What Size Nails for Baseboard Trim

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What size nails for baseboard trim are most appropriate? When it comes to using nails, there is a wide variety of types to use. Even with something as specific as nailing baseboards, there still exists a wide variety of options to choose from. Size, width, and length are all separated by varying types called gauges.

Nailing thicker, heavier pieces of wood is much easier as far as nail selection goes. However, nailing something as intricate and detailed as baseboard trim can be much more complicated when selecting nail sizes.

The first step to installing new baseboards is allowing them to acclimate to the conditions inside of your home. Place the baseboards inside your house and allow them to rest for about 48 hours. During this time, they shrink or swell based on the climate and finally rest after a certain period.

Choosing What Size Nails for Baseboard Trim: The Initial Step

If you go straight to installation, this can cause gaps between pieces of trim because of changes in the wood due to the acclimation. This is why it’s always a good idea to let the trim sit before you begin installing. Any bending or warping after installation will lead to unsavory results, and you may have to start the process all over again.

When you’re selecting the nail size, the first thing you need to do is determine the thickness of the material you’re working with and the nail gun. Every baseboard is different, and knowing your material will help you determine the exact size and gauge.

Nailer Size for Baseboard Trim

Normally for baseboards, the best nail gun is a 16 gauge finish nailer with a thickness of ½ inch to ¾ inches. If the thickness of the trim is 1-inch or more, use a 15-gauge nailer that shoots a bigger diameter nail that has an angled base so you can reach tighter spaces.

If you’re using a thin trim, base cap, or shoe molding, an 18 gauge brad nailer and brad nails are the best but isn’t recommended for thick baseboards. Brad nails can be good for quarter rounds as well, but not for all baseboard trim. You need to make sure you have the right size nails. Normally, a brad nail will prove to be too small for baseboard trim.

Deciding between a finish nailer and a brad nailer depends on the thickness of the trim you’re working with. Usually, a pneumatic nailer can be your best bet because they are less expensive and typically more powerful.
If you don’t own an air compressor, it makes more sense to purchase a cordless nailer that operates off of batteries. These are more convenient to use as well because you don’t have to worry about pinches in the line and getting wrapped up during installation.

Additionally, using an air compressor can also result in small holes being poked in the line, which leads to the need for a replacement. This can significantly impact the quality of your work because of the pressure coming through the lines.

Gauge Number

Normally when you’re talking about nail guns and what size nails, the higher the gauge number, the smaller the nail. Nailers that shoot the largest trim nails are normally 15 and 16 gauge. When you’re using a nailer for baseboard trim, molding, and shiplap, you’ll use smaller nails because you want them to be less noticeable.

However, as mentioned before, a brad nail may be too small. 18 gauge is the biggest size brad nails come in, and this may be challenging. The best nails for baseboard trim will be between 15 and 16.

What’s the Best Nail Size for Baseboards?

The answer to this question depends on the purpose of the baseboards you’re using. A baseboard is essentially a thin piece of wood that covers the bottom of an interior wall. However, these pieces of wood can have a variety of purposes.

Almost 100% of the time, baseboards are for aesthetic purposes, but they accomplish a wide variety of jobs. Sometimes they are strictly for color and pattern matching. Other times, they are to cover gaps between the wall and the floor from an imperfect installation. This ends up creating a much neater appearance and acts as an illusion that the floor is installed completely flush with the wall.

Besides the visual appeal, baseboards also provide protection at the same time. When they’re installed on the lower portion of the wall, they protect the surface from kicks from shoes, scuffs from vacuum cleaners, and other scrapes that can damage your interior. Baseboards are a thin layer of protection, but the good thing is they’re easy to replace if they become damaged beyond repair.

When you compare the cost of a piece of baseboard trim to the cost of having your wall repaired and repainted, the value of these small pieces of wood skyrockets. Again, 15 and 16 gauge nails are the best options for installing baseboards. There are several reasons for this.

Why 15 and 16 Gauge Nail Size for Interior Walls?

