15g vs 16g finish nailer: which one should you choose? The answer depends on the job.
The gauge of a nail refers to the diameter of the nail. The higher the gauge, the thinner the nail. The lower the gauge, the thicker the nail.
With this in mind, you know that the 15g uses thicker nails than the 16g. It may not seem like there’s a big difference between the two, but there is.
So, which one is the best choice for your project? Let’s compare the two.
15g vs 16g Finish Nailer
When searching for a finish nailer, you’ll find that you have quite a few gauge options. But 15g and 16g are two of the most popular gauge choices. What’s the difference between the two, and how do they compare?
15g Finish Nailers
A 15g finish nailer has an angled feed type and will fire nails with a round head. It uses nails that are just like the finish nails you would drive with a hammer.
A 15g nailer has excellent holding power, and is a bit heavier than the 16g model. Many people consider a 15g nailer to be similar to a framing nailer in terms of power and build.
Because of its heft and power, we’ve found a 15g is better suited for things like:
- Door trim
- Hanging doors
A 15g model will be large and heavy, but the size and weight are indicative of its power. Nailers of this size can handle nail lengths up to 2-1/2.”
16g Finish Nailers
A 16g finish nailer doesn’t have quite as much holding power, so we’ve found that it’s better suited for things like:
- Base molding
- Smaller bed moldings
- Back bands
- Panel molds that are set on an angle
Some people consider 16g nailers to be nothing more than overgrown brad nailers. These nailers can also handle nails up to 2-1/2″ thick.
Comparing 15g and 16g
Do you need a 15g finish nailer or a 16g? Most people would say that you need both. Both sizes have their place, and you’ll probably find yourself needing both types on the job.
One thing that you’ll notice with the 15g is that it leaves behind a large entrance hole. Depending on the job, you may need to fill in part of the hole. For this reason, many carpenters do not recommend using this size for interior trim. You could wind up spending a lot of time filling holes than getting work done.
The 15g finish nailer also has more power, so it can easily blow apart or split small molding.
There is a place for both, but a 16g is generally better suited for more delicate jobs where you don’t need quite as much holding power.
With that said, you also have to consider the placement of the nails. A 16g nailer has a straight base, whereas a 15g nailer has an angled one. The angled base of the 15g makes it easier to get into corners and tight spaces.
If you’re serious about carpentry or you do a lot of home remodeling projects, you should consider buying both the 15g and 16g finish nailers. If you want to cover most projects, you should also have 18g and 23g nailers.
Many carpenters argue that the 15g nails are less susceptible to bending and damage compared to the 16g nails. These nails are thicker and stronger, so they’re more likely to stay intact. But on the wrong piece of wood, a 15g nail could cause splitting and cracks. It’s important to use the right gauge for the right project.
A 16-gauge nail has a diameter of 1/16 of an inch, so it’s quite thin. That makes it more vulnerable to bending and other issues when driving nails. Although this doesn’t happen all that often, it’s something that needs to be considered. With thicker woods, the 16g nails may not cut it. You may need to upgrade to a 15g finish nailer in this case.
While 15g nailers leave behind a bigger hole, these holes are relatively easy to fill in with wood putty. And if you accidentally drive the nail too deep, you can also use wood putty to fill in that hole.
When Should You Use a 16g Finish Nailer?
As you know, a 16g nailer uses thinner nails. These thinner nails are less noticeable in trim and leave behind smaller entrance holes. These nailers are also lighter and smaller. That’s why many carpenters prefer this size for interior trim, baseboards and the like.
For these reasons, a 16-gauge finish nailer is ideal for:
- Interior trim
- Crown molding
- Closet cleats
Because a 16g works with thinner nails, they’re ideal for jobs where you don’t want a big nail hole to fill in. That’s why they’re ideal for delicate trim work. The thinner nails are easier to hide and the hole is much easier to fill in with this gauge.
When Should You Use a 15g Finish Nailer?
If you have a job that requires more holding power, the 15g is the better choice. This size nailer is ideal for tougher jobs, like:
- Hanging doors
- Door trim
- Exterior trim
- Window boxes
The reason why many carpenters prefer a 15g for exterior trim is because it can better handle weather challenges.
If you need stronger holding power or you’re working with thick, dense wood, a 15g may be the best option.
The Bottom Line
Choosing between a 15g vs 16g finish nailer can be a challenge if you’re new to carpentry, but it all comes down to the task at hand. If you’re working with thicker, denser wood, you need a heavier gauge nail. That’s where the 15g works perfectly. The 15g finish nailer is ideal for heavier jobs. If you’re working with thinner, more delicate pieces of trim, the 16g nailer is the better option. This finish nailer will give you excellent holding power without leaving behind a big entrance hole and splitting the wood.