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How to Choose a Pneumatic Nailer or Stapler

How to Choose a Pneumatic Nailer or Stapler

Pneumatic nailers and staplers are incredibly versatile tools. From reroofing a house or installing flooring, to building a shed or reupholstering furniture, there's a pneumatic tool for just about any home renovation task. But with so many options and configurations on the market, it can be intimidating to try to figure out what option will suit you best. Never fear, gentle reader - here you'll find the information you need to make an informed purchase of a tool that will make your work easier for years to come, whether you're putting up crown molding or building a fence. And no matter what, WEN has a pneumatic tool for you.


When starting your journey, here are some of the important terms you need to know to compare your options. 


Most tools' names are self-explanatory (e.g. roofing nailers are used for roofing, flooring nailers are used for flooring, etc.), but some other nailer and stapler types are not as clear. For example: 

  • Finish nailers: these nailers are generally used for finishing work, such as installing paneling, trim, or baseboards. Use a finish nailer when working with especially hard or dense materials.

WEN 61674 pneumatic finish nailer

The WEN 61764 16-gauge pneumatic finish nailer is the perfect companion for many general remodeling and finishing tasks.

  • Brad nailers: these tools are generally smaller and lighter than finish nailers, and shoot brad nails ("brads" for short), which are small nails, collated together in a stick, that have small heads. Brad nails are best used in picture frames, decorative trim, or other applications where a larger, thicker finishing nail may split the workpiece, or where a nail head to give extra holding power is desirable. They work well in softwoods.

WEN 61721 magazine showing brad nails

18-gauge brad nails loaded in the magazine of the WEN 61722K 2-in-1 brad nailer and stapler.

  • Pin nailers: these nailers work with tiny, headless fasteners (pins), and are suitable for very-light-duty or delicate applications, such as fastening very thin workpieces (such as molding) or veneer. Use a pin nailer where an extremely small nail hole is desirable, especially if you'll be staining wood. If you use a brad nailer or finish nailer, the nail head will leave a small hole in the wood, which will need to be filled and sanded. They subsequently tend to show up as ugly marks on stained wood, since the filler stains differently from the wood.

Other tools, like framing nailers, can be used for a variety of different jobs, such as framing a house (which is where they get their name) or building a deck.

Fastener sizing

Most tools' names describe the size of fasteners used. There are two sizes you need to know: length (which is pretty self-explanatory - it's just how long the fastener is) and gauge (which is a bit more nuanced, but generally refers to the thickness of the fastener). Brad nailers often work with 18-gauge (abbreviated 18ga) fasteners; finish nailers often work with 16ga fasteners; pin nailers often work with 20ga - 23ga fasteners. 

Staple sizing

Staples are great for reupholstering furniture, installing sheathing or installation, or sometimes for installing underlayment. Staples' size is described by three measurements: the length (self-explanatory), the gauge (as discussed above), and the crown, which is the distance between the two prongs of the staples. So a staple might be described as an 18ga 2" 3/8"-crown staple (18-gauge thickness, 2" long, 3/8" crown). Make sure you purchase staples that match your tool in all 3 dimensions.

Magazine capacity

Pneumatic nailers and staplers hold their fasteners in a magazine that extends downward from the nose of the tool. The higher the capacity, the more fasteners the tool can hold without reloading.

Cordless vs. pneumatic

Although they may sound like synonyms, in this case, they mean two different things. 

  • Pneumatic tools use compressed air to function. They need to be connected to an air hose and an air compressor. We'll go into more detail about this in a moment. Generally, pneumatic tools are much lighter and less expensive than cordless options, and are much simpler (potentially meaning fewer breakdowns), but they are tethered to an air hose, and if you're using a tool that consumes a lot of air at once, you may need to take breaks every so often so the compressor can keep up. 
  • Cordless tools are powered by a battery pack, and use an electric motor and flywheel (or, in some cases, compressed gas cartridges) to drive their fasteners. They tend to be heavier, more complex, and more expensive than pneumatic versions, but are extremely maneuverable and great at driving a lot of fasteners in a short period of time, and are often much quieter than their pneumatic cousins.

Generally speaking, pneumatic options tend to best suit DIYers or finishing-work professionals, whereas the speed and portability of cordless options may make them more attractive for professionals.

Pneumatic tools: choosing a compressor and air hose

Pneumatic tools require certain ranges of pressure (measured in pounds per square inch, or PSI) and flow rate (measured in cubic feet per minute, or CFM) to function continuously. In order to function properly, they need both simultaneously - the right pressure, and the right flow rate (for example, 1 CFM at 90 PSI). When selecting a compressor, make sure its pressure and flow rate ratings will work with your tool. Usually, the flow rate is the limiting factor.

If your compressor is too small for your tool, you'll have to take breaks while it compresses more air into its tank. This isn't usually an issue for smaller tools such as brad nailers, but for larger or more-intensive tools (think die grinders, roofing nailers, etc.), it can really slow things down to have an undersized compressor. Keep that in mind. 

When looking for an air hose, make sure you get one that is long enough to get your pneumatic tool where it needs to go, and that it can handle the pressure and flow rate your tool requires.

Choosing a Nailer or Stapler

Alright, here's the good stuff. Generally, this is pretty straightforward (if you need to reroof your house, get a roofing nailer.), but here are some helpful tips to make sure you choose the right tool for you. 

What type of tool do you need? 

Some tools (for example, the WEN 61741K 4-in-1 18-Gauge Pneumatic Flooring Nailer and Stapler) function as multiple tools in 1. If you have multiple jobs ahead of you, and you're not quite sure what you'll run into, it may be handy to have a tool that can handle multiple applications. 

If you're looking for a tool that's well-suited to one particular job, you may want to consider an option that's designed specifically for nailing or stapling. 

What's your budget? 

As mentioned, pneumatic tools tend to be much less expensive than their cordless counterparts, especially when the cost of the batteries (and in some cases, non-reusable compressed gas cartridges) is included. However, pneumatic tools do require air hoses and air compressors to function, which adds to their initial cost.

What other features should you look for? 

Other features present on most WEN pneumatic tools include: 

  • Large-capacity magazines, for limited downtime during reloading
  • Magazine capacity indicators, to quickly see how many fasteners are left
  • Anti-dry-fire mechanisms, to help prevent damage to the firing mechanism
  • Tool-free jam clearing latches, to make it easy to get at a jam on the off-chance one occurs
  • Tool-free depth adjustment, for precision tweaking of fastener depth
  • Lightweight aluminum construction with soft rubber overmolding, for minimum fatigue and maximum comfort during long jobs

There may be other features important to you that we haven't covered here, so keep those in mind as well.


Thanks for reading! We hope this has been a helpful starting point in your journey to choosing a nailer or stapler. If you have any questions about which WEN tool is right for you, or need more information, please give us a call at 1-847-429-9263 (M – F, 8 – 5 CST), or drop us a message here to talk to our friendly and knowledgeable technical support team

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