Baseboard nails and how to nail the baseboard

Baseboard is a nice finishing touch for your interior, as they help to tie every element in the solid composition. And if you live in a typical framed house, you’ll have to use baseboard nails for nailing decorative trim to the walls.

There are a lot of nuances in proper baseboard trim installation, but I want to dedicate this piece to choosing the best type of fasteners for the job.

There are hundreds upon hundreds of types of nails out there, but only a couple of them are really good for nailing baseboards to the wall.

Let’s take a look at the most common types of fasteners that are suitable to nail baseboard trim, as well as their dimensions, and dab in a couple of topics related to the process.

Baseboard nails and tools to put them in

The best type of fasteners to nail baseboard in a certain project depends on the types of tools you’re going to use. Nails for a good old hammer and a nail set will be a bit different from those for a nail gun.

Hand tools

The hand hammer for finish nails is relatively light and has a flat face. Such configuration significantly reduces possible damage to the surface of the baseboard. In addition, if you are not a hammering guru, you’ll have to use a nail set tool of sorts.

Baseboard nails
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Nail sets help to make some accurate hits against the head of a nail to drive the nail beneath the surface of the board a bit. It is useful for covering the head of a nail at the finishing stage. And it is the only way to install baseboards with no visible nails while using a hand hammer.

Conventional nails for hand hammers usually have wider heads and a round profile. The additional head surface is more forgiving in terms of the accuracy of each hit, but the resulting nail hole is bigger.

Nail gun

Fasteners for an electric or pneumatic nail gun (brad nailer or finish nailer) are usually thinner and have smaller heads. Their profile is either round or square. Some manufacturers make them slightly rectangular. They have additional bending resistance when oriented properly.

Pro-tip: Try to refrain from hand hammering fasteners for brad nailers with a hand hammer. It is certainly not impossible, but way less comfortable than with a nail gun.

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Use the respective fasteners for each type of tool

On top of it, there are different types of power hammers too. Brad nailer and finish nailer are a bit different in construction and utilize different types of nails. Take this into account too while planning to nail baseboards.

Using a finish nailer is always a great idea to nail baseboards without additional effort. The whole project might require hundreds upon hundreds of fasteners to be driven in, and a power tool will speed up the installation process greatly.

Imagine hand-nailing baseboards with such amount of fasteners. Money invested even in the simplest model will come back in a lot of saved time.

A bit on types of baseboard trim

Material or design features don’t matter that much. Vinyl, MDF, and wood baseboards are all attachable with the same types of fasteners.

The only actual parameter of a baseboard trim that matters is its thickness. You will need to take it into account to be able to pick some fasteners with the right length.

Types of a nail for baseboard trim

The most recommended types of nails for installation of the baseboard are brad nails and finish nails. But there are nuances too. In general, you would want to use thinner fasteners for nailing shoe moldings to the baseboard and finishing nails for nailing the baseboard to the wall.

Pro-tip: Always use a nail gun of the respective type for each kind of nail. Brad nailers are not compatible with finish nails and vice versa.

Finish nails

This type of fastener is longer and thicker than brad nails. They also have a more prominent head. Such configuration provides substantial structural stability when used for the installation of the baseboard.

Baseboard nails
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But even more, prominent heads are still small enough to cause the least possible amount of damage to the surface of the baseboard.

Brad nails

Brad nails are thinner and designed primarily for delicate work. They barely have any heads and leave the smallest nail holes in the material. There are a lot of articles out there that say that you can use them for installing baseboards, but I wouldn’t recommend doing it.

I mean, it’s possible, but they are too thin to provide adequate structural support for the baseboard trim. Wood in frames tends to shift and change in size slightly throughout the year. Actual changes are really small, but produce enough pressure to bend thinner fasteners.

Let’s dive a bit deeper into the variety of sizes of nails for baseboard installation and why it matters.

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Sizes and gauges

The length and thickness or gauge of a nail are its main parameters. Length is important because you would want to put the nail deep enough for it to hold the baseboard firmly but not damage piping or cables inside the wall. Gauge is important for providing enough support.

Only the right size nails for baseboard trim will make nailing fast and save a lot of effort that can go into fixing issues another way.

You can avoid big nail holes and splitting baseboard trim by picking the right size nails.

Nail gauge

Nail gauge, thickness, or even diameter is represented by a number of them that can fit flat between two lines an inch away one from another. Hence, the higher the gauge number, the thinner the nail. It may seem counter-intuitive but makes sense once you know why it is so.

