DIY Basics

Brad Nailers and Air Compressors

Last Updated on February 26, 2013 by Kristi Linauer

Today I got a question from a reader about my brad nailer and air compressor, and I thought it might be helpful to pass along that information to the rest of you, just in case you’re in the market for one yourself.

First of all, let me just say that if you’re a regular DIYer, and you haven’t yet purchased a brad nailer and an air compressor, you should march out the door right this minute and head to the nearest home improvement store and purchase one.

WAIT!!!  I didn’t mean RIGHT this minute.  You can finish reading this post first!!

I put off purchasing a brad nailer and air compressor for several years, because for some reason, I placed those items in the “luxury” category of tools, rather than the “necessity” category.  But now that I have mine, I can’t possibly imagine how I went so long without it.  It cuts down drastically on the amount of time and effort that projects take.  A hammer and nails seem like archaic tools compared to my brad nailer!

So when I finally decided to purchase my own, I went for the cheap one.  I knew I didn’t need anything fancy or heavy duty, and since I only do crafty building projects and I’m not planning on building a house from scratch or re-roofing my condo building any time soon, I only needed a brad nailer as opposed to a framing nail gun.  And, we’ve already established that I’m super cheap.  So I found the cheapest deal at Lowe’s, and ended up with this brad nailer/air compressor combo for $99.

brad nailer air compressor

This one shoots up to 2” 18-gauge brads.  (Brads are finish nails, by the way—the kind that don’t have large round heads on them.)  For the amount of money I paid, it was quite a bargain, and I’ve certainly gotten a lot of use out of it.  However, there are a few things about it that I’m not crazy about.

First of all, the air compressor only goes up to about 90 psi.  That has actually been sufficient for all of my projects, but because it’s only a 2-gallon tank, it has to fill up quite often during use.

Second, the connector where the hose meets the nail gun leaks air.  I’ve recently learned that I can use plumbing tape around the connector and that will probably take care of the problem.  I still need to try that.

Third, I’m not crazy about the coiled air hose.  In fact, it’s just a pain.  I would much prefer to have a straight hose.

So overall, I’m pretty pleased with my air compressor and brad nailer, but this might be the one tool that I wish I had saved up a bit more money for and purchased a slightly nicer model.  If I had to do it again, I’d probably purchase a Porter Cable compressor and nail gun.

porter cable air compressor and brad nailer

I think that’s a 6-gallon tank and it comes with a straight hose and a brad nailer for about $179 at Home Depot.  The only drawback is that it looks like this brad nailer only shoot up to 1 3/8” brads, and there are times that I’ve definitely needed longer brads.  However, the compressor and nailer can be purchased separately, and Porter Cable has several different sizes of nail guns available.

So here’s the bottom line…my two cents on air compressors and nail guns:

  1. If you’re a DIYer, you need to move this tool from the “luxury” category to the “necessity” category immediately,
  2. Don’t purchase the absolute cheapest.  Spend a bit more and get a mid range product,
  3. Get a compressor that holds at least 5 or 6 gallons, and goes up to about 100 psi.
  4. If you’re only using this for light DIY projects (and you’re not planning on framing a house with it), then you only need a brad nailer, and not a framing gun.
  5. Be sure that the brad nailer will shoot up to 2” brads, which is sufficient for all light DIY projects.

I’m telling you, once you get one, you’ll thank me!!  I’ve done all kinds of projects with mine, from the big projects (installing board and batten walls, planking my kitchen ceiling, building closets in my bedroom), to medium sized projects (building a coffee table), to the smallest projects (making candlesticks).

Okay, NOW you can head for the door.  Smile

When undertaking any major D.I.Y work in your home it is very important to firstly check that any work you do won’t invalidate your home insurance if it is not completed by a professional. If you are in any doubt it is always best to contact your insurer first.

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  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 29, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    I have both a Brad Nailer and an Air Compressor.  I love love love them.  What I really need now is a staple gun.  I have a cheap one that I have used a ton, but it just doesn't go through more than one layer of fabric.  Do you have any suggestions for me?  Do you think I should get one that I can use with my Air Compressor or another manual one?

    Thanks so much for all of your helpful posts.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 29, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Seconding this. My insane husband thought he was going to redo all of the trim in the house with just his hammer. I've seen him with that hammer and his thumbs afterwards, he has no business using that thing. So in my most evil plan yet, I bought him a gun for his birthday and an amazon card so he could pick out his own compressor. He thought I was just being nice because he was sad he was in his 30s now. Nope, I just wanted my dang trim up before I reach my 30s. So far one room is done and he's creeping into the next. Best plan ever.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Jacquie North
    June 29, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Oh wow, thank you SO much…I was always a little afraid of such tools lol…

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Jacquie North
    June 29, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    Oh thanks SO much!! I was always a wee bit afraid of such tools, but your info really sets my mind at ease…great Xmas present to ask for!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 29, 2011 at 6:41 pm

    I own the Campbell Hausfeld air compressor and brad nailer set from Lowes too. The coiled house is a pain so my husband picked up a longer straight hose for pretty cheap. I think you can find hoses for it in the plumbing section otherwise I am sure if you ask an associate they will help you!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 29, 2011 at 6:43 pm

    Another good thing about the Campbell Hausfeld it is also a stapler!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 29, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    If you live near a "Harbor Freight" store- GO!  They carry very good equipment for very inexpensive prices.  It's like the no-name store for Home Building.  We just did our whole basement construction with one of their compressors and nail guns and it worked beautifully (as does my brother who does tons of construction.) See our basement post:

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 30, 2011 at 1:14 am

    So itt IS also a stapler? Kristi made it sound like it wasn't… I'd love something like this for nailing, but specifically for stapling and upholstery jobs… So intimidated, but excited to learn about all these options!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kim Perdew
    June 30, 2011 at 1:44 am

    And again COOLEST POWER tools…..

