Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, we may earn an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you.

16 VS 18 Gauge Nailer: Which Is Right For Your Needs?

Nail Guns or Nailers are everywhere these days for many good reasons. Nail guns are designed to eradicate the slight hammer dents on the surfaces while allowing them to set nails effortlessly. Nail guns are the cost-effect solution and the best alternative to hammering. You achieve the highest satisfaction when you see the nails quickly driving into the surface with just a pull of a trigger. But, when you are in the market to choose, you may get confused between 16 VS 18 GAUGE NAILER.

Your selection will influence the results, and hence you can’t just choose a model when it is of no use. A deep understanding of both models is necessary to simplify your selection.

What Does Gauge Refer to?

The gauge of the nail guns signifies the fastener thickness levels as a whole number. But, it may get quite confusing when looking at the exact ratings. It is because 16-gauge is larger than the 18-gauge models.

The gauge of nail guns refers to the number of nails in one inch lined side-by-side. So, the nails that fit in the 18-gauge nail gun than thinner than the nails that fit into the 16-gauge nailers. So, the lower the gauge number, the thicker nails it uses.

Difference Between 16 VS 18 Gauge Nailer

Making the project successful depends on the correct fastener selection. In woodworking projects, choosing the right nail thickness is essential to achieve the desired results. Let us take a tour of both the gauges and learn the difference between 16 VS 18 GAUGE NAILER.


The 16-gauge nail guns come with a 0.0625-inch thick shank, and it supplies in 1-3½ inches lengths. Since the nail gun is thicker, it can hold up to 18-gauge brads efficiently, and it is widely used to fasten denser and thicker pieces of wood.

The common application of 16-gauge nailer is:

  • Flooring
  • Cabinets
  • Crown and base moldings
  • Staircases
  • Casings
  • Chair rails
  • Exterior trims

So, the 16-gauge nailers are versatile and can handle any project efficiently. But, the nail gun comes with some pitfalls. The nail gun’s finish has an aggressive bite, and in big projects, it becomes the liability on delicate work.

Why Use 16-Gauge Nail Guns?

Since a 16-gauge nail gun uses thicker nails, it offers improvised stability and better support. It can connect and fasten two wooden boards together with the 16-gauge nails, preventing the project from collapsing, especially when they are fastened using wooden glue.

The common type of nail gun uses 16-gauge nails, and it is widely used to install boards and crown molding where the wood piece is connected to the drywall directly. In such a case, extra holding power is needed, and the 16-gauge nail gun helps keep the pieces intact.

So, if you want your work-piece to stay intact, a finish nail gun of 16-gauge is what you must opt for. But, if you want temporary holding of the boards or to attach super delicate trims, then the 18-gauge nail gun would be the ideal choice.

Why Avoid Using 16-Gauge Nail Gun?

The two major pitfalls of a 16-gauge nail gun and because of this, people must avoid using it. If you are working with extremely thin crown molding or boards and don’t want to risk the work-piece from cracks and splits, avoid using a 16-gauge nail. The thickness of the 16-gauge nails is only 1/16 inches, but when triggered on the surface of light trims, it may cause splits.

The 16-gauge nailer is designed to shot finish nails that would last for the woodwork’s lifespan. Since the nails are headless, it becomes challenging to pull out using a claw. So, it is not a good choice for temporary woodworking projects.

16-Gauge Nailer Pros & Cons


  • Good holding capacity
  • Penetrates MDF and thicker wood pieces
  • One and 3½ inches lengths


  • Causes split and damages in thinner wood
  • Sanding and filling needed

Our Favorite 16-Gauge Nailer

No products found.

18-Gauge Nailer

The 18-gauge nail guns come with 0.0475 inches thick brad nails, and it has the lengths in ½ to 2½ inches. It works efficiently with fragile and softer pieces, including:

  • Baseboard
  • Casing
  • Trim work
  • Decorative molding
  • Veneer and paneling

It indicates that the 18-gauge nail gun is a handy tool to have around when working for more intricate finishing. The 18-gauge nailer is delicate than its 16-gauge counterpart. But, its thinness plays a pivotal role in fastening the crown molding and trim.

