Nails vs. Screws: Pros, Cons, and When to Use Which

When you’re a property enhancement amateur, it is straightforward to forget the information. It can sometimes take a small research or, failing that, a handful of bad experiences to instruct you why there are so several varieties of observed blades, sandpapers, and nearly any other content you may possibly need to have for your Do it yourself tasks.

When it will come to fasteners, the selection may possibly seem easy and insignificant, but the differences amongst nails and screws can considerably impact your completed solution. The subtleties can sometimes be difficult to understand, so we’ll assist you make the ideal choice every time with this breakdown of nails vs . screws.


Nails are sleek, pointed shafts with a flat head that you pound into location with a hammer or nail gun to fasten two or far more resources. Compared to screws, nails are considerably less high-priced, and with a nail gun, you can install them very quickly. Nail guns can hold a clip of nails, permitting you to drive them rapidly in succession, although drills usually only fit one particular screw at a time. You can purchase a collated screw gun for velocity, but even these can’t match the instant driving energy of a nail gun.

nails and hammer on wooden surface
Image Credit: analogicus, Pixabay

When to Use Nails

Nails are excellent for scaled-up development assignments in which the fasteners will be in location completely, particularly in structural framing and flooring. Over and above velocity and efficiency, nails also have a number of crucial overall performance rewards above screws in these circumstances.

Structural Framing

One gain of using nails in housing framing is that they can maintain a lot more bodyweight and much better stand up to the shear forces of two objects sliding towards each other. When place beneath pressure, they will bend but keep their integrity. Beneath the identical strain, screws will much more commonly snap in 50 percent.

In buildings where the load is bearing down on alone and constantly withstanding weather conditions forces and foot site visitors, nails will keep the framing pieces from separating. It’s from code to use everything other than nails for a house’s framing in numerous situations.

Trim and Flooring

For aesthetic purposes, you need to also pick nails when affixing trim and hardwood flooring. The main edge is that you can drive the nail head below the wooden area, hiding the fastener for a clear seem. A nail head can be significantly scaled-down than a screw head due to the fact it doesn’t have to accommodate a drill little bit, so the recessed hole is considerably much less conspicuous and easier to mask.

Pneumatic metal nails
Image Credit: ungvar, Shutterstock

Types of Nails

Nails come in several lengths, thicknesses, and variations to go over a great number of applications, from tiny brads for creating birdhouses to hefty galvanized roofing nails. Particular varieties, like masonry nails, are developed for certain resources, although other folks provide specific aesthetic or practical rewards. For case in point, handmade lower nails insert a decorative early-American factor to hardwood flooring.

Ring shank nails are one particular of the ideal all-all around nails to contemplate for development assignments. They function grooved rings underneath the pointed conclude. When pushed into wooden, the wood fills the grooves for a tighter maintain and a decrease probability of the nail backing out over time. Ring shanks function very best in softwoods, although an additional variation, the screw shank, is preferable for hardwoods.

  • Fast and easy to install
  • Can withstand bending and twisting
  • Forceful impact can cause imprecise installation
  • Cheaper than screws
  • Thinner shaft is less likely to split wood when driven
  • Much harder to remove than screws
  • Nail guns are more dangerous to operate than impact drills
  • Lower tensile strength can cause nailed materials to separate

Overview of Screws

Like a nail, a screw is a narrow shaft with a stage on one finish and a head on the other that joins two materials jointly. Rather of getting smooth, it attributes a thread that spirals into the components as it is driven and generates a sturdy grip. You can attach screws with a run drill or by hand with a screwdriver, utilizing a twisting motion to insert them.

The head of a screw has a economic downturn that matches the condition of a particular drill bit or sort of screwdriver. The most widespread screw heads have “ ” or “– “shapes to fit a Phillips head or flat-head bit. You can also discover screws that pair with square, star, or Allen bits. Other screws have combo heads that match several little bit types, whilst even now more have a bolt head for setting up with a nut driver.

Quick screws typically have a thread masking the total shaft, but more substantial screws at times characteristic a bare section underneath the head. The smooth surface helps prevent the screw head from driving way too far into the prime content. When screwing two components jointly, the screw spirals into the prime substance to a point before pulling the bottom substance in, making a rapidly, limited grip with no gap.

mechanical galvanized screws
Image Credit: Tolkachikoff, Shutterstock

When to Use Screws

Screws have considerably larger tensile toughness (or “grip”) than nails, so they resist two components pulling aside. Whilst it is not hard to pry aside two nailed-collectively parts of wood with your fingers, you’d have a harder time if a screw is keeping them in area.

Cabinetry and Temporary Projects

Screws are perfect for situations where components are under rigidity or have the drive of gravity pulling on them. Kitchen cabinetry is an excellent case in point, as the shelving and framing continuously feel gravity’s tension. Although nails might sooner or later loosen out of their holes, screws will hold fast for the lengthy term.

