If you have ever had a project that required hammering in many nails, you know how painful and time consuming it can be. We’ve all had the experience of hitting our hand while missing the nail, or hitting the nail on the edge and bending it instead of hammering it in. Besides the fact that it takes a few hits to get the nail into place, and heaven forbid, we put it in the wrong place! A nail gun is so much quicker and easier to use than a hammer, but the question is, do you need a license to operate a nail gun?
Do you need a license to operate a nail gun? The direct answer is no, you do not need a license to operate a nail gun. However, there are a few jobs that use nail guns that require a license of some sort. Being properly trained in the use of a nail gun, while not an actual license, is very highly recommended.
A few of the jobs that may include a license in the use of a nail gun include shingling a house or framing a wall. These actually require a roofing license or carpenters or contractors license, not a “nail gun” license. There are few regulations that actually apply directly to a nail gun, but the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does regulate the construction industry, and many of these regulations apply to nail guns. Again, the proper training in the use of a nail gun is the best way to go. There are many, many accidents and injuries involving nail guns so we want to prevent as many of these as possible. You can find this compliance training course online. It goes into the regulations, types of nail guns and common causes of injury along with other helpful hints.
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Types of Nail Guns
There are many types of nail guns that have specific functionalities and are used for specific jobs. Depending on the job at hand always keep in mind the type of nail gun you want to operate.
These are the heaviest of duty nail guns. These are best for heavy construction and wood framing. This gun can work with nails up to 3.5 inches which are used to join 2 x 4’s and to build decks, rooms, homes, wood sheathing, fences and wood siding.
There are two types of framing nailers: round head and clipped head. Clipped head nailers can hold more nails so are more convenient for large jobs.
These look much different than the typical nail gun because they are made specifically for making quick work of laying tongue and groove floor boards. The nailer is held on the edge of the board, and a nylon mallet is used to hit the plunger. This ensures the nails are driven at the correct depth and angle every time.
There are two types of flooring nailers. One is pneumatic and the other is manual. The pneumatic nailers use air pressure to drive the nails while the manual does not. These are used strictly for floor boards so they are not versatile tools.
Palm nailers are like mini nail guns. They fit in the palm of your hand and work the same way as the full size nail gun. There is a strap that wraps around your hand so the tool stays securely in the palm.
These nail guns come in pneumatic, electric, and cordless varieties. The cordless, obviously, are more portable and run on batteries. They are ideal for use on joist hangers, tight spots, and smaller projects.
An advantage to this type of nail gun is how light and small it is. Produces less fatigue and can be used for a longer period of time. They use regular nails as well, like what you’d use with a hammer. Most can drive 1.5-3.5 inch nails, but there are larger ones that work with 2-6 inch nails. These nail guns are very accurate and usually inexpensive.
The Roofing Nailer is also a heavy duty nail gun and usually used by professional contractors. It is used to drive nails into wood and other roofing materials quickly.
There are three types of roofing nailers:
- Spring loaded: This is the simplest roofing nailer, using springs to fire the nails out of the chamber.
- Pneumatic: Powered by an air compressor and the most popular type.
- Solenoid: These are powered by electromagnetic polarization.
These types of nail guns are only used for roofing jobs.
The Siding Nailer, used for siding, joins thinner pieces of wood or other material to a wooden mount. Like the framing nailer, it is best used for projects that need larger pieces of wood to be joined.
These nail guns use shorter nails 1.25-2.5 inches with wider heads.
Pin Nailers are the smallest and most delicate nail guns, and are used for finishing in carpenters projects. 23-gauge headless nails that look like pins are used with this tool.
The pin nails are often used with glue or some other adhesive because they have very little staying power. Often they are used only to hold materials in place until the glue dries.
You may use this tool for carpentry finishing, crown molding, cabinetry, thin veneers, small furniture trim or delicate trim pieces, anything where a larger nail may split the wood.
