Liquid Nails vs Wood Glue Comparison — Main Differences, Pros & Cons

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Have you ever been in the middle of a woodworking project and wondered which adhesive to use between liquid nails vs wood glue? Choosing the right one can be a headache, especially if you’re unfamiliar with the differences between the two.

To save you a lot of hassle and frustration down the line, I have outlined the pros and cons of each adhesive in this guide!  

A Little Note About the Terms

To begin with, it’s worth noting that “construction adhesive” is a more generic term for what is commonly referred to as “liquid nails.” In fact, “liquid nails” are simply a brand name for a specific type of construction adhesive.

applying Gorilla wood glue

In this discussion, I’ll use the term “liquid nails,” but please note that I’m broadly speaking about construction adhesive and not endorsing the Liquid Nails brand specifically.

About Wood Glues

Wood glue is a type of adhesive specifically designed for woodworking projects. It is typically used to bond wood and materials together but can also be used on other porous materials.

Although specialized industries still use animal glues in woodwork conservation and musical instrument-making, synthetic glues has become more popular due to their affordability, better adhesion, and ethical production.

Wood Glue Types

Aliphatic Resin

It’s particularly useful for joining pieces of wood together as it has a fast setting time and blends in well with the natural color of the wood.

Cyanoacrylate

It is a type of fast-acting adhesive commonly known as super glue or CA glue. Also, it is a clear and quick-bonding adhesive that forms a strong and durable bond when it comes into contact with moisture.

wood glue

Polyurethane

Polyurethane glue is commonly used because of its diverse joining and bonding capabilities. It can be used to bond not only wood but also products like glass, textiles, and ceramics, making it a versatile all-around glue. 

Epoxy Resin

It has high-temperature resistance, with some formulas being able to withstand temperatures up to 350 degrees Fahrenheit, as well as its resistance to salt water. 

The primary drawbacks of epoxy resin are its cost and the mixing process, which requires careful attention. 

Polyvinyl Acetate (PVA)

PVA, also referred to as hobby glue or white glue, is probably the most well-known synthetic glue due to its user-friendliness and wide availability. 

applying wood glue

PVA glue has a stronghold and is non-toxic. However, it can be challenging to fix as it provides a weak surface for adhesion once it has hardened.

Usage and Material Compatibility

Raw wood requires a stronger bonding glue as it tends to absorb the glue, whereas varnished wood needs glue that can stick to its surface. 

PVA wood glue is ideal for normal adhering projects that involve two untreated pieces of wood. 

Epoxy glue is ideal for outdoor projects and joints that don’t fit perfectly because it can fill in tiny gaps and is water-resistant. Also, polyurethane glues can affect the joint’s appearance, but they can work for indoor and outdoor applications.

Moreover, other wood glues are ideal for fixing skirting boards or other projects that require no visible fixings. There are also waterproof wood glues ideal for outdoor applications. 

Although there are differences between liquid nails and wood glue, combining both is preferred for better results. 

Polyurethane wood glue

Using nails or traditional joints along with glue gives a better connection between flexibility and strength, making it suitable for fixing large pieces of wood, screws/nails or reinforcing joints, decoration, and craft projects. 

Speaking of joints, check these related articles out

Wood Glue Pros & Cons

Pros

Cons

About Liquid Nails

This is a construction adhesive brand designed for heavy-duty bonding applications. It is typically used to bond various construction materials, such as wood, metal, concrete, brick, and drywall.

applying liquid nails

Liquid nail or liquid glue is a polyurethane-based adhesive, which means that it has a high level of bonding strength and can withstand a wide range of environmental conditions, including temperature extremes, moisture, and vibration.

Usage and Material Compatibility

A liquid nail is particularly useful when bonding materials other than wood. It can be used on non-porous surfaces or materials such as metal, plastic, vinyl, and ceramic. 

That said, if you’re working with raw wood or stressed joints, a quality wood glue is the more reliable choice.

Liquid Nails Pros & Cons

Pros

Cons

Wood Glues and Liquid Nails Side-by-Side Comparison

These are both adhesive products commonly used in woodworking and construction projects. But here’s a side-by-side comparison of the two adhesives. The table below outlines the differences between wood glue and liquid nails. 