Yet another reward of screws in smaller tasks like cupboards is that they are less complicated to get rid of than nails. You can insert and remove a screw for temporary connections with no harming the joined materials. They’re perfect for items you may possibly want to consider out and replace at some stage to make adjustments, these kinds of as door hinges or protect plates.


Gravity and other external forces aren’t the only issues that pressure nails and screws. In the situation of wooden, organic expansion and contraction that arise with temperature fluctuations can pull and drive on fasteners.

Minor floorboard movement indoors is not an tremendous problem if you go away an appropriate enlargement gap, and nails will keep set in most circumstances. But in the elements, deck boards will aggressively pull on their fasteners. Large dampness ranges from rain and humidity will make the boards want to curl, and temperature changes will lead to them to grow. Unless of course you want to offer with popped nails in excess of and in excess of again, screws are the ideal choice.


Screws are greater for wall-hung and ceiling drywall primarily due to the fact they are considerably less likely to split the delicate gypsum materials than a nail effect and are much less inclined to loosening. They type a restricted hold among drywall and studs, and you will not have to deal with pesky nail pops that make you refasten your panels, utilize mud, and repaint.

Even though nail heads are less complicated to disguise underneath the surface area in harder components, the particular form of drywall screws makes it possible for you to compress the head below the drywall surface with no harming the paper go over or gypsum fill. That stops the drywall from breaking down and popping out away from the stud, properly ripping previous the screw.

To effectively set a screw in drywall, you need to use drywall screws with bugle-formed heads and a drywall screw location drill little bit (or “dimpler”). The bit is a standard Phillips head, but it has a ring close to it that helps prevent the screw from heading too considerably into the drywall. When you screw it in, the circle satisfies the drywall once the screw head is flush with the wall. The bit countersinks the screw and somewhat presses in the drywall around it. The freshly formed dimple is then simple to fill with mud so you can conceal the screw head.


Screws are an unfashionable selection for floorboards, but they’re the excellent remedy for subflooring. With plywood laid in excess of and attached to joists, the fasteners are topic to the up-and-down forces that result in nails to wiggle free of charge. By utilizing screws, you produce a restricted, lengthy-long lasting grip that will prevent any undesired squeaks underfoot.

Galvanized Self-tapping screws
Image Credit: yura borson, Shutterstock

Types of Screws

There are many screws for development and machining, and like nails, they appear in an array of lengths and widths to match a assortment of makes use of. A single well-liked design and style is a self-tapping screw, which functions a groove on the tip that pre-drills the gap, conserving time and protecting against the materials from splitting. You can also find numerous styles for distinct supplies, like wood, sheet metallic, masonry, drywall, and MDF.

  • High tensile strength creates a tight bond and prevents separation
  • Easy to remove and better for temporary projects
  • Easier to control the driving path
  • More time-consuming to install
  • Not as flexible as nails and more likely to snap
  • Screw heads are more pronounced and challenging to hide
  • More likely to split wood

When to Use Nails
  • Structural framing
  • Interior trim work
  • Flooring
  • Finishing carpentry
  • Permanent builds
When to Use Screws
  • Cabinetry
  • Drywall
  • Decking
  • Subflooring
  • Temporary builds

Nails vs. Screws: Does It Matter Which One I Choose?

In the scenarios above, picking 1 over the other has distinctive benefits. Still, there will be instances when comparing nails compared to screws won’t have an enormous impact. An outside fence, for instance, can often final a long time no matter of the fastener you use.

Other projects may possibly call for a blend of nails and screws. When constructing a chair, you might use screws for a fast maintain on the legs but use nails to attach thinner wood sections to prevent splitting. For an outside deck, it is usually a good idea to use nails for attaching joists to the body and screws for the deck boards. The determination often arrives down to no matter whether you want the fastener to be powerful and everlasting or limited and easy to eliminate.

Will Glue Hold Nails in Place Better?

An easy way to increase the tensile power of nails is to incorporate glue among the two resources. The adhesive will develop a small bond with the fastener and affix the resources for improved shear power. The nail will usually confront less anxiety due to the tighter bond amongst the two supplies, and it will be less probably to again out simply because the glue will maintain it in place.


It’s amazing how frequently the tiniest detail dictates the good quality of the grandest construction task. In the circumstance of nails compared to screws, what seems like a trivial decision can affect the cosmetics and integrity of your construct. In worst-situation scenarios, that translates to squandered cash, further hard work, and even security problems.

Luckily, producers make it straightforward to locate the right solution for the occupation by providing a assorted variety. By adhering to the solution directions and this guidebook on when to use nails compared to screws, you are going to make the most powerful and efficient selection each and every time.



Featured Picture Credit score: (L) Camera-guy, Pixabay | (R) cocoparisienne, Pixabay