Nail Guns:To Use Or Not To Use
Whether you call them nail guns, air nailers, pneumatic air nailers, or just nailers, these tools have become a big part in the homebuilding process. Many if not all aspects of framing a house can be accomplished using a framing nailer. Most framing nailers shoot a wide range of different size nails, from 2" to 3 1/2" nails (6d to16d). Not only can these guns save time in framing a house but they can also save wear and tear on a framers wrist, elbow and shoulder.
Starting with the sill plate, the nail gun can be used to nail the floor joists to them. With the right nose on the safety, the joists can be toe nailed to the sill plate. The safety has a sawtooth configuration which allows it to dig into the work and not slide off during the toe nail shot. The nail gun can then be used to nail on the rim joists using 16d nails.
After the joists are nailed in, its time for the tongue and groove decking. To nail this down by hammer can be labor intensive. Time and labor can be saved by using a nail gun. The plywood or OSB can be tacked in place and one person can follow and nail off all the decking (using 8d nails).
When it comes to walls an air powered nailer can really be put to the task. A framing contractor may want to utilize two guns in this situation. Nail guns also come in handy when nailing the door and window headers together. A header for an opening as small as 36 inches can have as many as two dozen nails. A house can have 20 or more headers that size or larger. That can be a lot of 16d nails to drive by hand, not to mention the time it would take.
If the walls are to be sheathed with plywood, nail guns can cut your time down here too. Just like the plywood on the deck, time and labor can be saved using a nail gun.
Even though walls may be framed a little quicker using nail guns, there are still carpenters and contractors who still would rather frame walls by hand nailing. The reasoning behind this is they feel the joint between the plate and the stud ends can be drawn up tighter than with a gun. In some instances this is true.
When it comes to ceiling joists and rafters, hand nailing may be the preferred framing method. Ceiling joists and rafters involve a lot of toe nailing to fasten them to the top plate. Some carpenters feel it is easier to draw joists and rafters tighter to the plate and to the line nailing by hand. Using a nail gun could be awkward working at that height (two story) and dragging a hose around the framing could be a challenge. The hose could be a trip hazzard. Nailing the rafters to the ridge board is easier with a nail gun, especially if it involves nailing overhead, but there is still the hose to contend with.
Like the plywood on the deck and walls, nailing the plywood off on the roof is quicker with a nail gun. It can be done just like the deck. Tack it down and then have one man nail off the rest with the nail gun.
Nail guns aren't the answer for every homebuilding task,but they definitely have their place on the job. They can save time, labor and wear and tear on the body on certain parts of the process.
Mike Merisko (c) 2007