Characteristics Wood Glue Liquid Nails 
Dry time15 to 60 minutes24 hours to 1 week
Cure timeOne daySeven days
Stenght/Bond3,000 PSI3,600 to 4,000 PSI
VOC levelLittle to noneLow to high depending on formulation
Shelf LifeOne yearTwo years
SafetyCan be used safely both indoors and outdoors.It may be necessary to adhere to safety procedures.
Primary UseSuitable to secure glue wood to wood, as well as to secure bond metal, plastic, or porcelain to wood, although for these purposes, epoxy would be a more appropriate adhesive.Effective in adhering to a wide range of construction materials, particularly in situations where the use of fasteners is challenging.
Cleaning UpDamp rag or waterPetroleum jelly [1] or oil

Drying Time

applying Titebond Premium glue to wooden board

Wood glue typically sets within 30 minutes to 1 hour. However, I’d advise waiting a full 24 hours before applying any pressure to the bonded surfaces.

On the other hand, liquid nails often need at least 24 hours to dry, and some tasks might even require a few weeks before you can proceed with additional work.

Winner: Wood Glue

Safety and Fumes

The majority of glues, being composed of PVA, are typically safe to use in areas with inadequate ventilation. However, certain liquid types may have solvents that release harmful fumes when damp and can be flammable if not fully dry. 

Winner: Wood Glue

Cost

A bottle of glue can cost around $4 to $8 for a 16-ounce bottle. On the other hand, a tube of liquid nails can cost around $4 to $10 for a 10-ounce tube. This means that the cost of a liquid nail is generally higher than wood glue.

Winner: Wood Glue

Ease of Application

Applying wood glue is easy and simple to remove from hands, if necessary. In contrast, nails are a thick, brown substance that usually comes in a large cardboard tube, much like caulk. 

These construction adhesives require a caulk gun for application, which can be inconvenient, especially if the caulk gun is not very good. This may result in continuously struggling with the caulk gun to get any adhesive to come out.

Winner: Wood Glue

Storage

Wood glue types typically come in a plastic bottle with a screw-on cap or a squeeze bottle with a nozzle. On the other hand, liquid nails typically come in a tube that needs to be inserted into a caulk gun for application. They both come in good packaging. 

using wood glue

Cleaning Up

Compared to liquid nails, wood glue is unquestionably simpler to clean up. If liquid nails adhere to skin or any surface, they can be challenging to remove and often necessitate oil or petroleum jelly. Conversely, soap and water are usually sufficient to remove wet glue.

Winner: Wood Glue

Removal on Skin

If the glue is still wet, it can be easily washed off by simply rinsing your hands with water. Liquid Nails, on the other hand, has both latex-based and solvent-based versions. The latex-based version can be washed off with soap and water, just like glue. 

However, the solvent-based must be removed by rubbing mineral oil or petroleum jelly into the skin area. 

Winner: Wood Glue

Uses

Liquid nail is specifically designed for robust construction projects and can be used on concrete-to-concrete without issue, whereas glue is best suited for light DIY applications or for school glue. But for projects requiring stronger bond, opt for a strong wood glue

Winner: Liquid Nail

Bonding Strength

Liquid nails or carpenter’s glue are created specifically for heavy-duty construction work, resulting in more excellent adhesive properties than wood glue. 

attaching wooden board with liquid nail

Winner: Liquid Nail

Wood Glues and Liquid Nails: When You Should Use Each?

Are You Bonding Two Wood Pieces Together?

I highly suggest using wood glue when bonding wood to wood indoors where a strong, clear bond is needed. Liquid Nails should be used when adhering wood to other materials in high-moisture or heavy-duty applications where a stronger, more versatile bond is required.

Are You Filling or Sealing Gaps Between Wood Pieces?

For minor gaps and joints, I recommend you use wood glue. But when dealing with larger gaps or high-stress situations, I’d suggest opting for two-part epoxies or other construction adhesives, such as Liquid Nails. They’re just better equipped for those challenges.

Also Read

Conclusion

Ultimately, the choice between wood glue vs liquid nails will depend on the specific project requirements, the materials used, and personal preference. 

However, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each adhesive can help ensure that you choose the right adhesive for the job at hand and that the final result is a strong, durable, and long-lasting bond. 

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Robert Johnson is a passionate furniture maker & carpenter, sought after for his knowledge on the craft.
You’ve probably seen his down-to-earth wisdom in USA Today, Bobvila, Family Handyman, and The Spruce, where he has shared commentary and guidance on various woodworking topics.

Robert is the brain behind Sawinery, where he aims to share tips, tricks, and a passion for all things carpentry.

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