When you need to drive in a nailer, nothing beats a hammer. There's even a convenient claw on the other end to correct any mishaps. But when you need to drive in a lot of nails in a short amount of time, the solution is a power nailer. A quality power nailer can sink thousands of nails a day consistently and accurately, with a minimum amount of maintenance. Save yourself time and effort with a power nailer.

Power Your Way Through Any Job

When you identify your needs, the right power nailer fits in easily. Nailers are used in all areas of the home, from attaching shingles to fitting a frame. Learn the differences between nailers, then shop online or in-store.

Types of Power Nailers

Two basic types of nailers are widely used today. They vary based on their magazine style and the nails they use.

Box of sticky style power nailer nails with three sheets of nails outside of the box

Stick Style Nailers

Stick style nailers use nails that are collated, or held together, by strips of paper, plastic, or thin wire. These nails form a long slender "stick" that slides into an oblong magazine on the tool. Nails sticks vary in length from 20 to 40 nails.

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Box of coil style nailers with spool of nails in front of it

Coil Style Nailers

Coil style nailers use long, flexible strings of nails joined with wires. The nails are stored in a round magazine on the tool. The magazine rolls the string of nails, allowing as many as 300 nails to be loaded at a time.

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Different Applications

Power nailers can be used in virtually any type of construction. Some models are designed for use in tight spaces, while others are large and powerful and meant for high-volume applications.

Black and yellow Bostitch power framing nailer

Framing Nailers

Designed for fast high-powered work in fastening large pieces of material.

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Teal, silver and black Makita finish power nailer

Finish Nailers

Are lighter weight, used for furniture, cabinets, trim, and moulding.

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Yellow and silver brad nailer

Staplers, Tackers & Brad Nailers

Are also lightweight, used for precision work.

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Black and yellow Bostitch power nailer

Roofing Nailers

Are specifically designed to apply roof shingles.

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How Nailers are Powered

While most nailers are pneumatic, some are cordless and powered alternatively.

  • Black and yellow pneumatic power nailer

    Pneumatic Power Nailers

    The most common power nailers are pneumatic nailers. These are powered by air pressure from a small compressor. When a nail is fired, a valve opens in the tool and air fills a cylinder. A piston in the cylinder moves rapidly downward, driving the nail in front of it into the material at the tip of the nailer. When the piston fully extends, the air from the compressor is released from the tool through an exhaust vent. The piston recoils while another nail is loaded.

  • Yellow compressor with yellow power nailer in front of it

    Compressors

    Pneumatic nailers require a constant source of compressed air. While no nailer requires a specific compressor, each has specific air requirements. Nailers operate between a range of pressures measured in pounds per square inch (psi). In addition to pressure, nailers require a minimum volume of air for correct operation. This volume is rated in cubic feet per minute (cfm). Hoses that are the wrong size, too long, or contain a lot of moisture will decrease airflow and cause premature wear and poor performance.

  • Air pressure gauge

    Air Pressure & Volume

    The air pressure (psi) and air volume (cfm) ratings of your air compressor should be at least equal to or greater than the requirements of your nailer. If the compressor doesn't meet these requirements, the nailer will not work correctly. Increasing the air pressure output of the compressor will not solve performance problems caused by low air volume.

  • Black, silver and red Porter Cable power nailer

    Cordless Power Nailers

    Instead of using a supply of compressed air provided by a compressor, these nailers use flammable gas to drive nails. The gas is drained from a disposable canister and injected into the combustion chamber above the piston. An electric charge from a battery ignites the gas which explodes and drives the piston, dispensing a nail. The tool and power source are self-contained, so no cords or hoses are necessary.

  • Spare battery for power nailer

    Cordless Power Nailer Care

    The most modern cordless nailers sink nails as quickly as the pneumatic models. They need to be cleaned more often than traditional pneumatic units, but require very little startup time. They're well suited for tight or obstructed areas, since there is no air hose. A cordless nailer works best for lower volume nailing, jobs in tight spaces, or jobs with limited setup time.

Power Nailer Features

Be sure to choose the features, power, and nail capacity appropriate for the desired use. 

