Pneumatic framing nailers require a compressor with certain minimum specifications to operate correctly. What would be the right size compressor for a framing nailer? The minimum size compressor required for a framing nailer is one that can reach at least 90 PSI and 4.5 CFM, but check the specifications of the tool you are using, as there are some differences.


What is the Right Size Air Compressor for a Framing Nailer?

The most common specifications for an air compressor for a framing nailer are 90 PSI and 4.5 CFM, but there are variations from manufacturer to manufacturer. Checking the requirements for your specific nailer is important to size the compressor correctly.

Red portable air compressor placed on the tiled floor

A pneumatic framing nailer has several advantages over its electric or battery-powered counterparts.

  • Reduced weight. Pneumatic framing nailers are lightweight, reducing user fatigue when framing a house.
  • No power loss. Battery-powered nailers lose power as the battery drains, resulting in less penetration of the nails and potential jams. This does not happen with pneumatic nailers due to the constant air supply from a compressor.

Cordless framing nailers can be beneficial when working in positions where pressure hoses or electric cables are impractical, but a pneumatic nailer can’t be beaten for efficiency.

The advantages of a pneumatic framing nailer are only relevant if you have a properly sized compressor to power the tool.

An underpowered compressor may result in the nailer not functioning at all, not driving the nails deep enough, or jamming in the nailer when the pressure is too low.

An underpowered compressor will also run continuously to try and maintain the pressure demand, putting strain on the compressor.

How are Compressors Rated?

Compressors come in various sizes, requiring you to use the right size compressor for your nailer to avoid problems.

What should you look for in a compressor’s features to determine if it has the necessary power for your framing nailer?

Two important specifications of an air compressor to check are the cubic feet per minute or CFM rating and the compressor’s pounds per square inch or PSI rating. The CFM rating is sometimes shown as SCFM or standard cubic feet per minute.

Compressor Pressure Rating Best For Framing Nailers

The PSA and CFM ratings for compressors must be high enough for the nailer to operate properly. A framing nailer is relatively high-powered, so it is always best to opt for a slightly higher-powered compressor.

In most cases, the minimum PSA rating for a compressor to drive a framing is 70 to 90 PSI. This rating is the minimum, so a compressor with a rating of 100 PSI would be a better option for your framing nailer.

Likewise, a compressor with a 2.0 SCFM rating is the minimum required to run most framing nailers. Select a compressor with a higher SCFM rating to ensure the nailer does not require the compressor to run at its maximum limits continuously.

How do you know how high above the nailer’s minimum SCFM rating will provide enough operational capacity in the compressor?

The general rule of thumb is to check the specified SCFM rating on your framing nailer and multiply that figure by a factor of 1.5.

So if your framing nailer is specified as requiring an SCFM of 2.0, you would multiply this by 1.5 to add some additional capacity above the minimum requirement.

Framing nailer SCFM rating 2.0 X 1.5  = 3.0 SCFM

This formula means that a compressor with a 3.0 SCFM would be a more appropriate choice for your nailer.

How to Choose and Use an Air Compressor | This Old House

Best HP Compressor Rating For Framing Nailers

The HP or horsepower rating of the compressor relates to the size of the motor compressing the air in the compressor’s tanks.

The higher the HP of the motor, the faster the compressor can repressurize the tanks. This means the compressor will turn on less frequently to maintain the tank pressure. This, in turn, reduces wear and tear on the compressor and powers the framing nailer more efficiently.

As the framing nailer uses the tank’s air pressure, the compressor motor must kick in to repressurize the tanks. The higher the motor horsepower or HP, the compressor will be able to keep up with the demand from the framing nailer.

 A compressor with a 2.0 HP motor is generally sufficient to provide adequate pressure levels for a framing nailer.

What Compressor Tank Size Is Best For Framing Nailers?

Compressors come with different tank configurations and capacities, offering various choices for pneumatic nailers.

The most common compressor tank configurations are as follows.

  • Pontoon tanks: These tanks are sometimes called hotdog tanks. It is a single-cylinder design compressor, usually for smaller compressors holding 2 to 3 gallons of air capacity.
  • Pancake compressor: This is a compressor with a flattened round tank rather than an elongated cylindrical tank. The capacity of these tanks is usually in the 4 to 6-gallon range.
  • Double-stacked tanks: These are compressors with two cylindrical tanks stacked one above the other. Stacked tank compressors are usually in the 4-gallon to 6-gallon capacity range.
  • Wheelbarrow compressor: These compressors usually have a single, larger cylindrical tank with an 8-gallon to 12-gallon capacity and are generally for industrial use.

As a general rule, the large the tank capacity, the larger the HP requirement for the motor to repressurize the larger tank at an acceptable rate.

A 4-gallon to 6-gallon compressor capacity is usually the best choice for a framing nailer.

Framing Nailer Compressor FAQs

The following frequently asked questions relating to compressors and nailers may be of additional interest.

What PSI Compressor Is Best For A Framing Nailer?

The best PSI rating of a compressor to use with framing nailers is one that exceeds the minimum requirements of the nailer. Framing nailer manufacturers give the minimum requirements for each tool, and you should select a compressor with a PSI rating higher than the requirement of the nailer.

How Big Of A Compressor Do I Need For A NailGun?

The physical size of the compressor is not necessarily an indication of a more powerful machine. The compressor ratings are the indicators you should look for to determine the right size unit to power your framing nailer.

It is not necessary to oversize the compressor used for your framing nailer. This would be overkill and incur an unnecessary cost unless you have other pneumatic tools that require a higher-capacity compressor. An oversized compressor can damage seals and valves in the pneumatic frame nailer.

Which Tank Style Compressor Is Best For A Framing Nailer?

The design of the compressor tanks to use with a framing nailer does not really matter as long as the compressor’s specifications meet the nailer’s operating requirements.

The most common criteria used in compressor tank choice are portability, space requirements, and ease of transport. Pancake compressors take up less space than cylindrical tank compressors, but cylindrical tank versions are usually more powerful.

If you already have a compressor and are looking to purchase a framing nailer, we have some recommendations on the best framing nailers that may help you narrow down your search. 


In most circumstances, a 100 PSI 4.5 CFM compressor with a 4 to 6-gallon cylinder and a 2 HP motor is sufficient to run a framing nailer.

It is important to check the specification of your particular framing nailer and size your compressor accordingly.

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