Cordless Nailer Basics and Product Review

Cordless nailer

Kypros / Getty Images

Cordless power nailers straddle the line between pro and DIY; they are more pro than DIY due to the cost and the limited amount of finish work that DIYers take on.

Cordless nailers are "third-tier" tools because they aren't the first tools you buy (hammer, saw, straight edge, etc.), aren't second level (cordless saws, reciprocating saws, etc.), but are luxury, nice-to-have third level tools, like wet tile saws or twin blade saws, you buy when you've got a little money rattling around your pocket.

Pneumatic Tool System Usually Not Right for Average DIYer

If you have ever experienced the frustration of hammering something hundreds of times over, then you have longed for a compressed air power (pneumatic) nailer.

Traditionally compressed air nailers have hoses, tanks, and compressors. All of this cumbersome stuff is not conducive to easy DIY remodeling. Professional builders and remodelers use compressed air nailers every day and are accustomed to dealing with them. Not only that, compressed air is a universal system that the pros use to hook up to other tools: sanders, impact wrenches, grinders, reciprocating saws, and more.

Instead of buying a whole pneumatic system, you may want to purchase a standalone electric nailer, and there are two types: canister compressed gas and lithium-ion battery-powered.

Compressed Gas Cordless Finish Nailers: Faster Repeat, Longer Run Time

When you cut the air hose, that doesn't mean that compression as a means of driving nails entirely goes away. With some nailers, replaceable gas canisters fill up a chamber. The chamber is right above the piston (or firing pin).

When the electric charge from the battery ignites the gas, it explodes and moves the piston and drives the nail.

Paslode and Hitachi are two manufacturers that use this technology.

  • Fast nail repeat time

  • Longer run time throughout the day

  • Smell of the compressed gas

  • Replenishing the gas canisters

Paslode cordless nail

Lithium Ion Battery Cordless Nailers: Easier But Shorter Run Times

The other variety of cordless finish nailers dispenses with the gas canisters. They use a flywheel technology powered by lithium-ion batteries.

These battery-only cordless nailers fire 16 to 18 gauge nails as long as 2 1/2 inches.

  • No gas canisters to deal with

  • A larger pool of nailers to choose from

  • Battery drains faster because it is the sole source of power

  • Heavy to handle

DeWalt nailer