An enthusiastic homeowner reached out to us last month. He asked us whether his air compressor was good enough for structural repairs. For one, it maxed out at 95 PSI, and he bought it at a garage sale. He decided to get a 0.8-HP Bostitch after a quick chat with us.
This kind of confusion is fairly common. And even professionals could use a few tips to help them choose the best air compressor for framing crew. So, we’ve put together our favorite ones in this comprehensive review and buyer’s guide.
7 Best Air Compressor for Framing Crew
You’ll find hundreds of air compressors on the market, but choosing can be a chore. We’ve reviewed a list of only the best ones suited to every potential user out there. Whether you’re a professional framer or an enthusiast, there’s an option for you.
1. Makita MAC2400 Big Bore 2.5 HP Air Compressor
Let’s start the list with the most powerful compressor we have. The Big Bore is a favorite among professional framers for its 2.5 engine and 4.6-gallon tank. Makita has a reputation for consistently making high-quality power tools for framing crews. And we’re not even close to disappointed.
Professionals are more likely to use this thing than amateur users, and the choice is justified. This beast can comfortably push out 4.8 CFM at 40 PSI (and 4.2 CFM at 90 PSI when you want). And it can work with an operating PSI of 130.
If you’re working with a crew, you might need to power several nailers at once. And this compressor can handle two at once without a hiccup. Again, even on a busy day, the compressor maintains a low 1730 RPM to keep the noise under 79 dB.
The twin tanks are vertically mounted and can hold 4.6 gallons of compressed air. You’re going to shoot at least 20 nails before you consider letting it repressurize. And this machine is pretty damn durable; all you need to do is change the lubricating oil in time.
2. Porter-Cable C2002 Oil-Free UMC Pancake Compressor with Pressure Gauge
Having the right accessories on hand can make or break your framing job. And to let you make the most out of your pancake air compressor, this package comes with a 13-piece accessory kit. This kit’s most notable tool is the industrial pressure gauge with its 0.5-PSI accuracy and LED display.
Apart from the nozzles, couplers, and lines you get in the box, the pancake compressor is a capable machine on its own. It can hold a 150 PSI of peak tank pressure and delivers 2.6 PSI at 90 SCFM. And its 120V input line is compatible with any outlet.
The motor starts up at a low amp to ensure your breaker doesn’t burn out, but it’s not weak. It’s a pretty durable compressor that needs little maintenance. You can connect two nailers to the factory-installed couplers, and the extension cord makes your job easier.
And the design is pretty lightweight, which is a relief. The whole rig is easy to carry around the job site or onto the roof. However, we’d have liked to see a roll cage on the motor. Sadly, you might damage the compressor if you drop it off a flight of stairs.
3. Craftsman CMEC6150K Pancake Air Compressor with 13-Piece Accessory Kit
Like the previous item, this model from Craftsman also comes with a 13-piece accessory kit. Unlike the former, though, this one is more budget-friendly without making sacrifices in the quality department. So, you don’t have to spend extra to go out and buy nozzles and cables.
You get a PVC hose, blowguns, safety nozzles, and other essential tools with this compressor. And this 1/3 HP motor is a reliable choice for coupling up to your framing nailer, especially with its low-maintenance, oil-free design. The price is easy on the pockets too.
This compressor uses a 120V power input that works with any outlet. It peaks at 150 PSI tank pressure and has a standard airflow of 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI. You won’t need to let it refill before you’ve gunned down at least ten nails.
The motor can start even in colder weather. All you need to do is make sure it’s plugged in. And the 6-gallon tank holds enough air for a single nailer to do its job well. Overall, you’re getting a compelling product at a great price.
4. Bostitch BTFP02012 Pancake Air Compressor
If you’re on a budget but want the best value for your money, we’ve got just the thing. This Bostitch pancake compressor is the perfect option to hook up to your framing nailer for great CFM to PSI ratio and power efficiency. And it’s an absolute bang for the buck.
Pancake tanks are on the smaller side as air compressors go, so having good pressure is essential. And this 6-gallon tank can hold up to 150 PSI air pressure inside. But you’ll get optimal results of 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI, which is all a single nailer needs.
