Siding helps protect the structure of your home, adds an extra layer of insulation that can lower your energy bill, and adds curb appeal to enhance the value. You can use an ordinary hammer when installing or repairing siding, but a siding nailer is undeniably quicker. It inserts each nail to the same depth with a single blow so the siding is properly secured.
At first glance, the specifications and capabilities of siding nailers may be confusing. This guide will clarify the differences between types of nailers and help you find the best siding nailer for your projects.
- BEST OVERALL: BOSTITCH Coil Siding Nailer
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Freeman PCN65 Pneumatic 15 Degree 2-1/2” Coil Siding
- BEST UPGRADE: Hitachi Coil Siding Nailer
- BEST KIT: Metabo HPT NV65AH2 Siding Nailer w/THE TANK Air
- HONORABLE MENTION: HBT HBCN65P 15 Degree Coil Siding Nailer
Before You Buy a Siding Nailer
There are a wide variety of nailers (or nail guns) available to fulfill different tasks. They range from compact brad nailers for detailed work to heavy-duty framing nailers, some of which are capable of driving nails over 6 inches long.
A siding nailer is a very function-specific tool. The best siding nailer will help you complete the task quickly, but first think about the project you are using it for. If you have a lot of siding to fit, a siding nailer is what you need, but if you only have modest repair work to do—and you’re torn between a siding nailer and a framing nailer—then a midsize version of the latter should be capable of doing the job.
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Siding Nailer
There are many different siding nailers to choose from. Some are more suited to low-volume DIY use, while others are heavy-duty professional models. When deciding which will be the best siding nailer for the jobs you need to undertake, look for one that is high quality and offers the right combination of features.
Size and Weight
Balance and weight are key features of siding nailers. If a tool is top-heavy, it will stress your wrist, which will quickly become uncomfortable. Much of the time fitting siding necessitates being up a ladder where a bulky tool could be difficult to control. Siding nailers aren’t particularly heavy—4½ to 6½ pounds (framing nailers can be twice that)—but a single pound can make a big difference when you’re using the tool for extended periods.
To combat both of these problems, aluminum and magnesium alloys are frequently used for things like motor housings instead of steel. This reduces weight at the top of the nailer where it most affects handling but doesn’t reduce durability or performance. It’s also worth checking the hand grip. A textured, rubberized handle allows for a firm, confident hold.
Nail Type and Length
The frame of the house and the siding often move slightly as seasons change, so siding nails have a round head to prevent the siding from pulling free. The shank of the nail is usually textured, either with rings or a spiral, to improve grip in the wood.
The most common material is galvanized steel. Electro-plated is the more economical type, though hot-dipped galvanizing provides a thicker, more durable coating. Wood that contains natural tannins will attack the steel, so aluminum nails may be used instead. Stainless steel is another option—particularly in coastal areas—because it’s more resistant to the salt in the air.
Length varies from 1½ to 2½ inches, with longer nails generally being employed when a liner, backing board, or battens are positioned between frame and siding.
Siding nails are provided in a long coil, almost always set at a 15-degree feed angle and collated (held together) either by welded wire or plastic ribbon. The former is less expensive, whereas the latter provides a neater finish. This coil fits into the magazine on the nailer and feeds automatically. Some siding nailers can use either collation type, but it’s not always the case.
Magazine capacity varies from 300 to 500 nails depending on model and nail size. It’s tempting to think that the best framing nailer has the largest capacity. It will certainly mean the gun can be operated for longer before needing to be reloaded, but 500 nails of any size weigh significantly more than 300. That could tire the user more quickly. Most magazines are side-loading, which is fast and easy.
Some types of nailers offer a choice of power source. They may be battery, corded, or pneumatic powered. That’s not true of siding nailers, which currently are all pneumatic. This means you need an air compressor to run them. There are many different models available, and lightweight portable compressors have their advantages, but it’s important that the one you choose can supply adequate operating pressure. Generally speaking, that will be somewhere between 70 psi (pounds per square inch) and 120 psi.
