Air Compressor selection

ctghostJune 25, 2006

I am in the market for an Air Compressor and am very confused as to what I should purchase. I have read many of the previous posts and those confused me even more. [sorry]

I plan on using the compressor to install some trim molding along my baseboards, and if possible nail some 2"x4" when building some shelves, or replacing wooden siding to my garage, etc.

Is it asking too much for me to want one in the $250.00 price range? I have looked online at and would like someone responding to perhaps select a specific make/model from that site for me to use as an example of what to either purchase or look for. I learn better from looking at photos rather than reading complicated answers.

I went looking at Home Depot and Lowes and the salespeople suggested more than I really want to pay and seemed designed for professional carpenters. I am not much of a handy man and doubt that I would use it more than a few times a year. From what people have told me it is definitely worth the investment compared to driving nails by hand.


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There's a nice article in the May 2006 issue of "Fine Homebuilding" on compressors. More of an overview for choosing a compressor than a review of a particular make or model. It's off the shelves now but you might find a copy at the local library. I'll try to give you a bit insight.

The number your interested in is CFM (cubic feet per minute) or the amount of air the compressor can put out in a minute. Typically manufacturers list CFM at 40 psi (pounds per square inch) and at 90 psi. Use the 90 psi number. It's printed on every compressor and more is better. Obviously there's a point of diminishing return. Most compressors you'll see in hardware store/home center put out anywhere from 1 CFM to about 5 CFM. You can buy an industrial compressor than can put out a 100+ CFM but they cost as much as a car and you'd need a fork life to move one. :-)

The amount of CFM you need is dictated by the tool(s) you plan on using with the compressor. Every tool uses a fixed amount of air. With nailers itÂs per shot, with something like a paint sprayer, itÂs per minute. Quite frankly, a trim nailer uses very little air. With the exception of those tankless models designed to inflate soccer balls, any compressor is sufficient for a trim nailer. A framing nailer uses more air but so much that youÂll need to worry. YouÂre not likely to be shooting nails that fast that the compressor couldnÂt keep up.

The only place you can run into trouble is if you ever anticipate using some kind of paint/finish sprayer. Those use a lot of air. The smaller compressors can take a while to inflate a flat, car tire but how often are you doing to do that. Who cares if the job takes an extra couple of minutes?

YouÂd be fine with a compressor that puts out at least 2 CFM at 90 psi.

A number of companies have package deals where you get a compressor, nailer, air hose, and some accessories in one kit. They can be a good deal but it always pays to shop around.

Good luck!


    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 6:47AM
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Go some place like harbor freight or rural king tsc

    Bookmark   August 24, 2006 at 9:39PM
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I have a old Sears air compressor made in 1968 it has about a 40 gal tank and a twin piston pump with a centrifugal unloader on it. What it is doing is at about 100 psi it starts to labor and spit air out the filter nut on the centrifugal unloader. It always would run up to 150 psi and shut off without any problem. Does anyone know what would cause this problem?????

    Bookmark   March 26, 2007 at 9:02PM
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I just bought a 15gal vertical tank compressor from Sears and I've been happy with it. Not too bulky, plenty powerful. Picked it up on sale for $200
Sears item #00916644000 Mfr. model #16644
Happy shopping.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 1:52PM
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I have a Porter Cable, twin tank 4 HP unit that I use to frame additions,install roofing and finish trim. Never a problem. Look at for some sales. They have kits available. You get the compressor, a finish nailer and a brad nailer for under $300.00.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2007 at 6:51PM
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I guess my post didn't publish because I wasn't logged in ... forgive me if this is a duplicate.

I have a Sears compressor, vertical type, with wheels on the bottom. I use it for occasional nailing in my garage shop.

I was surprised that after a bit of use, and turning it off (unplugging it) it doesn't hold the air. I need to turn it back on and wait for it to fill to use it.

Is this normal or is this compressor malfunctioning/leaking?


    Bookmark   August 26, 2007 at 7:49AM
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rdkelsey- Your compressor, or one of the fittings, has an air leak. This is very common (I don't think I've ever had one that didn't leak) Even a small leak will drain the tank pressure over night. It is harmless, but if you want to find it, you can listen very carefully for a small hissing noise, or spray a dilute soap and water mixture on the various fittings and look for bubbles.

    Bookmark   August 26, 2007 at 9:18AM
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Thanks flgargoyle,

Ok, I guess I understand that.

I have the threads wrapped with teflon tape. Would plumbers dope be a better seal? Something else even better?

I'd like to cut down on it's turning on and off as much as possible, I don't think I'll live through too many more of the "startles" I get when it kicks on (kidding).

On that note, I guess I'm thinking of putting it inside a wood box to help quiet it some. I also though of putting it up above the ceiling in my garage shop.

What is the best way to handle the noise and the annoying surprise when it kicks on?


    Bookmark   August 29, 2007 at 6:41AM
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Compressors must be kept cool and dry, particularly their air supply which should be as dry as possible.
They make noise, this is natural, you may as well become used to it..
Usually, in a shop, the compressor is located in a remote spot.. .in a factory, a separate building...

    Bookmark   November 10, 2007 at 7:03PM
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