Framing nailers are heavy-duty nail guns that can be used during all phases of a home building or construction process. To do this, they require a certain amount of air pressure. What size air compressor do you need for framing nailer?

You need a portable air compressor with a CFM of 3.0 and a PSI of 115 to effectively run a framing nailer. A 5-gallon air tank typically accompanies a machine of these capabilities. To calculate your air compressor volume needs, multiply the pneumatic tool’s max CFM by 1.5.

There’s a plethora of information about different air compressors and many options to choose from. We’re here to help you sort through it all!

Keep reading to learn what size air compressor is needed for a nail gun and how to select the right one for your needs.

What Is a Framing Nailer Used For?

Before we discuss what size air compressor is necessary for a framing nailer, it’s vital to understand what they’re used for.

Framing nailers are used for exactly what they sound like- framing. They are durable nail guns that can be used to put up walls, sheathing, roofing materials, and more. They typically have a magazine angle of about 32 degrees and can fire up to 750 three-inch clip head framing nails in one charge. 

To do this, they require a lot of air pressure which is why an air compressor is necessary. So what size air compressor do you need for framing nailer? For most projects, an 1.5 – 3.5 HP unit will suffice.

Framing nailers are pneumatic tools used by professional or amateur carpenters, roofers, and home builders alike.

What Size Air Compressor is Necessary for a Framing Nailer?

Construction Air compressors come in various sizes and pressure ratings. When selecting an air compressor for your framing nailer, the two most important factors are PSI (pounds per square inch) and CFM (cubic feet per minute).

The average framing nailer requires an air compressor that provides about 115 PSI and 3.0 CFM. If you’re talking in terms of horsepower, around 2.5 HP will suffice. At least a 5-gallon air tank is necessary. 

Hot Tip: If you’re concerned about the noise, choose an air compressor with a sound rating of no more than 79 dB.

Keep in mind that the above CFM and PSI ratings apply specifically to framing nailers, not other types of nail guns. The requirements for a finish nailer or stapler will be different.

Calculating The Nail Gun Pressure Requirements

Pneumatic nail guns are driven by compressed air. So, there is a minimum requirement of air pressure that they need to operate.

Each tool has its own CFM requirements that are set by the manufacturer. There is, however, a formula that you can use.

  1. Determine the maximum CFM rating of framing nailer.
  2. Divide that by 1.5
  3. The value that you come up with is going to be the average CFM required for your nailing job.

Take a look at the chart below to see the different CFM requirements of many common pneumatic nail guns.

Type of Air Nail GunCompressor TypeCFM Required
Brad NailerPancake/Portable2.0 CFM, 2 Gallon
Finish NailerPancake/Portable2.0 CFM, 2 – 3 Gallon
Upholstery staplerPortable2.0 CFM, 1 Gallon
Sheathing nailerPortable4.0 CFM, 4 – 6 Gallon
Framing NailerPortable4.0 CFM, 4 – 6 Gallon
Roofing NailerPortable 

4.0 CFM, 6 Gallon.

2-4 nailers at the same timeWheelbarrow6.0+ CFM, 6 gallon

As you can see from the chart above, ideally, framing nailers need 4 CFM to function best.

Calculating the Air Compressor CFM Requirements for Your Tools

Before you purchase an air compressor, make sure it provides the right volume output for your tools.

You can calculate this two ways by looking at the requirement to run a single tool or to run multiple instruments simultaneously.

The best way to calculate this for one tool is:

  • Take the highest CFM rating of your tool and multiply it by 1.5 (this will give you the air compressor CFM required to operate that tool).

Example: Framing nailer requirement: 3.0 CFM

(3.0 CFM) x (1.5) = Air compressor CFM capability of 4.5 CFM

The best way to calculate this for multiple tools is:

  • Add up all of the CFMs of each tool and multiply the total number by 1.5 (this will give you the air compressor CFM required to operate all of the tools at once).

Example: Framing nailer requirement: 3.0 CFM, Roofing nailer requirement: 4.0 CFM, Upholstery stapler requirement: 2.0 CFM

(3.0 CFM) + (4.0 CFM) + (2.0 CFM) = 9.0 total CFM

(9.0 CFM) x (1.5) = Air compressor CFM capability of 13.5 CFM

Types of Power Tools and Their Requirements

Framing nailers aren’t the only power tool that requires a certain CFM and PSI. Other pneumatic devices, like impact wrenches or paint spray guns, require different amounts of air pressure and volume to perform.

The cubic feet per minute and pounds per square inch needed to sufficiently run each tool are due to certain factors. These factors are how big the tool is, what kind of force is needed, and how long the job will take. 