The Brad Nailer is also used for finishing work, but uses larger nails. The nails are 18-gauge and have better holding power. This can be used for projects that require 15 or 16 gauge nails such as baseboards, crown molding, trim work on door or window casings.
A Finish Nailer can also be used for finishing carpentry work and are used with specific nail sizes on crown molding or baseboards.
This nail gun is different from the brad or pin nailers because it can be used on larger or bulkier pieces of wood. 15 and 6 gauge nails are used with this tool, which is a bit larger than the brad or pin nailers.
The Staple Gun is different from the nail guns in that it fires staples, but it is similar in that it is a fastener. These are very versatile tools and can be used for many things to include fastening upholstery, carpeting, or other types of construction.
Along with the different types of nail guns you have to keep in mind the trigger types:
- Full Sequential
- Single Sequential
- Single Actuation
- Contact or Bump Firing
With the full sequential trigger, the controls have to be done in a series. First, you have to press the safety tip, then the trigger has to be pulled to release a single fastener. To drive another nail, you have to release the trigger, lift the tool, press the safety tip and again pull the trigger. This is slower than bump firing, but definitely considered much safer.
This is also known as single shot firing and is used for things such as carpentry or framing, when it is more important to be precise than it is to be fast.
This type of firing is similar to full sequential firing in that you still have to do the controls in a series. With single sequential though, you don’t have to lift the tool, you simply have to drag the nose along the surface. To fire another nail you just pull and release the trigger. This type is a bit quicker than the full sequential because there is no need to lift the tool between shots.
Single Actuation Firing
Single actuation firing is similar to bump or contact firing, however only with the first nail. It doesn’t matter what order you operate the controls in. To drive another nail, you just have to lift the tool and squeeze the trigger.
Contact or Bump Firing
Contact firing is often called bump firing because you can quickly “bump” the safety tip against the surface to fire nails continuously. The order of controls doesn’t matter as long as they are both actuated. You can fire nails very quickly with this type of trigger.
This type is useful on large projects that don’t need precise placement of the nails. While it is thought to be a very efficient option, it is also the least safe. Use this type of nail gun on horizontal, flat surfaces such as flooring, or decking.
Some nail guns come with two triggers. Often an orange or black trigger for contact firing and a silver or grey for sequential firing.
Many nail guns have a recoil, or pushback when the nail is fired. If this happens, a contact or bump firing trigger is more likely to double fire, or send out two fasteners at a time. This is especially dangerous if the nails are not sent in the direction intended.
The safest trigger is the Full Sequential trigger because it required the controls be done in a specific order.
Precautions to follow:
- Always review all precautions and warnings that come with the nail gun before using it.
- Keep co-workers and others away from the immediate work area.
- NEVER point the tool at anyone, even if it’s unplugged from the air supply or you believe it to be empty of nails.
- Keep hands, fingers and all body parts away from the line of fire and always aim away from your body.
- Be sure to place the tool firmly against the work space.
- Never carry the tool with a finger on the trigger.
- Never assume the tool is empty or unloaded.
- If the tool gets jammed, always unplug it before attempting to fix or clear it out.
- Always wear protective equipment, such as goggles or glasses, safety shoes, hard hats, and hearing protection.
Establish nail gun procedures to include the following:
- Check tool and power source prior to use
- Never bypass or disable safety features
- Never use the tool with your non-dominant hand
- Always disconnect from compressed air when left unattended, climbing a ladder or stairs, or passing the tool to another person
Proper training is essential for the safe use of any power tool, to include the nail gun. Go over the most common causes of injury and the differences in the triggers. Make sure they know the proper ways to use the safety equipment, how to report and treat injuries.
While the nail gun can be an extremely useful tool, saving you loads of time, it can also be dangerous. While a permit is not required, it is vitally important that the user be properly trained in the proper use and safety requirements prior to using the tool.
Do you need a license to operate a nail gun? Not for DIYers or home use but if you plan on being a professional contractor you need to get a contractors license and take a class where they will teach you the proper use of nail gun.