The 5 Best Air Compressors for Framing Crews [Updated October 2020]

Last Updated on October 6, 2020 by Paul King

Renovations are only as effective as the tools they use. For renovation and remodeling professionals, the quality of an industrial-grade air compressor based on its specifications and pricing can make a huge difference on the job site. As part of a framing crew, you need to know how to choose these air compressors for your specific job.

The scope of the project, along with your expertise in handling this type of work should be considered when choosing between these units. The products listed below are all quality options that can help complete a project so long as you match the brand to your project’s needs.

This series of product reviews and the short buying guide should help you decide which machine would be best suited to your project.

The first unit we reviewed was the Makita MAC2400 Big Bore. This unit is no stranger in the industry – Makita is well-known for its best sellers and the Big Bore is the top of its line when it comes to contractor-grade air compressors.

This unit is known for its reliability. Its cast-iron pump promotes fast recovery and its low amp motor makes it easier to use on an average power supply without fear of tripping your breakers or blowing a fuse.

The Big Bore is small enough to be portable, which can come in handy when working on framing. Despite its compact size, its 2.5 HP motor is strong enough for use with framing guns. 

The Big Bore sports a twin tank that can be used to run two tools simultaneously with a total maximum operating pressure of 130 PSI. Nail guns or airbrushing tools can be attached depending on what part of the framing job you need the air compressor for.

The Makita’s roll cage construction promotes durability, a useful precaution for framers concerned about dropping their expensive compressor or banging it up in transport between job sites.

Due to its oil-lubricated pump, the Makita can be started in colder temperatures, even after being left out all night. This pump, combined with thermal overload protection, gives you a reliable startup on the Makita’s powerful motor every time.

Why we like it

  • Oil lubrication of the pump allows for an easy startup in colder temperatures
  • Twin stacked tanks promote multitasking at a competitive operating PSI
  • Sturdy 2.5 HP engine with overload protection
  • Compact roll cage design promotes durability
  • Low amperage requirements
  • Fast recovery time

Our Verdict

The portable nature of the Makita MAC2400 Big Bore should be appealing to any framing crew. The fast recovery time, low amperage, and easy maintenance make the MAC2400 a convenient machine in addition to being a powerful one. The versatility of being able to run two tools at once and to reliably start the compressor in colder temperatures makes the Makita MAC2400 a durable and reliable option for any remodeling enthusiast and one our top choices for air compressors under $500.

Our Rating

5/5

The DeWalt Pancake Compressor can work with extension cords and can start up in any type of weather due to the high efficiency of its motor. DeWalt is known for well-constructed tools and this pancake compressor delivers on that promise with a high flow regulator that improves its performance over its competition.

Multiple tools can be used at once due to the dual coupler, at a maximum of 165 PSI. The oil-free pump allows this machine to run without maintenance. 

The DeWalt unit has a console cover to protect the controls that can be easily removed and repaired if maintenance is ever required. At only 30 pounds, this pancake compressor is as portable as a compressor gets in its power class, which is particularly useful for those enthusiasts who need to get this unit onto higher floors to frame.

Its relatively quiet operation (75.5 decibels of noise output) and large 6.0-gallon tank round out the compact DeWalt model’s competitive advantages for anyone looking for something easy to store and haul around the home or job site.

Why we like it

  • Maximum operating pressure of 165 PSI with a dual coupler allows for multiple tools simultaneously
  • Easy to transport at only 30-pounds in weight
  • Ease of maintenance due to oil-free pump
  • Quiet function
  • Easily stored due to compact design and cord wrap

Our Verdict

The DeWalt Pancake 6 Gallon Air Compressor delivers on its company’s promise of sturdy, compact machinery. For an air compressor under $300 it is both powerful and convenient. The low storage profile and quiet function of this compressor allow for easy home use without disturbing the neighborhood. The compact size promotes easy portability from room to room or around the job site, convenient for framing crews and home remodelers alike.

Our Rating

5/5

The Porter-Cable Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor is manufactured with a pancake tank for great stability, very similar to the DeWalt DWFP55126. The high-pressure design allows for longer usage of air tools and a competitive recovery time.

The oil-free pump makes maintenance and cleanup unnecessary for the Porter-Cables entire lifespan. It comes with a one-year limited warranty if you weren’t already sure that this budget compressor was a risk-free option on this list.

For those that are looking for a quality product that is portable and simple to use, the Porter-Cable is a great budget choice. Its induction motor promotes longevity and its low amperage requirements allow it to be run from most power supplies or extension cords without tripping a breaker. You can use this air compressor for a wide range of framing jobs like baseboards, trim, and crown molding.

Why we like it

  • Compact design promotes easy transport
  • Oil-free pump eliminates maintenance and messes
  • Low amperage for convenient home use
  • Competitive operating PSI and tank capacity
  • One-year limited warranty

Our Verdict

The Porter-Cable pancake compressor would be an asset to any household DIY renovation pro looking to do some framing work. The ability to use multiple tools at once from one machine with such a low storage profile makes this compressor a convenient addition to any job site.

Our Rating

5/5

The Bostitch Pancake 6 Gallon Oil-Free Air Compressor offers quality combined with portability. The compressor offers 150-PSI of maximum pressure storage, which is standard on this list. Like the best compressors, this is enough storage to be able to hook up multiple tools simultaneously.

