Pin Nailers Versus 18-Gauge or 23-Gauge Nailers

Installers discuss the relative usefulness of various fastener sizes and types for attaching prefinished crown moulding to cabinets. February 21, 2006

I am going to be installing a lot of kitchens with pre finished crown. I am wondering if everyone is using 18 gauge or 23 gauge for your pre finished trim. I was going to buy a Grex and it shoots up to 1-3/8" pins. Do you think that’s good for the crown?

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor P:
I currently use an 18 gauge brad gun but have been a little dissatisfied with the results. The brad holds well enough, but sometimes the nose of gun leaves a dent when shooting the brad. Also, the head of the brad, if not shot with the grain, will sometimes cause the wood to blow out on each side of the head. Again, it’s not a desirable result.

I am considering getting a pin nailer myself. I saw a job done with a pin nailer and was curious about it. The pins appeared to be nylon or plastic. I don't know what brand pinner was used, but I wonder if nylon or steel will work with all brands. The other thing was that the pins were shot about every 6 or 8 inches along the crown. Does it take this many pins to hold the crown on or was someone just trigger happy?

From contributor W:
I can tell you from being a head installer at a large custom cabinet shop use an 18 gauge brad nailer. 1 inch pins at 12 to 18 inches apart is best for crown but make sure to switch to 5/8 for the flat scribe. The 23 gauge micro pins are a handy tool for shooting on dentil teeth and fixing small splits but the nails being headless and very small will not hold any thing to heavy or under stress.

From contributor R:
I just did a pre-finished crown job and used one 1" 23 gauge pin in each end of pre-finished buff colored crown run of 6 feet simply to hold molding while Loctite hi grab adhesive set up. I shot the pin horizontally into the lower portion of the crown buildup, not into ceiling as it would never hold.

The pin is barely visible unless you stare at it, but it works. Try to shoot in a shadow line or close to a seam. It’s not perfect, but I don't know how else to hold a long run of crown against ceiling and lower crown face (it was a three piece molding build up.) Locktite is great for this against ceilings and flat cabinet faces but requires a gap so it doesn’t work too well for ends/miters.

From contributor D:
I have the Grex p635 and a Senco slp20 (18 gauge) on small crown I am comfortable using the 23 gauge 1 3/8 on the larger crown. I use the Senco on the main run and the Grex on the joints and soft returns. When I have the room between crown and ceiling I will use the Grex on the large crown and then come back with a bead of liquid nails on the back side of the crown where it meets the cabinet.

From contributor T:
I install lots of kitchens and I would say the 23 gauge works great for most applications. It gives you the chance of not having to fill nails holes, too. Sometimes you still have to fill the holes however. I prefer the EZ Fastener MP30 and it shoots a 1 3/16" micro pin. All the others jam all the time and only shoot 1".

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor C:
I install for a large cabinet manufacturer and do 3 to 5 kitchens a week. I exclusively use the 23 gauge nailer for speed and finish quality. The 18 gauge has a tendency to split hardwoods like maple and oak (not good on prefinished crown). However, 23 gauge nails will not hold long term unless you follow installation with a bead of adhesive caulk or liquid nails to the back side of the crown where it meets the cabinet, then finger wipe it. It doesn't have to be neat as it isn't visible unless viewable from a stair landing.

Comment from contributor E:
I use a headless pinner on crown mouldings along with liquid nails to the frames, adhesive caulk to the ceiling and a product called FastCap on all inside and outside miters. FastCap dries in 10 seconds and is very strong. On some of the larger crown mouldings I will use brad nails sparingly along with headless pins to hold better until the liquid nails has a chance to dry. Glue everything! It takes a little more time but the results are professional and lasting.

Comment from contributor A:
I've been installing high end kitchen cabinetry for years and for the last ten years or so I've used a pin nailer for installing prefinished moldings of all shapes and sizes. I have several pin nailers but my nailer of choice is a Cadex that shoots up to a 2" headed pin. I also buy stainless pins because they tend to deflect less than average which is a concern when applying hardwood molding to hardwood cabinets.

Comment from contributor B:
In addition to my choice in nailers is the quality of crown molding joints and how the best results are achieved by my experience over the years. I cut packages in which all the inside miters are cut first with their adjoining projecting legs. I often preassemble three pieces together for a snug fit between two cabinets along a run where wall cabinets vary in depth projection. I will glue up the joints with a combination of urethane glue and an Elmers or Titebond type of glue being very careful about the spread and quantity avoiding squeeze-out and urethane expansion to minimize clean up.

I nail the inside rail crown first and leave the projecting legs loose until a test is made with the furthest projecting rail crown (two set-back cabinets to a projecting range hood are done first leaving the furthest projecting rail last, directly over the range or.

Leaving the legs loose gives an adjustment range depending on a level ceiling or particular crown design from one projecting leg to another. Once a satisfactory joint is achieved the last pieces are glued and nailed to the legs, cabinet, and ceiling if necessary. For a fussy customer I often keep crowns level and feather in compound to achieve a desired result when a ceiling height is out of level. That of course adds to the amount of labor to achieve what pleases the discerning eye but also insures a happy customer and one would hope more work as a result.