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kristi @ Addicted 2 Decorating
    June 30, 2011 at 1:47 am

    Yes, it's a stapler.  I've never used it for upholstery because I can't find staples that are short enough for it.  I can only find 1" and longer, and for upholstery, I generally use 3/8".

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    June 30, 2011 at 2:39 am

    Thanks Kristi.  That post was so helpful.  I had no idea what brads were until you clarified.  I would love to get one, but am wondering how loud it is.  I live in a condo on the top floor so my neighbors may not appreciate my DIYing.  Where do you typically do your projects?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kristi @ Addicted 2 Decorating
    June 30, 2011 at 4:18 am

    I do my projects wherever I need to…sometimes inside, sometimes right outside my front door.  Yeah, I'm sure my neighbors love me.  🙂  I just make sure that I don't use it really early or really late at night.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Terri Roberts
    June 30, 2011 at 5:28 am

    Well, my husband is going to love you!  Everytime I have a new project, he ends up with a new tool.  I'm wanting to do the board and batten in my guest bedroom, so I guess I'll have to surprise him with the brad nailer first!  (he already has a big air compressor – a project "must have tool")   🙂 

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kristi @ Addicted 2 Decorating
    June 30, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Kristi, if you're using the staple gun for upholstery projects, then you absolutely need one that works with your air compressor.  That's going to be one of my next purchases as well.

    The nail gun I bought (the one pictured above) actually shoots staples as well, but I've never even tried to use it on upholstery because I can't find the right size staples.  I've only been able to find 1" staples, and upholstery is generally done with 3/8" to 1/2" staples.  Also, most upholsterers use the staple guns that shoot the thin wire staples, and my nail gun won't shoot those.  So I definitely plan on getting a gun that's specifically for upholstery.

    This is the one I'm considering purchasing for upholstery:

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Kristi @ Addicted 2 Decorating
    June 30, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    Oh my gosh, this had me laughing so hard!  I've installed trim with a hammer and nails, and it's such a pain.  In fact, I installed the board and batten in my own condo with a hammer and nails.  I'm glad those days are behind me!!

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    July 1, 2011 at 12:20 am

    We've got the Porter Cable set.  If you wait and purchase it around the holidays they will sometimes have a bonus set.  It will include the Brad Nailer and another attachment.  FYI.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    July 1, 2011 at 4:24 am

    Okay — I went out today and got mine! My husband is so impressed at my wanting this 🙂 (And hoping he can borrow it himself!) Hoping I can find the 1/2" staples for future upholstery projects…

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    August 12, 2011 at 1:17 am

    Thank you for the info. I've been looking for some
    recommendations about the best air compressor and I finally found it. I don’t know
    much about this product but I think you have a great recommendation. Once
    again, thank you.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    October 26, 2011 at 4:00 am

    Thank you for sharing your experience and tips. I
    usually browse the internet first to find out which tools that has the best
    price and quality. But most of the times, when I go to the store, the product isn’t
    available. So I bought the tool that I want without any consideration. So I
    really appreciate that you post this great information.



  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    October 31, 2011 at 5:17 am

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  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Air Compressors
    November 16, 2011 at 2:52 pm

    Great article on Air Compressors, very informative, thank you

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 28, 2013 at 1:58 pm

    Great article – but was wondering how you feel about the new pneumatic nailers?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    January 31, 2013 at 3:35 am

    I am the proud owner of a (rather large and good quality) air compressor, and I completely agree. It is a necessity. I bought it when I restored my car about 10 years ago, and have never been able to survive without it since. Definitely worth the money if you enjoy DIY.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    March 1, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    Great post. I’ve been putting off getting one because the compressor looks like it will take up a fair bit of space in the garage, but it definitely won’t be one of those tools that gathers dust unused.

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    DIY Stained Wood Raised Platform Bed Frame – Part 1
    November 4, 2013 at 9:49 am

    […] nailer (this is the one I have) with 1 1/4-inch […]

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    Brittany H.
    December 10, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    I recently got myself an air compressor and brad nail gun. Its small it does what I need and I got it an accessories for about $75(and other tools) I am 21 and I want to start working on different projects, but I have no idea where to start. How do I prioritize my projects?

  • Reply To This Comment ↓
    August 10, 2015 at 3:33 am

    I own the Campbell Hausfeld air compressor and brad nailer set from Lowes too. The coiled house is a pain so my husband picked up a longer straight hose for pretty cheap. I think you can find hoses for it in the plumbing section otherwise I am sure if you ask an associate they will help you!