What Size Air Compressor for Nail Gun?

September 18, 2022

Different sizes and types of air compression you can use on pneumatic nail gun.

So, you’ve been thinking of buying a pneumatic nailer, but you quickly realize that pneumatic nailers require an air compressor to function. Thus, instead of dealing only with the question of which pneumatic nailer to buy, you also get confronted with the need to decide which air compressor to choose. Thus, the buying process becomes more complicated because now you need to make two decisions. 

Air compressors come in a wide variety of sizes. So, when choosing an air compressor, you need to have a clear idea of how much power you will need to run your pneumatic nail gun efficiently. For instance, if you have a small one-horsepower air compressor that can deliver 2.0 CFM, you can run a large nail gun at a rate of 15 nails per minute. 

Using a medium-size nailer, you can also drive up to 30 nails per minute. While if you are using a brad nailer, you can shoot up to 70 brads per minute using that small one-horsepower air compressor. So, it is easy to see a close correlation between your nailer’s specs and the air compressor you should choose.

Air Compression Size Requirements of Your Pneumatic Nail Gun

It will be hard to get a clear idea of which air compressor size is best for pneumatic nailers if you don’t understand the CFM and HP of the air compressors well. So, you need to understand well these two factors. CFM refers to the cubic feet per minute, and HP refers to horsepower. 

These two factors are the primary indicators of how much an air compressor can deliver relative to framing nailers. Hence, if you want to get the maximum output from your air compressor and nailer, you need to be wary of these two factors. Below are some questions that could help clarify which air compressor is best for your pneumatic nail gun:

How Often Do You Use Your Nail Gun?

You need to bear in mind how you would use the nail gun. Will you be using it intermittently, or would you continuously use it? If you would occasionally use it, you might as well go for a small compressor. But if you will use your air compressor more often and continuously, you should choose something that has enough discharging capacity for the demand of your nail gun.

Distance Between the Compressor and the Nail Gun

You will notice a significant drop in air pressure along the hose as air travels through it. So, the hose length will surely be a factor in the amount of air pressure your nail gun will receive from the air compressor. 

It will be good to note that for every 25 feet, the air pressure will drop a bit. The air compressor needs to compensate for this pressure drop by pumping more air onto the hose. It needs to ensure that the nail gun gets the proper operating pressure for your nail gun. 

Thus, it needs to compensate. For this reason, you need to consider the hose length and the distance of the nail gun from the air compressor. 

How Would You Calculate the Pressure Requirements of Your Nail Gun?

Pneumatic nail guns get powered by air pressure or compressed air. They have a specific air pressure minimum requirement for them to operate well. This minimum requirement gets measured in Cubic Feet Per Minute or CFM. 

Nail guns usually don’t need high CFM to be operational. As you buy your pneumatic nail gun, you need to check the manual to find its manufacturer’s specific CFM requirement. 

If you want to confirm what the manual says, you can also calculate it by first determining the highest CFM rating indicated for your pneumatic nailer. Then, divide it by 1.5. 

The answer will be the required average CFM by your nail gun. Using this formula, you can get a good idea of how much CFM is needed by your nailer. 

How to Calculate the HP Requirement of Your Framing Nail Gun?

Another critical factor to consider when selecting a pneumatic framing nail gun is the HP requirement of the air compressor. It will be naive to think that your motor will be more powerful with more horsepower. Such an idea, however, is fraught with errors. 

First, horsepower ratings can be confusing and misleading. HP is not the sole indicator of how efficient the compressor will be. Besides, manufacturers have different ways of calculating horsepower. 

Some manufacturers, for example, make their ratings based on the peak power HP of the compressors. This peak horsepower gets referred to as brake HP. Some, however, rate according to the average operating HP of the compressor. 

Experts, however, would recommend that you stay within the 5-HP to 10-HP range. As long as the compressors have complied with the PSI and CFM requirements, you’re safe with your nail gun and compressor. 

What Air Compressor’s Size is Best for Staple Gun?

You can use the staple gun for different purposes. You can use it for floor laminating and other upholstery projects. However, not all staple guns need air compressors. Only the pneumatic ones need a compressor. 

