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Nails Screws Deck? When to screw and when not to

Good vs Evil. Coke vs Pepsi. Blonde vs Brunette. Nails vs Screws. These are some of life’s essential dichotomies. When it comes to building your new deck, you don’t want to make the wrong choice.

So let’s go over your options when it comes to choosing nails or screws for your deck.

Note: These tips are for softwoods like cedar, redwood and pine. Attaching hardwood decks requires different techniques.

Use Nails For Framing

Nails are the better choice for attaching the joists to the deck frame because they won’t bend or snap as easily as screws will when the joists jostle a bit through the years. This video by Popular Mechanics explains why:


Nails come in a variety of sizes and uses, but you can shop for decking specific nails. While a bit more expensive, in Colorado it’s wise to use double-dipped galvanized nails that won’t rust or corrode over the life of  your deck. Here’s a summary of the nails you should choose from:

Framing: Use 10d or 16d common, spiral, or ringshank nails or decking screws in 2x stock, 8d or 10d box or ringshank nails or shorter deck screws in thinner stock. Attach framing hardware with the fasteners supplied by the manufacturer, 16d nails, or 3-inch deck screws. Check with your building inspector — some codes prohibit attaching framing connectors with screws.

Source: bhg.com

Once you have your joists and framing done, it’s time to think about the deck boards.

How To Screw In Deck Boards

Screws are the superior choice for screwing down deck boards to the joists. The threading helps keep the attachment sound over years of weight and contact to which your deck will be subjected.

One of the most important factors when using screws is that they won’t creep up out of the holes like nails will. Trust me, you don’t want to stub your toe on one of those.

Whether you’re using 5/4″ or 2 x 4 deck boards, you don’t want to use screws shorter than 2.5 – 3.5 inches.

We recommend the Guard Dog Exterior Wood Screws for softwood applications. We think these are the best screws for cedar and other softwoods because they are guaranteed not to corrode or “bleed” on the wood.

You want to put 2 screws per joist when you screw down decking.

How To Hide Nails Screws Deck Hardware

Use wood plugs to hide your screws if you don’t want to use the expensive hidden fasteners, or deck clips, that many people use on their exotic hardwood decks. This is a budget-friendly, DIY method that will look great. You just put a wood plug in each screw hole, chisel the end off, sand, stain and your done. Let Ron show you how:

Hopefully this clears up some of the confusion on whether to use nails or screws for softwood decking. If you’re reading this then you probably already have your materials picked out, but if not, then give us a call to figure out if  softwood, hardwood or composite decking is best for you.