How to use Finish Nailer Properly with Safety First

The finish nailer is among the most useful tools for those who are doing woodworking. They help nail moldings as well as other small trim boards easily. You can drive thin finish nails through boards of hardwoods and softwoods, as well as manufactured products like MDF, while leaving behind a really small nail hole which you can fill easily with wood filler. Another benefit of having to use a thin nail is that, you’re less likely to split delicate trim boards compared to using larger types of nails or even wood screws.

Apart from working faster compared to the traditional hammers, allowing the trim carpenter or woodworker to be far more productive for home remodeling and trimming projects. This type of nailer can easily be used with just one hand – giving you a spare hand to hold the trim or molding in place.

Features of Finish Nailer:

Most finish nailers use nails ranging from 15-18 gauge, and the style of nailer is either straight or angled (meaning that the magazine that holds the nails beneath the nailer is either perpendicular to the nailing direction or at an angle of about 20 degrees).

Nails for these nailers come in strips of 50-100, usually in boxes of about 2000 in total, and usually range from 1-1/4 to 2-1/2 inches in length. Smaller finish nailers, commonly called brad nailers, will shoot very thin brads ranging from 5/8-inch up to 1-1/2 inches in length.

How to Use a Finish Nailer to Nail Down Hardwood Floor?

Finish nailer reduces time and labor, replacing the old “swing-a-hammer” technique with automated nailing. You may use certain types of finish nailer to install a hardwood floor, but practice on scrap wood first to ensure that you master the correct technique.

If you’re handy with a finish nail gun, you can use it to install a hardwood floor. A finish nail gun, designed for trim work, shoots a near-headless nail that does not mar the surface look of the wood, which makes a finish nailer effective for installing hardwood floors as well. To use this nailer, position the nail shoe on the wood tongue at about a 15-degree angle downward and inward, toward the plank. Depress the nail shoe while holding the nailer carefully in place, and pull the trigger. Use finish nails that are long enough to go through the subfloor, if there is one, and at least 1/2 inch into the floor joists.

Hardwood floors that are installed in a home come in two types. One type is called a floating floor; it is not secured with nails. The other type is secured to the subfloor using staples or nails. Nails that are used to secure the wood boards to the subfloor require using a hammer or a finish nailer. Finish nailers can be purchased or rented.

Materials Required to Do

We need to take some raw materials to do this work. They are:

how-to-use-finish-nailer-properly1. Hammer
2. Finish nails
3. Chalk line
4. Spacers
5. Power drill
6. Finish nailer
7. Wood putty
8. Putty knife


There are some steps to do this work. They are:

  1. Make a mark along the floor half an inch from the wall using a chalk line. The half inch is to allow for the expansion of the wood. Align the first row along the chalk line, and use a hammer and nails to secure the boards to the subfloor. The finish nailer will be too big to use until at least two rows have been installed.
  2. Open the magazine cover of the finish nailer and place strips of finish nails in a row along the length of the magazine. Make sure the heads of the nails, not the tips, are facing the handle of the nailer.
  3. Close the magazine cover when you have finished loading nails into the magazine.
  4. Set the finish nailer so that is sits flush against the tongue edge of the board.
  5. Press or strike the trigger on the finish nailer to drive the nail diagonally through the base of the tongue on the board.
  6. Place nails along the row about every 10 to 12 inches. Make sure you place at least two nails in each board of the hardwood flooring.
  7. Repeat the previous three steps until you have finished installing the floor.

Place additional strips of nails into the finish nailer as it runs out. You may need to install the last row of boards by hand with a hammer and nails if the remaining space does not permit full functioning of the finish nailer.

How to Use Finish Nailer Properly

Safety Features:

how-to-use-finish-nailer-properly-safety-firstAs to the safety features of these nailers, they usually have a safe nose which needs to be depressed before its trigger is engaged and be pulled. For most types, they will also include an anti-marring tip made of rubber. This tip is made to be slipped on top of the nose’s tip to prevent the nailer from possibly giving damage to the wood and molding which is being nailed.

When you’re using the finish nailer, have the tip positioned on to the trim board where you want to have the nail driven. Then, carefully adjust its position so that you’ll drive the nail in the right direction. Usually, when the finish nailer’s cylinder and its tip line up perpendicularly to the board’s face, it gets your nail driven squarely in the board. In some cases however, you need to adjust the nail’s angle so you can capture enough wood behind the molding or trim you’re using.

Once you have properly aligned the nailer, push it gently toward the wood and depress its safety nose before pulling on the trigger. If you do things right, you should get the nail driven directly in the trim at your desired angle.

Pneumatic or Cordless?

When you’re buying finish nailers for the first time, the question you need to decide between a pneumatic or cordless type. The pneumatic type of nailer uses an air compressor to power it and conversely, the cordless nailer uses a combination of the compressed air canister air and a rechargeable battery in driving the nail through stock. Obviously, an advantage with a cordless unit is not having a cord attached to it but it may be a bit heavier because of the battery.

Costs are also a concern for both types of nailer. With a pneumatic nailer, you obviously need a durable compressor and hoses to run the distance between the compressor and the area being nailed, so the higher initial cost than a cordless unit. On the other side, with the cordless, you do not have a large up-front costs, but also have a number of consumables, especially need to buy more air canisters when the current canisters runs out. If the canister is not available at lumberyard or home center, you may need to order more online or your cordless finish nailer will not be used.

Problems Solving

When you work on a finish nailer, you need the head to be just below the board’s surface so it can be filled easily with the nail filler. If your nails haven’t been sunk completely, you can use a hammer and a nail set to drive them in completely (although, this is extra work which you shouldn’t have to do if you do things right). The problem which you usually get is caused by either an insufficient amount of pressure from the compressor, or the depth on the adjustment dial which wasn’t set correctly. If you’re not sure with the settings you need to use, consult your operating manual and follow the instructions on how to correctly modify the depth adjustment.

Another problem that sometimes arises is a jam in the head of the finish nailer. Nearly all finish nailers have an easy-to-open latch on the front of the nailer that can be opened and the jammed nail(s) removed. For safety, disconnect the nailer from the air compressor or take out the battery and/or air cartridge before opening the latch to remove a jam.

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