Woodworkers and DIYers usually utilize 18-gauge and 20-gauge staple guns. Most staple guns necessitate around 70 to 90 PSI Pressure. They also use up over 0.22 CFM for every shot. So, you will not need a larger air compressor to drive staple guns. Any portable air compressor can do the trick for you. Yet, it still depends on how long you use your staple guns. 

If you use it all day, you need to find an air compressor that delivers enough air pressure without sacrificing time to recover. The minimum need for a staple gun is an air compressor with a one-gallon capacity and airflow capacity of over two CFM.

What Air Compressor’s Size for Brad Nailer and Finish Nailer?

It will help to go for something slightly more powerful when looking for an air compressor to run your finish nailer. Since finish nailers drive longer and thicker nails, they need something with higher airflow. However, you may run both the brad and the finish nailers on 70PSI to 90PSI. 

Likewise, you can run them both using a two-gallon compressor with 2 CFM requirements above. Brad nailers, however, drive brad nails which are thinner in diameter and length. 

So, they will need a less powerful air compressor than the finish nailers. Yet, as mentioned above, both can be efficiently run by a two-gallon air compressor with above two CFM.

Which Air Compressor’s Size is Perfect for Roofing Palm, and Floor Nailers?

Roofing, palm, and floor nailers get usually listed in the category of moderate CFM requirements among nail guns. They would perform well with any air compressors, whether pancake-style six-gallon air compressors or any other type. 

However, one noticeable factor lies in palm nailer, which seems to consume more than floor nailer and roofing nailer. Palm nailers are like impact wrenches that make continuous and persistent impacts. For this reason, they would necessitate larger-capacity air compressors that could run nailers continuously. If not, you will have downtime due to slow recovery of pressure. 

On the other hand, roofing and floor nailers use up a moderate amount of pressurized air. They also do not need a continuous supply of air. Besides, they work using short air bursts to shoot nails.

Nevertheless, you can run all of them using air compressors capable of delivering within the range of 70PSI to 120PSI. Such an air compressor is perfect if you occasionally use your nail gun for re-roofing or installing hardwood flooring. 

But if you would run several nail guns simultaneously, you would need a larger air compressor unit. In such a case, you would need an air compressor with 3 to 6 gallon capacity with above 3 CFM airflow capacity.

Which Air Compressor’s Size is Perfect for Siding Nailer?

You can run your siding nailer using a small air compressor that can keep air pressure within the range of 80PSI to 120 PSI. However, the obvious thing is that most air compressors nowadays can provide that range of air pressure. 

The only problem you will have will be maintaining sufficient airflow to make air pressure recovery easy. If the air compressor fails to do that, you will have a lot of downtimes. 

Siding nailers, of course, use up more air. Thus, it will be safe to consider an air compressor with up to 5 CFM capacity when using siding nailers.

Which Air Compressor’s Size is Best for Framing Nailers?

You will find various sizes of air compressors used in construction sites. But if you would choose an air compressor for framing nailers, you need to consider two factors: CFM and PSI. The average framing nailer needs air compressors that offer around 115 PSI and 3 CFM. When it comes to horsepower, you need about 2.5 HP. 

It will also help if you go for a five-gallon air tank. Another thing that you need to consider is the noise level produced by the compressor. If you don’t want to disturb your neighbors, you should go for air compressors with a noise level of 79 dB.


As mentioned above, there are many air compressor brands and models out there, and their sheer number can make deciding which to choose a bit challenging. Nevertheless, if you know the critical factors to consider like your use cycle, CFM requirements and rating of your nail gun, pressure requirements, the duty cycle of your air compressor, CFM delivery capability, tank size, and distance from the nail gun, you can quickly zero in on the right air compressor for your needs. 

However, if you would run various nail guns like brad nailers, floor nailers, finish, and staple nailers, your air compressor must carry the capacity to keep you using them simultaneously. Of course, the portable units are not designed for heavy-duty works and long haul. So, it will be best to go for larger-sized air compressors if you use your nailers for an extended period and simultaneously with other nailers.

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