If you’ve ever spent a summer afternoon nailing sheathing or shingles on a roof, you know how tough the job can be when using a hammer and nails. The project seems like it might never be done and before you’re even halfway through, your back and shoulders feel like they may never feel the same again. Or how many times have you been trying to nail crown molding or chair rail and wished you had a third hand – one to use the hammer, one to steady the nail, and a third to hold the trim in place?
If you’ve experienced one of these situations or any other where you wished there was an easier way than using a hammer, it may be time for you to experience a nail gun. These handy power tools can be used for framing, interior and exterior trim work, installing shingles, building shelving or cabinets, and just about any other home improvement project that you might have used a hammer on in the past.
Nail guns come in many sizes, styles, and shapes and can be used with numerous types of fasteners. They’re normally powered by compressed air so you’ll need an air compressor and hoses, but you can also get battery powered nail guns which can be very convenient.
Types of Nail Guns
The design of most nail guns is based on the type and size of the fasteners being used for your project. A few of the more common types often found in DIYers’ workshops:
- Framing Nail Guns – these are used for jobs that you would normally use framing nails as your fasteners. Models can vary, but in many cases framing guns accept nails ranging in size from 1 ½ to 3 ½ inches. Nails for framing guns are specific to certain models and not always interchangeable so always check before purchasing – many models use nails that are loaded in strips, but some have other loading methods and head shapes can also differ.
- Trim Nail Guns – these are normally smaller and lighter than framing guns and are used for installing interior trim such as casing and baseboard. They can also be used for some exterior trim projects. Trim nail guns use a small head fastener and most models can accept nails from 1 1/4 to 2 ½ inches in length. Like their big brothers, these smaller nail guns use specifically designed nails so check which are appropriate for your model.
- Roofing Nail Guns – roof guns are designed specifically for the types of nails used to install roofing shingles. They normally accept nails in a coil type carriage that is more user friendly when working in high places where a snagged gun could cause a fall.
- Brad Nail Guns – brad guns shoot small nails that are appropriate for some types of cabinet building and furniture making. They are very easy to work with and aren’t much larger than most staple guns.
Nail Gun Safety
Nail guns have several safety devices built in, but they can still be very dangerous when not handled properly – especially framing guns which have enough power to sink 3 inch nails into framing lumber. You should never place your finger on a nail gun’s trigger until you’re ready to begin nailing and the power tool is pointed at the material you’re working on. The power tool should be disconnected from the compressor and pressure relieved at the gun before any adjustments are made. Safety glasses should always be worn when using any type of nailing gun.