The motor starts up easily without a problem regardless of cold temperatures due to its oil-free pump. The quiet working function of this compressor allows the user to enjoy working without impacting their family or missing instructions on a job site.

Oil-free air compressors like the Bostitch come with low-maintenance and minimal cleanup. For a budget air compressor under $200, the Bostitch is a compact and powerful unit that would benefit any framing project.

Novices will also appreciate the ability to package the compressor with nailers and other accessories, whereas most units on this list only come with the compressor unit. 

Why we like it

  • Easy to use and portable
  • Option to use two tools at once
  • Oil-free pump promotes easy startup in cold temperatures
  • Optional accessory bundles
  • Competitive tank storage pressure and capacity

Our Verdict

The Bostitch Pancake Air Compressor can be easily stored away, hauled up to the roof, and even left out overnight. In the morning, it will startup with the same reliable performance owing to its high flow regulator and maintenance-free pump.

Novices who need assistance getting hoses and attachments for their new air compressor will appreciate the Bostitch’s optional accessory bundles. In the meantime, everyone else will be appreciating its low price and stellar performance features.

Our Rating

5/5

The Craftsman Pancake 6 Gallon Air Compressor is durable and easy to transport. The machine offers 150 maximum operating PSI which can be used for a variety of tasks.

Like others on this list, the Craftsman’s tank and operating pressure storage are plenty for any framing or nailing job you have in mind.

Uniquely, the Craftsman air compressor comes with a 13-piece accessory kit that comes with a ton of attachments to help a novice remodeler get their toolbox in order. These include air hoses, couplers, tire chucks, gauges, blowguns, inflator adaptors, and more.

If you’re new to this work and intimidated by the prospect of buying all those attachments separately, the Craftsman could be a perfect choice.

Why we like it

  • Compact pancake design promotes portability
  • Oil-free pump eliminates most maintenance
  • Easy to startup in cold weather
  • Varied 13-piece accessory kit
  • 1-year warranty

Our Verdict

The Craftsman Pancake Air Compressor is a quality product that can be used by a DIY professional or a framing crew for professional nailing and trim tasks. The 13-piece accessory kit included in its budget price makes the Craftsman ideal for novices who are just getting started and need help assembling their toolbox. 

Our Rating

4.5/5
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Buyer’s Guide

Some compressors are better for framing than others, though all those listed are versatile units that would be assets to most any DIY or job site construction job.

Your experience level also plays a role since some of these compressors are more powerful than others and some come with accessories that inexperienced DIYers may appreciate. Comparing the specific aptitudes of each unit with the job you have in mind will make you a more informed buyer.

Here is a short guide to what you should be looking for.

Motor Capacity

The motor’s capacity will impact the amount of time a compressor can run without the need to be charged. Heavier work requires more horsepower but will come with more noise output.

For a person handling smaller framing projects in the house, horsepower might not be the top priority. A framing crew out on the job may want to spring for the Makita’s massive 2.5 HP engine, for instance, to get the job done at a contractor-grade level.

Noise Output 

Particularly for home renovation enthusiasts, you may want to trade some power for a compressor that doesn’t put out as much noise. Some compressors on this list put out as little as 75 decibels, which is great for using the unit at home or in a crowded neighborhood.

Communicating on the job site is also easier when you have a quieter compressor. Noise output should be a priority for DIY renovators when thinking about the comfort of themselves and others and their efficiency during team renovation projects.

Portability

A framing job may require a compressor to travel between rooms, to different job sites, or even up onto different elevations. This makes the lightweight pancake design models ideal for certain projects. Most weigh only about 30 pounds and can easily be moved by one person. 

Heavier compressors might be mounted for easier transport. Taking one of these up the stairs is not an option for a home renovation enthusiast handling a framing project alone. In that case, you want to look for a lighter model.

The storage footprint can also be an issue for many homeowners. If you have limited storage space, consider looking for a compact unit.

Multitasking

A framing job might need multiple tools running at the same time. For example, depending on the needs of the framing project you could use the air compressor for painting as well as nailing simultaneously. Many compressors can split their operating PSI between two nodes to accomplish this. For those that plan on double-teaming a tough job on a construction site or working with a spouse on a home remodeling project, this feature is one to look for.  

The Takeaway 

Choosing the right compressor requires comparing its aptitudes to the jobs you have in mind, as well as to your experience level in construction. You might need a quiet machine for use in your neighborhood or the most powerful motor possible for the most heavy-duty projects.

The Makita MAC2400 Big Bore is our top pick because it allows for multiple users while maintaining an industry-leading PSI on its huge 2.5 HP motor. For a home renovation enthusiast, durability is as important as portability. The Makita’s roll cage construction gives you a compact (if heavy) design that prevents damage and promotes longevity.

Any home renovator or remodeler will benefit from these air compressors for framing tasks, roof nailing, or even lighter jobs like tire inflation. Knowing how intensely you intend to use the unit will help you decide which is right for you.

Paul King

I have an unhealthy obsession with contracting and renovation. I’ve been a contractor for over 15 years and I love tackling challenging projects to make them look amazing.