Why Use 18-Gauge Nailer?

The thin diameter of the 18-gauge nail gun reduces the risk of splitting and cracking thin boards or trim pieces significantly. It hardly makes any contact with the surface when firing the nails’ shots; therefore, no marks or splits are created on the surface of dry and thin lumbers.

Since it uses brad nails with a smaller head, it leaves less noticeable nail holes on the surface than the 16-gauge finish nail. So, there is no requirement for sanding and filling after the project. There is no need for sanding or filling in some cases, especially when 18-gauge pins are used in the project.

The 18-gauge nailer uses 18-gauge brad nails, and it offers temporary holding capacity between the boards. It is a good choice for firing shot the nails through the delicate work-pieces.

After the project gets over, it is easy to pull the brad nails back by pulling the boards apart using your hands. It will never leave any marks or split on the work-pieces.

Why Avoid Using 18-Gauge Nailer?

The 18-gauge nailer is not the ideal solution for any nailing needs. The first drawback is that it uses brad nails thin in size and indicates no robust support. Users have to stay alert when working with heavy wood pieces. It can hold the crown molding to drywalls until it is super light and thin, but if the lumber is thicker and larger, it can be an issue.

Plus, the bard nails used in the 18-gauge are thin and can’t penetrate through the dense materials. It is not effective for nailing the MDF boards.

18-Gauge Nailer Pros & Cons


  • Suitable for delicate works
  • Gentle on finer and delicate wood
  • No filling or sanding needed
  • Common lengths available are ½ ad 2½ inches


  • Not suitable for MDF
  • Less strength capacity

Our Favorite 18-Gauge Nailer

No products found.

You May Also Like Our Review of 15 Best Air Compressors With Pros & Cons of Each.

Power Sources of Nailers

Considering the power source of the nail guns is important to make the right choice between 16 VS 18 GAUGE NAILER.

  • Battery Power – People who don’t want to deal with the hose may opt for the battery-powered nail. Since it lacks a hose, you can carry the nailer around without your project site. Battery-powered nail guns eliminate the expenses of air compressors and noise. But, it would be best if you have your nail gun fully charged to work efficiently. Most nail guns come with lithium batteries, and they are sensitive to physical and thermal shocks. So, be careful when using it.
  • Pneumatic Power – The pneumatic powered nailers come with a limitless stream of power and keep the nail holder performing nonstop. It needs dealing with a hose, which prevents you from taking the nail on your work site. Plus, the compressor is loud, and the noise is not bearable for some people, and hence they consider buying the battery-powered nailers. But, not nailers come with a compressor, and you have to buy one separately, and it adds up to the cost.

Which is the Right Choice for your Needs – 16 Or 18 GAUGE NAILER?

The answer to the question, which is the best choice between 16 VS 18 GAUGE NAILER, depends on the work and project type.

If your project involves installing things like staircases, crown molding, or thicker wood that needs durability, it is best to opt for a 16-gauge nail.

But, if you are working with delicate and thinner pieces of wood, like paneling, decorative molding, then an 18-gauge nailer is the best choice for easy and faster installation without split and crack marks on the wooden surfaces.

It all depends on the type of work and the pieces of wood you are using in your project. If your budget allows, you must add both the nailer into your tool chest. Many projects involve different types of woods, both thin and thick. So, you may need both types of nailers for the completion of the project.

It is completely your choice and ensures that you are buying the right model according to the project and work you are handling. There are many online stores from where the nailers can be purchased. You must research and compare different brands’ rates to make the right buying decision and avoid getting duped. There are different models and brands available in the market selling nail guns. You will find both the models from a single brand. But, you must make the selection of the nailer depending on your choice and application.

Related Topic:

15 Best Nailguns Review – With Pros & Cons of Each
Brad Nailer vs Finish Nailer – Which One Is Best For You?

Bostitch F21PL Framing Nailer Review – With Diagram