Baseboard wood is thin to begin with, so anything much bigger than a 15 and 16 gauge gun and nail is going to crack the wood. This will render the baseboard useless as it won’t attach properly. These size guns also have a nail finisher and allow for thinner nails.

Second, when you nail these pieces to your wall, you don’t want to use a nail big enough to leave a large hole. This defeats the purpose of providing protection for your wall. If you’re going to have to end up patching a bunch of large holes, you’re better off not installing the baseboard in the first place. You need a small diameter nail (thinner nail).

Gauge Number and Angle

15 and 16 gauge nail guns are capable of driving nails up to 2 ½ inches. One of the biggest reasons for using these guns is the angled portion that allows you to get to places that are harder to reach.

Avoid Indents with the Right Gauge Number

Additionally, this gauge nail gun isn’t going to create a huge indent, either. The nail will hardly be noticeable on the surface of the baseboard, giving it a floating look, which is what you want.

Now, let’s examine the process of installing baseboards after you’ve gotten the correct baseboard nail size. Grab your nailer and nail set.

Installing Baseboards with Your Nail Gun

The process of nailing the baseboards to the wall is incredibly simple. It’s truly just as easy as lining the wood up to the bottom of the wall and nailing it with your gun. The only time this process requires additional work other than nailing is when you get close to doors or entryways. You may need to use a razor or cut a miter to angle around these areas.

The nails should be driven approximately 12 to 16 inches apart throughout the duration of your installation. After you successfully nail baseboards throughout the room, you’ll want to apply a putty over the top of all of the baseboard nails.

If you’re worried about the baseboards being level, you can use a chalk line to mark your work.

Putty Your Nails for Baseboards

After you nail the baseboard with your finish nailer, you can apply a small amount of putty, wood filler, or spackling paste onto each nail hole, allowing it to dry. Afterward, you can go back over and sand the area down. This will leave your baseboards with a smooth, clean finish on your interior wall trimming.

Painting Baseboards

Once you’re done sanding the area, you can start painting your baseboards the desired color. Many people ask why you can’t just paint before you install the baseboards, as this makes it less messy. However, the process would just have to be done over because the presence of the nails would mess up the perfect finish of the paint job. This is why it’s important to nail unpainted baseboards.

Most people choose to paint the baseboards the same color as the paint on the wall. If a baseboard becomes damaged, repairing is as easy as removing the baseboard, cutting a new strip, nailing it, then applying putty before re sanding and painting.

Can You Use 18 Gauge Size Brad Nail (Brad Nailers) for Baseboards?

You can use an 18-gauge nailer for your baseboards. However, it’s important to note that 18 gauge nails won’t have the holding power as the 15 or 16-gauge types. 18GA nails work well for ½ inch trims or smaller.

If your baseboards are going to be any thicker than ½ inch, you’ll definitely want to use 15 or 16-gauge finish nails. Nails used in a brad nailer are smaller in diameter and have lengths up to 2 inches. 15 and 16-gauge nails have more diameter, which gives them more holding power.

You Want Tight, Smooth Finishing

There is a smaller chance that the baseboard ends up coming loose after your installation is done. The last thing you want is large sections of baseboard coming undone from the nail head and creating unsavory gaps. For some reason, baseboards have a habit of doing this in large numbers, as well.

If you run into this issue using small nails, you’ll have to insert two nails right besides each other. This is all avoided by using the right finish nails.

What Is the Perfect Length? Picking the Right Nail Length

Your nail length is very important, as well. Because of how thin baseboards are, you’re not going to want to use anything over 2 inches normally. This should be your maximum nail length.

If you drive anything over 2 inches through the wall, your chances of hitting an electrical line become quite high. Trust us; you don’t want to know what this feels like if you contact a live wire. 1-½ to 2 inches is long enough to fasten the baseboards but not quite long enough to hit the electrical wires.

The Right Nails for Baseboards

It’s important to note that you don’t want to use any nails that are too large because you’ll split the baseboards. One final tip to avoid splitting is to predrill holes in your wood. This will eliminate the impact of the nail and decrease the chances of splitting the wood when you’re making your installation.

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