You’ll frame 6 to 10 nails before you need to refill the tank. And there’s an included high flow regulator with couplers to make your job easier along the way. The motor is efficient but quiet, making only around 78.5 dBA noise.
Working in the snow can be tough, and you might not expect a budget compressor even to start. Sorry to disappoint you, but this motor doesn’t shy away from a little cold. Even without any oil for lubrication, this 0.8 HP motor always starts when you need it.
5. Dewalt DWFP55126 165-PSI Pancake Air Compressor
Okay, we know pancake compressors are small. But you might need a tank that can store more air so you can fire a few more nails when you’re working long hours with your framing crew. And that’s where Dewalt’s 165 PSI tank can be a great option with its higher-than-average-pressured tank.
Unlike most other models that max out at 150 PSI, this model takes air compression a step further. The incremental number might seem smaller, but the extra five nails you can fire with it can mean less hassle in bigger framing projects. And the standard 2.6 SCFM at 90 PSI means it’s not wasting any air.
Of course, the design on this thing is far superior too. You can detach the ball draining valve anytime for a thorough draining. The console cover usually protects the controls, but you can remove it for repairs. And the rubber feet on the base prevent any marring.
You can use the two universal couplers to plug in two framing nailers to the compressor. The cords are easy to wrap up when you don’t need them. We love all the little design features and quirks about this thing.
6. Dewalt D55146 225-PSI Air Compressor
On the construction site, you need to haul heavy-duty compressors from one place to another. What if it had wheels and a collapsible handle? Well, this one does. And it’s pretty damn powerful with its maximum 225-PSI air pressure capability inside the 4.5-gallon tank.
While the numbers can astound customers (just like us), the tank has an air pressure cut-off point at 200 PSI. It starts refilling once you hit 150 PSI, though. And it’s more than enough to power even three framing nailers if you have the couplers.
You get 5 SCFM flow at an optimal 90 PSI, powerful enough to drive nails into steel-strong wood. And you can keep going for at least 20 nails before you take a minute to breathe. Somehow, this beast is still pretty quiet at only 78 dBA.
This 1.6 HP compressor comes with couplers and a long extension cord. It can stand vertically on its two wheels, and the handle collapses into itself when you don’t need it to stick out. No wonder professionals love this thing!
7. Metabo HPT EC914SM Pancake Air Compressor with Framing Nailer
Since we’re talking about your framing project, we can’t end this list without a great nailer and compressor combo. And Metabo’s products are by far the best on the market. A high-quality nailer paired with a high-performance compressor; what more could you need?
This 21-degree nailer has a plastic-collated framing, and it’s perfect for framing, flooring, window and truss build-up, roof decking, and more. You can quickly switch between contact and sequential with the flick of a switch. And this lightweight nailer has all kinds of adjustability, including nail depth.
As for the compressor, it comes from a breed of its own. It has a max PSI of 200 and can push out 4 CFM at 90 PSI. You won’t complain about its working time; the user tires out before the tank empties. Performance isn’t an issue, thanks to the 30% higher CFM and 25% PSI.
You can connect two framing nailers to this 6-gallon tank, which is easier because of the universal couplers you get. It drives nails flush with the wood surface with an imperceptible delay. And you won’t need to worry about regular maintenance on this oil-free compressor.
Things to Consider Before Buying
When you’re working a framing job with the crew, you can’t risk taking an unreliable air compressor. It needs to check all the right boxes, and we’re here to make sure you don’t miss any requirements. Here are the important factors.
A higher number of horsepowers means a higher level of performance. Depending on your framing workflow, you might need something ranging from moderately strong to heavy-duty. If you’re a professional and will use the compressor on many projects, make the most of your budget.
There might be some trade-offs you have to make with a higher HP, though. For one, it can get loud. Most compressors these days do a decent job of managing noise. But your crew might be using several nailers at once, and you might get complaints.
‘Pounds per Square Inch,’ or PSI, is the unit of air pressure stored inside your compressor’s tank. The higher the pressure, the more compressed air the tank can hold. And, depending on how much air is passing through, a higher PSI usually means you can drive more nails.
