What is a Finish Nailer?

J. Beam

A finish nailer is a specific power tool that is categorized as a type of nail gun. It is designed to accomplish carpentry finish work quickly and efficiently. There are numerous makes and models, all powered in ways that make easier, quicker work than nailing by hand. Like many varieties of power tools, finish nailers may be corded or cordless.

A finish nailer is often used to attach baseboards to walls.
A finish nailer is often used to attach baseboards to walls.

As with other types of nail guns, a finish nailer is designed for use with very specific sized nails, which are sold in strips that load into the gun. Inside, a hammer mechanism drives the nails with powered force, making this tool ideal for quickly installing all types of trim from baseboards to crown molding.

A finish mailer can be used to install crown molding.
A finish mailer can be used to install crown molding.

Features of the finish nailer vary with make and model, but an adjustable depth setting is a standard feature on most. The size and angle of operation vary to allow the user to tailor the tool to the task at hand. The power options will vary as well and while the corded varieties are powered by electricity, cordless finish nailers are typically powered by either battery or compressed air.

Finish nailers range greatly in price, with the price depending largely on the size, make, model and power abilities. For normal household use, less expensive models with fewer features are often suitable for small tasks. Commercial and industrial uses typically require the more expensive varieties with specific features and increased power. This tool is an excellent investment for small construction and repair businesses and companies that routinely install finish trim for customers, as well as for the ambitious do-it-yourself home re-modeler.

When selecting a finish nailer for purchase, compare features and power options to the task for which it will most frequently be used. You should also pick up display models to examine their weight and ergonomic feel in your hands. Make sure you buy nail strips that are the same size your nailer uses. Like many power tools, it may take some time to get accustomed to their actual use, but the finish nailer can greatly reduce the time spent on projects that would otherwise have to be done by hand.

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Discussion Comments


@rundocuri- I don't recommend using a regular nail gun for installing materials like wall trim pieces. A nail gun is very powerful, and could easily damage trim materials because they are thin and delicate compared to the type of thick wood used for building. This is why finish nailers were created.

On the positive side, you can most likely find a finish nailer for an affordable price. Try shopping for one at your favorite home improvement store during a sale, or look for a used one at pawn shops in your area. Just make sure that you have it tested first before buying a second-hand finish nailer.

If you have your heart set on finishing your wall trim project without buying additional equipment, you could just resort to using a hammer to put your trim pieces in place. Since wall trim is made of thin wood or faux wood, it is actually quite easy to use a hammer and trim nails to install it.


I'm wondering if a regular nail gun can be used in place of a finish nailer. I have some trim work to do along my walls, but I don't have a finish nailer. I do have a basic nail gun, though. Should I give it a try for this project?

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