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Deck Nails vs Deck Screws

If you’re building your own deck you’ll find there are a ton of ways to fasten down the decking. You can go high-end and use hidden fasteners, you can go middle-of-the-road and go with screws, and you can go low-end and use nails.

I’m going to go ahead and right off the bat tell you to use screws. I’ve never used hidden fasteners and I’m sure they rock, but I’ve only built decks low to the ground, and to attach decking from underneath with hidden fasteners wasn’t an option (I KNOW there are things like Tiger Claw Hidden Deck Fasteners but I’ve never used those either).

But screws are more expensive.

I know, it’s about double, but it’s WORTH IT. A 5lb box of Deckmate star drive deck #9 x 2-1/2″ deck screws holds about 350 screws (MY ESTIMATE) and costs about $30/box. A 5lb box of Grip-Rite 2-1/2 in. 8D Hot-Galvanized Spiral-Shank Deck Nails has 530 nails costs about $17/box.

A 15’x24′ deck is 360 square feet. That would be about 600 screws. You’re looking at 2 boxes of something, nails or screws. That’s $60 for screws or $34 for nails. A $26 dollar difference. Not that much in the grand scheme of things.

Now let’s get to the common sense reason.

  1. You’re going to bend a lot of nails. And its going to PISS YOU OFF. You’re also going to waste time pulling the bent nails out, starting a new nail, cause guess what, deck nails are meant to stay put, not to be pulled out easily.
  2. You’re going to hit your finger with the hammer. You’re a DIYer, I’m a DIYer. It happens to everyone, even pros, and it fricking hurts. How many times do you think you’re going to hit your finger pounding 600 nails? 10? 20? 30 times? After about the 3rd or 4th time you’re going to start to go mental and swear a LOT. After the 10th time you hit yourself you’re going to do that thing where it hurts so bad that you plead in a whiny-just-about-to-cry voice “sweet mother of god please don’t let me hit my finger again”.
  3. You’ll mess up at least once. You’re going to mis-measure or leave too much gap, or mess up somewhere. And when you do you can back a screw out, move the board, slide it, swap it out, whatever, and screw it back in. Zip and done. Not with nails buddy. You’ll be pounding from underneath trying to work those spiral shank nails out all day.
  4. Nails will eventually work themselves out. And in a couple years you’re going to have to outsmart your 4-year-old into thinking it’s fun to find and hammer in all the nails that are popping up on grandpa’s deck that some guy built for him. WOO HOO isn’t this fun honey?

Julia hammering in grandpa's popping deck nails

Well I hope that helped you in the old debate about deck nails vs deck screws. Have your own insight or input? Feel free to leave a comment.


  • Ethan@OPC

    My deck was installed (roughly 15 years ago) with nails and I’m constantly going around with a hammer to put them back in. My neighbors probably think I have anger issues. I’m with ya on the nails vs screws argument.


    • Pete Fazio

      15 years isn’t that bad. When we took down Emily’s deck last spring we were saving the wood to use for a treehouse and to actually sell we painstakingly hand pulled every nail. The spiral shank nails were virtually impossible to pull out, they are awesome and I bet out of a nail gun they are great, but the thought of pounding all those nails or making a quick fix on a board in the wrong place makes me go for screws.


  • Jeff @ManoftheHouse

    1000% agree with you. Our house is roughly six years old and the deck is in awful shape for several reasons. The builders never sealed the deck and it sits in direct sunlight for the majority of the day. Since we bought the house a couple years ago, I’ve replaced boards and sealed it as best I could. And the #1 thing I’ve spent the majority of my time doing is removing the nails that have wiggled free and replaced with screws. There are still plenty of nails that are coming up and I try to get to them before my son goes out and plays on the deck and causes him to trip and fall. If I had the confidence to replace the deck myself, I would give it shot. But now I’m debating between doing another wood deck or going for something like Trex Decking or something similar. Any thoughts on that?


    • Pete Fazio

      I would always advise to go for the best materials your budget allows along with a balance in regards to value it will add to your house. I used beautiful pressure treated boards once and even though they were laid properly based on the tree rings and grain of the wood, they are still cupping and some are warping. I guess nothing is perfect.


  • MsJA

    Thanks for explaining the difference with screws vs nails for a deck. I need to do fasten some loose boards on my deck (tried the nail thing, lol) i will use deck screws from this day forward…lol


  • Don shearer

    Don’t underestimate nails. That is the correct nail. Ring neck. Galvanized and installed with a framing nailer that you just added to your tool collection with the money you saved over buying screws. I have built over 100 decks with these nails and they never move never split the wood like screws, they cost less and install in about 20% of the time of screwing the deck boards. They never corrode either. Don’t be duped. Use the 3 in the middle and two on the end rule for perfect results. I have never had a customer complain. They are so tight you will break the board getting them out. Happy decking!


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