Typical nail sizes often mentioned regarding the installation of baseboards are:

  • 18 gauge nails (0.04″ or 1.25 mm)
  • 16 gauge nails (0.06″ or 1.6 mm)
  • 15 gauge nails (0.07″ or 1.9 mm)

15 and 16-size nails are considered the best for baseboard in terms of balance between strength and the risk of splitting the material of the trim pieces.

18 gauge nails are too thin to provide the needed structural support. Also, due to the configuration of the head, they are completely not suited for hammering by hand.

Baseboard nails
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Nail length

The full length of a nail for the baseboard should be long enough to penetrate the baseboard and drywall behind it to be able to go into the wall stud.

If the nail is too short, it will end up inside the drywall plaster, which is too soft. On the other hand, if the nail is too long, it can go through piping or cables inside the wall.

The length of 18 gauge nails is usually limited by 2″ (50.8 mm) and it is a bit too short to bite deep enough through the drywall board to hit the stud in the wall. It will reach the stud but will go less than an inch into it. It is not enough for a tight hold.

2.5″ size nails in general have the optimal length for nailing the baseboard to the wall. It is sufficient enough to go through all the layers and at least an inch deep inside the stud. But if you are using a heavy-duty baseboard, you can go for longer nails.

A bit of math behind a perfect nail size

Typical drywall thicknesses on walls are between ¼ and ½ inch. There are also 5/8 inch thick boards, but they are usually used on selling to prevent sagging. The typical thickness of a baseboard is in the range of ½-1″.

The most common combination is ½” drywall with ½” baseboard. So, you will have to use at least 2″ size nails for baseboard. If you know the thickness of the drywall for sure, go for it. If not, having half an inch to spare won’t hurt, for sure.

To cut calculations, you can always go for 2″ or 2.5″ inch ones (6d-8d nail size in marking on the package). This way, you will always end up with sufficient holding force for the baseboard. Just make sure your nail size is thick enough.

Baseboard nails
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Tips and tricks for baseboard installation

Now we had figured out the best nail size for nailing baseboards. Let me provide some more useful information:

  • Always put the nails inside the wall studs. To locate the studs behind the drywall, you can use either an electronic stud finder or just locate them by knocking on the wall.
  • The bottom plate of a frame is a good place to attach the lower fastener. In most modern houses, it protrudes by about an inch above the flooring materials. But do not put two nails in it. It is better to put one in the bottom plate and the other one in a stud.
  • Put at least two nails in the baseboard that are lower than 5″ and at least three in those that are higher.
  • There is no need to glue a baseboard to a framed wall. It can cause additional problems due to the seasonal movements of wood.
  • Make sure to use an electric or pneumatic nail gun of the respective type for the brad or finishing type.
  • A power nail gun saves a lot of time, but if you are going for a hand tool, use a nail set with it to prevent baseboard surface damage.
  • Fill nail holes with putty, spackling paste, or any suitable wood filler to have a clean surface after finishing the installation.
  • Paint the baseboard before installing it. Such an approach saves a lot of time.

Tip. Get more useful information about the Best jig saw for woodworking.

Q&A bit

Now, before wrapping it up, let me answer the most common questions.

What nails do I use for baseboards?

Go with finish nails with either an electric or pneumatic nail gun. 15 or 16-gauge in 2-2.5″ length will do the trick. 18 gauge nails are too thin, but this size nail is perfect for nailing shoe and crown molding.

What size nails do I need for baseboard?

The optimal size is in the sweet spot where the nail will go at least 1 inch deep into the interior wall stud, provide decent support, and won’t split the board. 15-16 gauge fasteners in 6d, 7d, or 8d sizes will do the trick.

How long should nails be for baseboards?

The optimal length is enough to go through the baseboard and drywall in penetrating at least an inch of an underlying stud.

Considering most configurations of materials, the optimal range is between 2″ and 2.5″ inches. The latter one is the maximum nail length for any project.

What nails should I use for trim?

Finish nails of 15 or 16 gauge and sizes of 6d through 8d are the best for baseboard installation.

Wrapping it up

After this brief review, you know the best baseboard nails for the job to be done properly. Manufacturer or configuration matters much less than dimensions.

You can use a coated nail for rooms with higher humidity or nails with cropped circle-shaped heads for a nail gun with an angled feed. Just use the correct size of nails and put them inside the wall studs.

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