How to Hammer in Tight Spaces?

If you’re working on a project and find yourself with nails that you need to hammer in tight spaces, don’t worry, this happens more often than you might think. The situation can arrive when you’re installing trim in tight spot, working on anything located between two studs, or trying to drive nails in a tight corner.

There are a variety of methods you can implement to hammer a nail in tight spaces, so you can play around with these methods and see what works best for you.

I’ll break down several methods of how to hammer in tight spaces, and see how well they perform in a real-life scenario.

Method 1: Prybar & Hammer

This method works great when you need to drive a nail in a tight spot where there’s no way you can fit your hammer. Simply slide a prybar or chisel over the head of the nail, and use your hammer to strike the free end of the prybar or chisel.

hammering nail in tight spot with chisel
The chisel or prybar acts like a fulcrum and transfers the hammer’s force onto the nail. This method works great when you can’t get your hammer into that tight spot.

The hammer blow will transfer its force through the prybar or chisel and drive the nail into place.

This method works far better than trying to strike the nail with the side of the hammerhead, as it gives you leverage and allows for full hammer strikes instead of short, weak ones.

Method 2: Strike with Hammer Head Side

This method isn’t the greatest, but it can work in a pinch and will allow you to drive a few nails in a tight spot. If you don’t have enough room for a full hammer strike, then simply rotate your hammer 45 degrees and strike your nail with the flat side of the hammer head.

This method works better for smaller nails, that don’t really need that much force to drive in the first place. If your trying to hammer a 16-D framing nail, then this can be a bit of a chore, but if it’s just one or two nails, it’s no big deal.

Method 3: Use a Hairpin or Needlenose Pliers

This method is best when you’re trying to drive a nail in a tricky spot, but still, have enough room to actually swing the hammer. Think of installing a small piece of trim around a window or doorway.

holding small nail with needlenose pliers
Needlenose pliers, hairpins, a pencil eraser cut in half or a piece of cardboard with a hole in it all make excellent nail holders in tight spots.

Use the hairpin to hold the nail in place, and drive it into place using your hammer. There are a variety of variations on this method, including using a small piece of cardboard or plywood with a small hole cut in it, or even a pencil eraser with a slit cut through it.

Method 4: Use a Palm Nailer

Palm nailers are fantastic little tools that are specifically designed for driving nails in confined spaces like joist hangers, metal connectors, and other tight spots. They’ll be able to drive nails in places that hammers or nail guns simply cannot reach.

They hook up to an air compressor and can drive 3 ½” nails with ease. If you have a lot of nails you need to drive in confined spaces then shelling out the $50 to $100 for a mini palm nailer is easily justified.

Method 5: Use an Auto Hammer

If you don’t have an air compressor, or simply prefer to use a cordless tool, then consider getting your hands on a cordless auto hammer. Auto hammers are similar to the palm nailer described above, but instead of using pneumatic power, they’re powered with lithium batteries.

These tools are typically designed to be very compact and lightweight, so they make a good option when you need to drive nails in a tight spot.  They typically have adjustable heads, so they can be rotated to drive nails at either 0, 45, or 90 degrees.

Most use 12V batteries, which are even more compact than typical 18V cordless tools.

Denis Gardner

I've loved tinkering and fixing things for as long as I can remember. So, naturally, I gravitated towards DIY and home improvement when I bought my first home. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or messing around with my newest tool!

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