How to Use a Brad Nailer? Tips and Tricks with Everything You Need to Know

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If you find yourself hammering up trim a lot, it might be time to consider an electric brad nailer. This power tool can be quite helpful and make the work a bit easier and faster. However, using a tool you know nothing about could be dangerous. Therefore, it’s important to understand how to use a brad nailer correctly. Let’s get started!

Types of Brad Nailers

With an electric nailer, you can secure trim more easily. There are two types: pneumatic and electric versions. However, most people don’t have an air compressor, and a pneumatic tool requires this. The air is the power that shoots out the brad nail for you.

If you don’t have an air compressor and aren’t looking to buy one, an electric nailer is the right choice.

What’s a Brad Nail Gun?

Brad nail guns are power tools that can fire 18-gauge brad nails. They don’t work with staples, though.

Overall, they can either be corded or cordless, and the tool loads the compression chamber with an electrical or air-compressed charge. That power is used to shoot the brad out of the gun and into the wood you’re working on.

Brads are typically 18-gauge or 16-gauge and can be up to 2 inches long. Generally, they range in price from $50 to $120, and the corded models are often cheaper.

What to Use a Brad Nailer For

Ideally, you use a brad nailing gun for:

You can’t use the brad nailer for tacking plastic sheeting, insulation, or thin materials like veneer. If that’s your goal, you need a stapler/brad gun combo. They can fire two-pronged staples that work well with the ultra-thin materials so that they don’t tear through and leave gouges or dents. Plus, they can fire single-prong brads that are ½-inch or less.

With that, you can’t use a brad nailer for construction work like framing a house or nailing together 2x4s. For that, you require a pneumatic framing nailer with a coil or stick magazine capable of firing nails that are 1 ½- to 3 ½-inch in length.

Features to Consider

If you want to buy a brad nail gun, it’s important to get the features right. That way, you know what it can do and how to use it appropriately and safely. These are the top options to consider:

  • Air Pressure Dial – This dial adjusts how much air is expelled when the trigger is pressed. When you’ve got more air pressure, the brads go deeper. With less pressure, the brads sit higher in the finished work.
  • Depth Gauge – You can adjust the distance of the nail gun to the work material to get the right depth.
  • Magazine – The brad strips (nails) are loaded here.
  • Magazine Lock – You press this to load your gun. This shouldn’t be confused with the lock at the end of your magazine; that’s only used to clear out any jammed nails.
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How to Load Your Brad Nailer

Each brad nailer loads differently. However, here are a few features that are common with all models and brands:

Brad Length

Make sure that the brads are in the right length range. They can take anywhere from 5/8 inch to 2 inches. The specifications should tell you when you purchase the nailer.

If you get something bigger than 2 inches, it just doesn’t fit. However, if the brads are shorter than the recommended range, what does that mean?

They do likely fit in the magazine, but they can’t fire correctly. In the end, they jam, and you waste all those nails.

Brad Gauge

The thickness or gauge of your brads is also important. Do you know the difference between an 18-gauge and a 16-gauge brad? There’s a lot!

A 16-gauge brad is actually thicker, as the lower gauge number indicates a thicker brad. Therefore, they might not work in your nailer.

Continuous Strips

It’s crucial to handle your brad strip carefully, or it might break apart. In a sense, it’s not vital to keep the strip together because you can piece the shorter lengths as one. However, it ensures a smoother feeding operation when the strip is not broken.

Push Forward

In most cases, you want to slide your brad strip as far forward as you can. This is in the direction of your nail gun’s firing end.

Slide Shut with Care

It’s tempting for you to slap your magazine shut with gusto. Yes, you must use some force to ensure that it locks into place. However, using too much could cause your brad strip to fall out, especially if you use a non-continuous strip. This could jam your nailer and wastes nails.

Depth Adjustment and Position

You must ensure that you’re holding the brad nailer at the right position, but it must also be set at the right depth adjustment.

Position It on the Workpiece

First, you must find the contact point on your nailer. This is the business end or where the nail comes out. That contact point depresses when the nailer is pushed against the workpiece. For safety purposes, your gun doesn’t fire if you don’t push that trigger.

Please remember that the brad gun fires slightly away from the contact point. This is often ¼-inch higher than your contact point. Therefore, you must position the gun at the right location to ensure that it catches the material correctly.

This takes a bit of practice to get right. Take your time here!

Ideal Depth

The right depth for driving your brads varies between projects. Sometimes, you want the brad head to be flush with your surface. Other times, you want it a bit recessed to give a more polished and finished look. Keep these things in mind while checking the depth settings:

  • A protruding head is not good because you can’t hammer it the rest of the way into the piece. In fact, the brad bends over because it’s a thin wire and not a finishing nail. Plus, you could dent the workpiece.
  • It’s fine to sink the head in, but if it’s too much below the surface, your nail can’t hold the material in place sufficiently. This is especially true for MDF and other similar materials. When you’re done, you should see the shiny head so that it’s not too deep.
  • You should try to make it flush with the surface. Brad heads tend to be small and smooth, so if you put it flush with the work surface, it’s invisible once you paint it. Plus, the brad heads hold the material more firmly this way!
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If you’re working with wood and want a natural finish, the only choice is to sink it and then add wood filler.

Adjusting the Depth

The depth gauge and air pressure dial control depth, and it’s hard to balance the two because they counter each other.

Therefore, you want to practice on some scrap materials that are like your workpiece. Remember that some materials have different densities and thicknesses, which can affect the brad’s depth.

Start with your air pressure gauge. Adjust it to the mid-point between low and high. Then, adjust the depth gauge, so it’s at the middle point. Now, test fire the machine.

If it protrudes, adjust your air pressure a bit higher. If it’s too far in, ease up on that air pressure a bit. Overall, air pressure is the primary way to adjust depth.


Using a brad nailer isn’t hard, but it does take some practice to get it right. Those who have been using these power tools for years might be able to set them without much fuss. As you’re just starting out, it’s best to follow this guide and practice on scrap materials to get it right.

Happy nailing!

Why trust Handyman.Guide?

s written by Itamar Ben-Dor, who has 25 years of experience in renovations, carpentry, locks, creation, landscaping, painting, furniture construction, and furniture renovation, works with concrete, plumbing, door repair, and more.

Itamar Ben-Dor has been in the home improvement business for over 25 years. Itamar Ben-Dor is a jack of all trades. He's worked in the renovation field for years, doing everything from locksmithing to carpentry. He's a small repairs specialist. But his true passion lies in furniture construction and renovation - he loves seeing old pieces come back to life with some new woodwork or a fresh coat of paint.

He has taken courses on many topics in these fields at professional colleges in Israel. Over the years, Itamar has also become quite skilled in gardening, carpentry, and renovations. He's worked on projects of all sizes, from massive renovations to small repairs. No job is too big or too small for him!

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Itamar Ben Dor
Itamar Ben Dor

My father is a practical engineer, and as a hobby he was also involved in construction, renovations, carpentry and woodwork at home; So there was always tools, saws, drills and more at home. Already I was a little kid Dad and I would renovate the house. Once we built a shed for garden tools, once we did flooring for the garden, once we renovated the bathroom and that’s the way it is. Long before there was an internet, directories and plans. We would build things, kitchen cabinets, install electrical appliances, do flooring, pour concrete and more ... I in this blog want to pass on to you the experience I have gained over the last 20 plus-minus years since I was a child to this day and give you information about the best tools, project plans, guides and more.