You’ll usually get the best results at 90 PSI because that’s the sweet spot with optimal airflow. Most compressors perform best at 90 PSI, but each might have a different peak pressure capacity. Budget options usually have a maximum of 150 PSI, whereas stronger compressors can go higher.
CFM or SCFM
‘Standard Cubic Feet per Minute,’ or SCFM, is the unit of the airflow volume passing from the compressor in a minute. CFM means Cubic Feet per Minute, and it’s a non-standardized measurement unit; however, the two are essentially the same.
A higher SCFM means you can drive nails into a wooden frame with more force. This unit is inversely proportional to PSI; the higher the PSI is, the lower the SCFM will be. Look for a reasonably high SCFM rating when choosing your compressor.
Your compressor’s power source can be an important factor in its performance output. There are two usual options: AC/DC electricity and gasoline. While both have advantages on their own, your choice will depend on where you’re working and the output you need.
If you use a 120V electric input, you can plug in the compressor virtually anywhere (even at home). 240V input systems draw much more power, and you’d find them on industrial construction sites.
On the other hand, gasoline powers a generator that, in turn, powers a compressor. You’d use gasoline if you’re working in remote areas without power.
How long your compressor lasts can depend on how good its build is. Design and construction materials are key factors here. Stainless steel will usually be the preferable option for construction. And a roll cage design can keep the motor safe from impact and drops.
Another mechanism that matters is whether it uses oil for lubrication. While oil is traditional, it also requires timely change. Oil-free machines aren’t as durable or high-performance, but they’re much less of a hassle.
Consider Your Budget
While this holds for almost any purchase decision, we had to remind you. It can be tempting to get the best compressor to power your framing nailer; we get it. But there’s no point in spending after features you’ll never use.
But here’s a note to the professionals. If you think investing an extra few hundred can help in future projects, it might not be a bad idea to get a better model.
What Size of Air Compressor do You Need for the Framing Crew?
Framing is not as simple as putting together a piece of furniture. Your compressor should have the power to make sure the framing nailer drives the nails in deep enough to hold the structure together. So, here are the minimum requirements for your compressor.
100 PSI or Above
PSI is the unit of air pressure inside the compressor’s tank. If your tank doesn’t have enough pressure, it simply can’t power your pneumatic nailer the way you need. 100 PSI is the bare minimum for framing. But if you want stronger structural integrity and better penetration, look for higher PSI ratings.
2 to 4 CFM
CFM is the unit for how much air is passing through the compressor tank each minute. This airflow is directly driving the nail into the woodwork when you’re framing. Therefore, a higher CFM means better penetration. Try not to choose a low CFM, especially when you’re nailing strong surfaces.
4 Gallons or More
Your tank is where the compressor keeps all the compressed air. If it’s too small, there’s less air. And less air means you need to refill it more frequently. Constantly pausing in the middle of work can be frustrating, so choose a big enough tank.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you need to break in an air compressor?
Yes, it’s usually a good idea to get your compressor settled before using it on important projects. Let your air compressor run for 30 minutes with the unloader valve locked in. Reset the valve afterward.
Is it okay to leave an air compressor full?
Air has moisture. That moisture can corrode the checking valve and other internal components if you leave the tank fully pressurized for extended periods. Remember to de-pressurize the tank after you finish working.
What happens if you leave an air compressor ‘On’?
If you leave your air compressor plugged in and running for an indefinite period, it’s going to run until you catch it or blow a breaker. It’s usually a good idea to turn it off after use.
Can air compressors explode?
If there are any manufacturing defects, a compressor’s tank may explode. While these incidents are unusual, they’re not unheard of. The usual culprit is moisture and condensates that build up over time if you don’t regularly drain it.
How often should you drain an air compressor?
We recommend draining your compressor daily, as is standard practice. Whether you can use automatic draining or do it manually will depend on your particular model.
Well, that’s it for our reviewed list of top picks. You’ll find the best air compressor for framing crew here, no matter what your budget is. And even if your crew is just you, there’s a compressor ready to power your framing nailer.
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