Nail gun? Hammer? Finishing nails for wood trim?

pretendstogardenJuly 20, 2008

I am a complete novice, but willing DIY. I need to install door trim and baseboard in my bathroom. Nothing fancy, just ranch oak. Asked my neighbor, but he is too busy with his own DIY projects.

Would it be best to rent a nail gun or use a hammer? Neighbors wife said I would dent my wood using a hammer.

Do I need to drill pilot holes, or will the nails go through the trim and cement board and studs?

I already bought 2 1/2 inch finishing nails, planning on doing it myself, since there is not much to do. But now I am having doubts.

I can do this, can't I?

Is that the right size nails?

I just really need to get it done so I can get my tile done, so I can get my toilet, shower, and sink hooked up!

Any tips or suggestions?

Otherwise, I think I may stop at the rental place and get a nail gun!

Thanks so much!


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Believe it or not, for many, many, years carpenters used hammers and nails and worked handily. Only because some flannel-shirted guy lays into pneumatics does not mean that an occasional user needs to do the same.

If it's oak, it would help avoid splitting if you drill a pilot hole. (Note: I did not say pre-drill, whatever that means).

    Bookmark   July 20, 2008 at 10:13PM
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You'll definitely dent the wood if you miss the nail. :-) The idea is to leave the nail a little proud and then finish driving it with a nail set.

Having done it both ways I can tell you that a pneumatic nailer is faster and easier (that's why modern carpenters use 'em). You can definitely hand nail as well but it does take some practice. All depends on your budget and time frame.

I'd probably tile first and then install the moulding. Then you don't have to worry about getting thinset and grout on your trim.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 6:46AM
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Hammer, nails, and nail set----making sure the nail set is the correct size for the finish nail being used(I have three different sized nail sets.)

Since you already have the nails, it will be less expensive to buy a nail set---or a nail set set(A set of three or so different sized nail sets).

You want to use a smooth faced hammer as well.

There is a chance you will miss and dent the wood----but, with a pneunatic nailer there are several bad things that can happen as well----all worse than dented wood trim. Nail blowouts split the wood, or can stab fingers. Nails not buried far enough---a real bear to sink when that happens as most small nail sets are too large for air finish nails.

Predrill just the trim, that allows the nails to go in easier as well as protecting from splits.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 1:35PM
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If you are unsure of yourself with a hammer, do what I did when I was teaching my kids to hammer. Get a 4"x4" (more or less) square of 1/4" plywood. Cut from the center of one edge to the center with a circular saw or table saw.

Start your nail, then slip the square over the nail and center it in the slot. Pound away until it's level. Remove the square and set below surface with a nail set.

You can also use it as a protector if you need to pull a nail out somewhere along the line.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 6:46PM
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Are the nails the right size? They look awful big for finishing nails. What do I know?! LOL! On the box it says..
2 1/2 INCHES

I was going to use a sponge instead of the piece of wood! I don't have a circular saw or table saw!
Necessity is the mother of invention!

Thanks so much for all the tips! They are great!
Do I have the right size nails?

    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 7:44PM
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8 D finishing nails will work but you could also use 6 D finishing nails.

For oak trim you definitely need to drill pilot holes for the nails. Practice with your hammer on scrap wood so you get the feel of striking the nail squarely. As said before, you will need a nail set to hammer the head just below the surface of the wood.

Since you said you don't have a circular or table saw, how are you going to cut the trim to length? Or are the trim pieces pre-cut? If not, I would suggest you purchase a miter box and saw.

Enjoy the journey.
eal51 in western CT

    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 9:11PM
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I did already buy a nail set and miter box and saw ;^)

Thanks again for all the tips!

I think i'm gonna do OK


    Bookmark   July 21, 2008 at 9:40PM
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They will normally have a wider kerf than hand saws, band saws, jig saws, etc. You could do it with a drill or anything that would make a hole or slit wide enough for your nail.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2008 at 8:12AM
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If you're going to practice hand nailing, I'd suggest setting something up that mimics what you're actually going to be doing. Standing at a bench or table and swinging in front of you is quite different (and much easier) than being on your knees swinging sideways or underhanded at a nail a couple of inches off the floor.

    Bookmark   July 23, 2008 at 7:53AM
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Also, practice nailing with scrap sections of your oak trim. It's a whole lot different than nailing pine.
I'd start the actual project in a closet or other non-prominent place where beginner goofs aren't readily seen.

    Bookmark   July 25, 2008 at 4:53PM
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Yeah, oak can be a pita. it's really tough. Definitely drill pilot holes. You should be more than fine with 2.5" nails, but make sure you know where your studs are. I actually don't mind using a hammer and nail set; probably b/c I do it for "fun" i get satisfaction from driving the nails home by hand.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2008 at 1:46PM
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