Design & DIY

The ultimate nail gun buyer’s guide

nail gun on white surrounded by safety glasses and pieces of wood trim Photo by Liam Mogan

I rarely use a hammer for most projects anymore. Instead, I rely on my nail gun. Well, I actually have five (yes, my wife knows), and they can’t be beat in terms of efficiency. Compressor-driven air guns have been around for a while, but prices have recently come down on battery-powered models, so it can be hard to know where to start when you’re deciding which one is right for you. Besides choosing between brands, you also have to choose the type—for most cottage jobs, you can use either a framing or a trim/finish nailer—and whether to go with battery-powered, air-driven, or gas-fired.

Nail gun types and power sources

If you’re looking to invest in a nail gun, start with a trim nailer, as you can use them for many cottage jobs. Framing nailers are only a good choice if you’re planning a long-term construction project, such as a new cottage or workshop. Next, you need to choose your power source. Air-driven guns are the least convenient because you need a compressor, an air hose, and electrical cords, which adds to your cost and also clutters your workspace. Gas-fired guns, such as those made by Paslode, are more convenient than air-driven guns, but they need more maintenance and have the added hassle of gas canisters. Battery-operated models are the most convenient, but expect to pay two or three times more than you would for an air-driven gun, especially for the big name brands. 

My top picks

Battery power has come a long way. A couple of years back, I acquired two 20V DeWalt models: a framing nailer and a 16-gauge trim gun (the higher the number, the finer the nail). Though they are a bit heavy, I have been really satisfied with them. The big advantage is not having to deal with a compressor, an electrical cord, or a hose. But you best have a good battery collection.

Pro tip 
Use Teflon tape on connectors between your hose and nail gun to prevent leaks.

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