Here is a table outlining the CFM requirements for each pneumatic tool:

Pneumatic ToolOperating PSI (Avg.)Operating CFM (Avg.)
Air Hammer95 PSI4.0 CFM
Blow Gun95 PSI2.5 CFM
Brad Nailer80 PSI0.5 CFM
Disc Sander95 PSI20.0 CFM
Drill80 PSI4.0 CFM
Dual Action Sander80 PSI12.0 CFM
Framing Nailer115 PSI3.0 CFM
Grease Gun135 PSI3.0 CFM
Impact Driver (1/2”)95 PSI4.0 CFM
Impact Driver (1”)95 PSI12.0 CFM
Impact Wrench (3/8”)80 PSI3.0 CFM
Impact Wrench (1/2”)80 PSI4.0 CFM
Impact Wrench (3/4”)80 PSI6.0 CFM
Impact Wrench (1”)80 PSI12.0 CFM
Nibbler95 PSI4.0 CFM
Orbital Sander85 PSI7.5 CFM
Paint Spray Gun95 PSI6.0 CFM
Ratchet (1/4”)95 PSI3.0 CFM
Staple Gun80 PSI2.0 CFM
Tire Inflator137.5 PSI2.0 CFM

For example, large framing guns like the Hitachi NR90AES1 need more air than smaller guns like the Senco Fastener 2-in-1. Furthermore, the Hitachi NR90AES1 also requires a higher amount of pressure because it shoots nails with greater velocities.

SENCO 9X0001N NS20XP 16-Gauge 7/16 in. Crown Stapler

Essentially, if you’re putting up walls in your house, you will need much less air pressure and volume than when you are doing roofing.

How to Use an Air Compressor for a Framing Nailer

The set-up is fairly simple, but if you’re unfamiliar, I’ll walk you through it!

How to Use an Air Compressor for a Framing Nailer:

  • Plug your air compressor in, and turn it on to pressurize the system.
  • The tank will kick off once the air tank reaches the max PSI.
  • Connect the coupler of the air compressor hose to the air inlet slot on the framing nailer.
  • Make sure the outlet pressure is zero, and attach the other side of the air compressor hose to the coupler of the air compressor itself.
  • Pull the pressure regulator knob and turn it clockwise to raise the pressure to 115 PSI.
  • Cation: Never exceed the maximum operating PSI of the framing nailer on your air compressor. 
  • Press the gun to the surface and pull the trigger!

You can adjust the gun depth by turning the depth gauge on the gun to reflect your desired setting.

Once you are finished, turn the air compressor off and pull the safety relief valve to depressurize the system. Turn the compressor on its side and unscrew the drain cap to remove any residual moisture.

This will get your compressor ready to use for your next home project!

What Type of Air Compressor for a Framing Nailer?

There are two options here- portable or industrial.

Portable air compressors range from around 2-5 HP and go up to a max of 150 PSI. In comparison, industrial air compressors can have anywhere from 5-20 HP and can exceed 200 PSI.

The portable compressors are generally more popular because a framing nailer is used on the go. Also, it doesn’t require the CFM, PSI, and horsepower output that an industrial air compressor provides. 

Portable devices are also able to be stored and transported in a truck or van. Take it out when you need it, and bring it back home when you’re finished!

Use extension cords if you need to reach a faraway location (distant from the nearest outlet). Beware that the further you make the power travel to your machine, the less its operational abilities will be.

Is A Portable Air Compressor Good For A Nail Gun?

Yes. In fact, portability is one of the most important aspects of an air compressor for a nailer. Remember, when doing most types of nailing, you are going to have to move around a lot.

While there are many different shapes and sizes of air compressors on the market, they all fall into one of two categories: Portable and stationary .

Stationary air compressors are mainly used in situations where a high amount of compressed air is needed over long periods of time. Stationary air compressors are capable of producing a wide range of CFMs. These large, non-portable air compressors typically produce an output of anywhere between 30 and 1000 CFM.

Portable air compressors, on the other hand, are typically used when a high amount of power is not needed.

There is some middle ground, but generally speaking, portable air compressors serve their roles best through portability rather than power. These are the best air compressors to use with most nail guns, because they give you the ability to move around your work site.

Portable air compressors are far more compact, but the amount of compressed air they can produce is more than enough for most moderate to semi-heavy nailing tasks.

How Much Does a Portable Air Compressor for a Framing Nailer Cost?

Portable air compressors are available in all different sizes and price ranges.

On average, a portable air compressor costs $250 for the most basic models and up to $700 or more. These smaller compressors are considered “consumer-grade” because they are not designed for commercial use. 

The more intricate the compressor is and the greater the workload ability it has, the more expensive it will be.

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In Summary

Framing nailers are high-powered nail guns that can be used by contractors for roofing, putting up walls, or resurrecting infrastructure. To do these tasks, framing nailers require a certain amount of air pressure and volume.

What size air compressor do you need for framing nailer? A compressor with the capacity to produce 3.0 CFM (cubic feet per minute) and 115 PSI (pounds per square inch) is recommended. A 5-gallon tank typically comes with machines of these specifications.

However, it is possible to attach another receiver tank if your portable machine lacks the necessary air storage capability.

To calculate the air compressor volume your tool needs, find the max CFM and multiply it by 1.5 to get the compressors required CFM. For an air compressor operating multiple power tools, add the max CFM of each device up to get a total. Then, multiply the total number by 1.5.

If you’re curious about the CFM or PSI requirements for other power tools, take a look at the chart above!