It’s also important to have a sufficient high-pressure hose to reach from the compressor sitting on the ground to the highest point where the siding will be fitted. This usually has to be purchased separately, so it’s vital the specification and type of fitting are checked before ordering.
A siding nailer can fire the nail in one of two ways: either sequential or contact (also called “bump”). Anyone who has used a nail gun of any type will have come across sequential firing, which simply means the nail is fired when the trigger is pressed.
Contact firing works with the trigger continually depressed. The mechanism is then activated as soon as the nose of the nailer is bumped against the siding material. In the hands of an experienced contractor, the technique can look very impressive, with nails being fired several times a second. However, skill is required for consistent nail positioning, and it takes time to learn. DIY users will find sequential firing much more controllable. Some siding nailers are switchable between modes.
Having depth adjustment is important for two reasons. First, it compensates for using nails of different lengths. Second, it can alter the firing pressure to suit the wide variety of siding materials available.
Normally when you insert a nail, whether with a hammer or a nail gun, you want that nail head to be driven flush with the surface, or even slightly below. When you’re fitting siding, you need to leave a small gap to allow for the natural movement we mentioned earlier. Wood, vinyl, concrete, etc., all have different amounts of resistance as the nail passes through. If the depth were fixed, it would be impossible to use the same gun for different materials. The best siding nailer can be adjusted to compensate.
All nailers jam occasionally. With budget models, it may be that the mechanism isn’t as well made as it might be, though faults in the nail coil or small bits of debris getting caught inside the nailer can also cause problems.
Whatever the reason, a jammed nail is frustrating at best. Being able to remove it quickly is a valuable feature. As most jams occur in or near the nose of the nailer, easy access to this area should be provided. Being able to clear a jam without needing your tool kit is a definite advantage, and good siding nailers make this possible.
Whatever method is offered, always remember to disconnect the air hose before attempting to remove a jammed nail. An accidental misfire could be extremely dangerous.
While the sections above cover the key elements when choosing the best siding nailer, there are several other features that add convenience.
In order to expel air after each strike, siding nailers have an exhaust. If it’s poorly directed, it puffs air straight in your face. It’s not dangerous, but it’s nice if it can be directed elsewhere.
A no-mar rubber nose (which oddly is called a “foot” on some models) helps stop the nailer from marking the surface of the siding. If you’re using wire collated nails, the gun will eject small pieces of wire debris as you work, so the facility to catch or direct these is also useful. A lock setting, which prevents accidental firing, is an added bonus, increasing safety. Several models also incorporate a useful belt hook.
Our Top Picks
By now you should have a good idea of the main features offered by the best siding nailers. Now it’s time to put that knowledge to use. This list of top picks factors in manufacturer reputation, durability, and cost. The best siding nailer in each particular category is featured to help you focus on the right tool for specific needs.
Bostitch is a brand with a reputation for high performance and reliability, which has made it a popular choice among contractors.
This Bostitch coil siding nailer delivers all the features you need in a well-balanced tool that weighs just 4.9 pounds. It takes either wire weld or plastic insert nails from 1¼ to 2½ inches in length. Magazine capacity is 300. Operating range is 70 to 120 psi with tool-free depth setting, a no-mar foot, and an easy-to-adjust exhaust.
The Bostitch is supplied with contact firing enabled—the professional’s preference—though it can be converted to sequential firing by changing the trigger.
Freeman tools are recognized for their combination of durability and value. Despite the low cost of the Freeman siding nailer, it offers a feature set that rivals those of more expensive competitors.
The use of magnesium keeps weight down to a manageable 5.5 pounds. The 400 nail magazine accepts common sizes of both plastic and wire collated nails, which are fired at adjustable depths via a no-mar tip. Operating pressure is 70 to 110 psi and exhaust can be rotated 360 degrees. Freeman also includes a pair of safety goggles.
It’s a little more prone to jams than some models and may misfire occasionally. These are unlikely to be problems that unduly trouble the DIY user. However, it does not offer sequential firing.
At just 4.8 pounds, the Hitachi is among the lightest in its class. It’s physically compact, too, making it easy to work with. It will handle the usual range of siding nails, both wire and plastic, from 1½ to 2½ inches in a quick-loading magazine. It can fire them at up to three nails per second.
