What size nail for framing with nail gun

Our team independently selects, reviews, and identifies the best products. We may earn affiliate commissions on purchases made from links on this page. Read about our links here. This post was updated on January 5, 2022

If you’re looking at saving time and energy when it comes to framing, nothing perhaps beats a nail gun.

But you have to get the nail size right to avoid splitting wood when driving the nail in or ending up with shakily joined 2-by-4s.

Below we’ll look at the correct nail size to use in your nail gun for framing projects.

What size nail for framing with nail gun

It’s important to be aware of the measurement system used for sizing nails for nail guns before proceeding.

Now, for some reason, nails used for applications like framing walls when constructing floors and roofs still follow a strange method of assigning lengths.

And this is what throws many people off balance when shopping for nails to use in their framing guns.

Sample this: you walk into a hardware store looking for standard nails for framing with nail gun.

And you feel lucky because you find a huge stock of great fasteners.

The issue, however, is you cannot make sense of some of the abbreviations on the box.

Well, don’t fret for under the rather unconventional sizing method, nail gun nail sizes will have one or two digits and a letter at the end.

The good thing is that the description is consistent and you’ll easily get to know the actual nail size as soon as you master what each means.

Which brings me to the most interesting part of our discussion – understanding what each listed value stands for. 

Best 60 gallon air compressor under 1000

What size nail for framing with nail gun – understanding the gauging system

There are three dominant nail sizes designed for framing projects.

As mentioned above, the most crucial thing is for you to learn the symbols retailers use to specify the various gauges, which is why we are here.

Now, the size identification system is as follows:

1.     16 penny Framing Nails (16d)

The first common length in nail sizes chart for framing projects is the 16d.

I know you would expect it to be 16p (now that the lengths are quoted in penny sizes, a term traced back to medieval times).

But, alas, it’s a D denoting “penny” (you now get why it’s considered somewhat unorthodox). 

Here is what matters most:  16d nails are typically 3.5 inches long.

What’s more interesting is that it’s the tradition to have 16d nails boxes marked as:

  • 16d common
  • 16d sinker or
  • 16d short

 So, what do the additional terms symbolize?

Well, it boils down to two things…

The first standout difference is the true size with the “common” measuring 3 ½ inches (length) x 0.162 inches (diameter), the “sinker” 3 ¼ inches (length) by 0.148 inches (diameter), and the “short” 3 ¼ inches (length) by 0.131 inches (diameter).
Secondly, sinkers have a coarse head whereas the commons are smooth-headed.

The other thing to note is that sinker nails feature a variety of smooth coating styles (vinyl, epoxy, etc.) that make them penetrate deeper into wood more effortlessly.

These qualities make sinkers more suited for framing (the ‘shorties’ are knocked out because they do not hold as well as the other two types)

2.     8 penny framing nails for nail gun (8d)

8 penny nails (written as 8d) are 2 ½ inches long.

Like with the 16d nails, there are nail brands that make 8d sinker nails featuring a vinyl coat over steel.

This acts as lubrication when driving and again make these types of nails popular among carpenters handling interior framing projects.

Best dremel for resin jewelry

What to know about 16d and 8d nails

Overall, 16 and 8d coated sinker nails work perfectly for most framing jobs involving nail guns with many framers leaning towards 16d sinkers (0.148-inch) due to their extra sleekness.

Also keep in mind that building codes in the bulk of places require 3.5 inches 16d nails (at minimum) for nearly all 2x lumber framing connections including walls.

3.     10 penny framing nails (10d)

10d nails are 3 inches long by 0.148 inches in diameter and there are occasions framers have reason to use them.

For example, these nails are favored when joining 2 board faces (that are flat) together since they do not pierce too deep into the boards.

What size nail for framing with nail gun? The General rule

Depending on whom you ask, you could be advised to use either 16d 3 1/2 framing nails for nail guns while others claim that 3.25″ nails would be fine.

This can mix you up and the best way out is to bear in mind that the nail length should always be 3x the thickness of what you’re joining.

Help could also come from your building plan- most have guidelines on the size of nails to be used.

Best cordless tools for contractors

What gauge nail for framing with nail gun– helpful tips

·         Use other sized nails (provided your nail gun allows) when appropriate

You should consider framing with other less common sizes of nails, if they fit the task at hand.

One such situation is when toenailing (driving nails at a certain angle to make sturdy butt joints).

Here it’s recommended that you use 8d nails.

Folks are also comfortable using 8d nails for tasks such as securing furring strips, subfloors, sheathing, and any other application where large nails won’t work well.

Likewise, 10d nails are all you need when doubling studs (they won’t penetrate the two boards deeply as to stick out).

·         Go for nails that are compatible with your gun

When buying framing nails- you’ve already settled on the size-, research if they’re accepted by the gun brand you own.

To put this in perspective, Bostich framing nails often fail to work for other nail gun brands.

·         Our word on exterior framing

On exterior framing, use the correctly-sized galvanized nails as they’re rust resistant.

Of course, there’s more exposure to moisture outside and this is an important consideration if you’re to come up with a construction that holds for long.


So, what size nail for framing with nail gun should you go for once more?

Well as we have just learned, your gun will generally work wonderfully with the 3 ½ inches long, 16d nails for most framing-related projects.

The size could, however, change depending on the kind of framing you’re using the nails for and the code you’re following.

We have illustrated situations when 8d or 10d nails would fit and your decision should now be easier.

Mini grease gun for air tools

Leave a Comment