Person using a power nailer on an exterior wood frame

Contact Firing Method

One type lets the user hold down the trigger and then tap or bounce the tool on the material to drive a fastener. Each bounce releases a nail. This is a great choice for production-type work.

Person using a black and silver power nailer on a baseboard

Single Sequential Firing

Instead of bump-firing nails, you operate the safety tip and trigger in sequence to fire the first one.

Person using a black and yellow Bostitch power nailer on a window frame

Single Actuation Firing

This is the same as single sequential firing, except you can operate the safety tip and trigger in any order when firing the first nail. Bump-firing also doesn't work on this firing style.

Person using a silver and black Hitachi power nailer on a wood frame

Full Sequential Firing

Just like single sequential firing, you must operate the safety tip then trigger to fire the first nail (bump-firing doesn't work). To fire the next nail, release the safety tip and trigger, then operate the safety tip and trigger (in that order).

Person using a small black and silver power nailer on a drawer

Smaller Trigger-Operated Nailers

Smaller power nailers don't usually have safety tips. Instead, you press a single or dual trigger to fire the nail — a single trigger requires pulling the trigger to fire a nail, while a dual requires pulling the triggers in the right sequence.

Closeup of a power nailer trigger

Multiple Trigger Settings

Some power nailer models offer the ability to choose the trigger setting and firing style that's right for the job.

Thumb pressing a button at the heel of a power nailer to release pressurized air

Directional Exhaust Plates

Allow the user to control where the tool's exhaust is channeled. This setting is valuable when nailing in a dusty area. Some shields require special tools for adjustment, while others can be adjusted by hand.

Bottom of a power nailer showing where debris can fall out

Jam Clearing

Simplifies the maintenance of nailers, since fasteners occasionally jam in the nailing mechanism. Be sure the tool you select allows convenient clearing of jammed fasteners.

Adjustable depth options on the bottom of a power nailer

Adjustable Depth

Allows the user to control the depth the fastener is driven into the nailing surface. Nailers can leave nails protruding, sink them flush, or even countersink them, depending on the depth setting. Some nailers require tools for depth adjustment, while others can be adjusted by hand.

Gloved hand using a power nailer on wood framing

Large Triggers

Easily used with gloved fingers and provide added comfort for the user.

Hard plastic carrying case with power nailer in it

Carrying Cases

Protect the nailer from unnecessary damage and wear during transport. Consider adding a case when you purchase your nailer to keep it clean, dry, and well protected.

Bottom of a black and yellow power nailer showing its air hose connector

Swivelling Air Connectors

Cut down on air hose tangles. They also make reloading easier, allowing the air hose to be moved out of the way.

Close up of circular protective guard on a power nailer

Protective Guards

Keep parts of the tool safe from damage and protect the user from flying debris. Guards can wear out with use, so look for ones that can be easily replaced.

Two hands inserting a row of nails into a black and silver Porter Cable power nailer

Easy-to-Load Nail Magazines

Makes loading nails a simple process. Make sure you can reload the nailer quickly and easily.

Close up of a power nailer magazine showing its loaded nails

Nail Size Adjustment

Nail size should adjust easily with few tools needed, since you may need to change nail sizes several times a day as you switch tasks.

Nails

Spool of power nailer nails

How Nails are Secured

Nails used in power nailers are joined together with paper, plastic, or wire. Many have clipped heads that allow the nails to sit closely together in a solid line. Others are secured together in long strands with flexible wire. Most have a layer of lubricant/adhesive. As the nail contacts the nailing surface, the compound heats and lubricates the nail. When the compound cools, it bonds the nail to the nailing surface, increasing the holding strength.

Display of four different kinds of power nailers

Power Nailer Requirements

Each power nailer has specific requirements for nail styles. Never use nails that are not approved for your power nailer. Though the nails must be specially packaged for power nailers, their composition and applications are the same as traditional nails. Make sure the nails you use in your power nailer comply with all necessary regulations and building codes.

Good to Know

If you plan to run other air tools in addition to a power nailer, make sure your compressor can handle the combined load.

All power tools demand attention to safety, and power nailers are no exception. Inspect your tools prior to use, follow the manufacturer's instructions for use, maintenance schedule, and safety precautions, and never alter a tool for any reason.

When using a power nailer, protect your eyes with safety goggles.

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