The Hitachi offers both sequential and contact firing, changed at the flick of a switch. Depth adjustment is by simple dial and exhaust direction is tool-free. There’s also a shield to deflect wire debris away from the user and a no-mar tip. Operating pressure is 70 to 120 psi.
This comprehensive range of user-friendly features comes at a premium price, but for the demanding professional, the investment will likely be worth it.
All pneumatic siding nailers require an air compressor to function, but finding the right model at an affordable price is not always straightforward. Metabo solved the problem by offering a siding nailer and matching compressor as a pair. It’s a convenient option—and both are high-quality items—but for the contractor, the kit offers more than might be obvious at first glance.
The Metabo siding nailer is a fully featured model that takes all standard siding nail types and sizes and offers sequential or contact firing and tool-free adjustment of depth and exhaust. It’s a very good tool, but it’s the compressor that stands out. With its 200 psi capability, it could power two siding nailers at the same time, or alternatively, two different types of nailer. For partners or small teams, that provides tremendous versatility.
Many coil siding nailers look similar, so it’s not until you examine the specifications that you find what separates professional-standard tools from their budget counterparts. However, with the extensive features offered by the HBT siding nailer, those differences are not easy to see.
At an ounce under 5 pounds, it’s among the lighter models. The magazine accepts both plastic and wire collated nails from 1¼ to 2½ inches and has a capacity of 250 to 350, depending on size. Depth adjustment is tool-free, as is the rapid jam release mechanism. It has a no-mar tip and a 360-degree swivel for the exhaust. A simple switch changes it from sequential to contact firing.
All of this comes in at significantly lower cost than similarly specified competitors. It may not have the long-term durability of some, but few DIY users will find that a problem.
Tips for Using a Siding Nailer
Siding nailers are powerful tools, but they can be dangerous, so safety is an extremely important consideration. Here are some tips that will help you stay safe and do a top-notch job.
- Always wear safety glasses, ear protection, and sturdy footwear. Gloves are also recommended. Never work when you are not 100 percent fit and focused.
- Never point a siding nailer at anyone. Ensure the work area is free of people and pets. Check for trip hazards.
- If the siding nailer jams, disconnect the air supply before attempting to free it. If a nail doesn’t fire, don’t assume the nailer is empty.
- Double-check your depth setting before you start. Ensure your compressor is providing sufficient air pressure.
- Contact firing is much faster than sequential (trigger activated), but it requires concentration and good control of the tool. If you’ve never used the feature before, practice on a few pieces of scrap wood until you’re comfortable with it.
- If using sequential firing, place the gun firmly against the siding before squeezing the trigger.
- Hold the nailer vertically so that the nail enters the siding at 90 degrees, not sloping up or down. Supporting the rear of the nailer with your free hand may help.
FAQs About Siding Nailers
The information above will undoubtedly leave you better informed about which would be the best siding nailer for your project. However, it’s understandable that questions may remain. The following answers address some of the most common concerns.
Q. Can you use a siding nailer for framing?
It’s not recommended. The maximum nail length in a siding nailer is 2½ inches. Framing requires a more powerful hold. Framing nailers generally use nails from 3½ inches and upward.
Q. Can you use a siding nailer for roofing?
It may be possible, though it depends on the tool. The big difference is the type of nail used. You cannot use siding nails, and a siding nailer may not be capable of taking the shorter roofing nail or driving it properly.
Q. What size nails do you use for siding?
The most common size is from 1½ to 2½ inches long, with a diameter of either 0.080-inch or 0.092-inch and a minimum head of ⅜ inch. Siding and additional materials have an impact, so you should check the requirements of each job before ordering your nails.
Q. Can I use screws for wood siding?
It’s possible, but much slower—even with an automatic screw gun. The cost of the screws is also considerably higher than siding nails.
Q. What kind of nails do you use for wood siding?
Galvanized round head nails are the most common, with ring or twisted shanks that improve grip. Aluminum and stainless steel versions are also available.