Will a Nail Gun Go Through Plaster?

Plaster is fairly common in older properties, and if your home’s showing its age, chances are you’ve seen quite a bit of it across the rooms! However, plaster can sometimes be a bit of a nightmare to work with when you’re nailing or screwing fittings and hangings into place. It has a habit of crumbling – with that in mind, will a nail gun go through plaster?

Yes, a nail gun will go through plaster. However, you need to consider using the right nails, and carefully look at the type of plaster your walls are made of. Using a nail gun is fast and accurate – which is why it’s such a popular tool across all walks of DIY!

In this guide, we’ll take you through what you need to know when using a nail gun with plaster, including the right nails for the job, and how the plaster itself could impact the job at hand.


Can you use a nail gun on plaster walls?

Yes – you can use a nail gun on plaster walls, but as plaster is so sensitive (and likely so old), you should be careful to use a specific type of nail gun for this job. In many cases, using a nail gun for plastering is going to be more accurate and less likely to cause problems than, say, hammering away on your own. 

The best nail gun for plaster is always going to be one you’d use for baseboard work. That’s normally a finish nail gun, however, you can also use a brad nail gun depending on the size of nails you’re firing (up to 18 gauge on the whole).

A good rule is to avoid using nail guns that are designed for heavy-duty tasks. Framing nail guns, for example, are best used for attaching and nailing woodwork. Plasterwork is much more sensitive, and therefore, you run the risk of causing your walls to shatter or crumble. It’s best to save this type of gun for fence work.

At the same time, you shouldn’t use smaller or low-power nail guns on plasterwork, either. You need to strike a middle ground. That means anything like a staple gun or even palm nail guns are unlikely to get the job done that you need. Pin guns, however, can sometimes do the trick, but only when there is a small amount of work to take care of.

Above all, we really recommend you look into pneumatic powered nail guns with air compressors. Doing so will lower the risk of you damaging and cracking the plaster. You can also consider using cordless nail guns, too, but check the vibration. The more your nail gun vibrates during action, the more chance there will be of your plaster crumbling on contact.

Predrilling your holes is normally necessary to help prevent the plaster from cracking – however, if you’re using a pneumatic nail gun, even on low vibration, there’s generally no need for this preparation.

Which nails should I use with plaster?

It’s going to vary on the hardness and robustness of your plaster wall, as well as its thickness. However, in most cases, screws will work well. This is certainly the case if you are going to be using your nail gun to attach picture hooks. A drywall screw is often a good choice. 

The length of screw or nail you should use in plaster will, again, vary. That said, many experts (us included!) suggest using a length of around 1.25 inches long for most plaster tasks.

Can you nail into plaster?

Yes, you can nail into plaster. You can either use a nail gun or a hammer. However, given that plaster is infamously sensitive, and it’s likely the plaster walls you are working with will be several years old, it may work best to drill a small hole before you nail in. This will help prevent any potential cracking that might occur when you start inserting nails.

How do you pound a nail into plaster?

If you don’t want to predrill the point where you are going to nail, you can also use masking tape. You can cut off a small strip and stick to the point where you wish to nail in, and then gently start tapping the nail in with a hammer.

Pounding is never a good idea. Even if the plaster looks robust, you are at risk of cracking and damaging your wall – and the angle you tap your nails in at is important, too. Make sure to gently tap up at around a 45-degree angle – and trust us, you are going to take your time, or risk plaster going absolutely everywhere!

How do you nail molding to plaster walls?

To nail crown molding to your plaster walls, you’re going to need to carefully mark out your nail points with a pencil, and then use a stud finder to mark out where all the studs are behind the plaster. For this job, you’re going to need finish nails.

Then, once you’ve cut your molding at around 45 degrees, you should carefully mark the nail points for your studs with your nail gun (if you’re using one). In any case, it makes sense to mark and hole the studs even if you’re going to start hammering.

Sink your nails gently with a set with a tap, and then caulk between the molding and your plaster. Smooth it over and leave it to dry. It’ll then be ready to paint!

Do also make sure to invest in the best nail gun for crown molding for your budget, too – sensitive jobs such as these deserve the best tools.

Can you use a nail gun into drywall?

For drywall, the consensus appears to be using a screw gun for more careful fastening – a simple nail or two may not give you the security you need. This normally applies when you are working with sensitive material such as PVC trim, too.


Yes, a nail gun will certainly go through plaster – in many cases, a little too well! What you should focus on is ensuring you are using the right gun for the job, and that you carefully prepare your wall enough so that it’s ready for nailing. Otherwise, you are at risk of causing cracks in the plaster, and it’s going to splinter all over the floor!

Take it from us – it pays to be careful with plaster. It deserves reverence for how long it’s stood the test of time, after all!