test lower-gauge specialty nailers. A variety of specialty nailers are available that are only for nailing very heavy materials. They drive large spikes which can be as long as 6 inches or more.