Woodshop Wednesday: 12 Fasteners and When to Use Them

Carpenters have a lot of ways to connect one thing to another. Here’s a look at some of the different types of nails, screws, and staples we have on site… and the applications of each one.

Sinker

1. Sinker nails. Big beefy nails you pound in with a hammer. Terry sometimes calls them “12-penny” nails which refers to their length. Used for rough framing when you don’t have a nail gun handy, you want more control, or you need extra friction to hold lumber together really tight.

2. Framing nails. As described in A Tale of Two Nail Guns, these are a carpenter’s bread and butter for connecting stud walls, beams, and rafters. They’re super convenient to use with a nail gun; their main shortfall compared to sinker nails is that they’re too smooth to “suck” two pieces of lumber together.

3. Sheathing nails. Also covered in A Tale of Two Nail Guns. Used to hold plywood and OSB to rough framing. The ring shanks provide extra friction so the nails won’t pull out easily.

4. Coil nails. Used mainly for attaching shingles, via a special nail gun that pounds lightly so as not to break the roofing.

NailGun

5. Roofing nails. Basically a loose version of coil nails, you knock them in with a hammer rather than a nail gun. The short shank and wide flat head makes them great for not just roofing but also siding, and even around the perimeter of windows and doors.

6. Joist hanger nails. Used to hold up, yes, joist hangers. They have a beefy shank so they work particularly well in shear and don’t bend.

7. Trim nails. Used to connect visible aluminum flashing to the structure. They’re teeny-tiny and the same color as the flashing, so an onlooker can’t see them.

Trim

8. Common screws. In general, you want to use nails for permanent construction and screws for temporary assemblies. Screws are easy to drive in and out as necessary, but the threads make them brittle so they tend to break in shear rather than bending. For things like scaffolds, cleats, and braces that only receive a handful of stress cycles before they’re taken down, common screws are perfect.

9. Drywall screws. They’re shorter and skinnier than common screws with a tapered head that just penetrates the drywall’s outer layer. Ideally it sits flush with the wall but not too deep.

10. LumberLock screws. An exception to the rule, these enormous screws are intended for permanence. They can force framing into place when hammers and sledges can’t, and they also provide peace of mind on important assemblies like ledger beams for the porch.

Staples

11. Staple-gun staples. For housewrap, roof underlayment, and other meshes. Quantity beats quality here, as the sheets of material must simply be held up in as many points as possible. Staples come in long clips, which slide right into your staple gun. The clips break apart easily so handle them carefully.

12. Cable staples. For holding electrical and other cables in place on a stud or ceiling joist. They have a flat crossbar so you can hammer them home.

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