Use Screw or Nail the Wood?

Nail the woodIf you face the dilemma of wondering whether to use a screw or to punch nails in your piece of wood, you need to stop and think. You’ll soon realize that both screws and nails are great in terms of wood fasteners, particularly when you size them appropriately and install them correctly.

In the majority of cases, each can be used interchangeably to make a strong and durable connection. You can choose between them correctly after checking on the sizes of wood pieces to be fastened and whether you’re working on a weekend woodworking project or something big like erecting a building or home.

How to Make Your Choice

You can’t decide about using screws or nails without figuring out when to use each of these tools. This demands an understanding of the difference between shear strength and grip strength. 

  • What is Grip Strength?

Grip Strength refers to the ability of a screw or nail to pull wood together. You would need a lot of grip strength to when place force in a vertical direction on a fastener and the wood pieces you want to get together.

  • What is Shear Strength?

The total amount of force a fastener can hold from both sides is its shear strength.

When to Use Screws

  • In comparison with nails, screws can be quite brittle. By applying shear force to one side of a screw, you’ll find that it snaps. This proves that screws lack shear strength.
  • Even when wood expands or contracts, screws help to hold the pieces tightly together.
  • However, they have abundant tensile and grip strength. They keep pieces or planks of wood together when they come up with vertical force. Screws don’t break down when you apply vertical force to them. When you work on constructing kitchen cabinets or any other weight-bearing project, screws are the ideal choice.
  • Screws are the ideal choice for small and medium-sized projects like decking and woodworking. This is because the user can exercise maximum control when inserting them into wood or when pulling them out. With the help of cordless drills, screws are now easy to install.
  • Screws are preferred over nails by seasoned construction personnel because they are easier to remove if need be. However, pulling out a nail is tougher and can damage your overall project.
  • Screws are far easier to control than nails. You might want to hammer a screw in. Sure, you won’t find any problem there. But if you try this with a nail, you won’t get the exact position of the nail.
  • Screws are thicker than nails. This can cause the wood to split. To choose screws over nails, you might consider drilling holes into the wood.
  • Are you on a temporary job and are looking for a good fastener? Well, go in for screws as they can bond tighter than nails and are easier to remove than nails. Woodworkers prefer to work with screws, particularly when working on small projects like building jigs and installing hinges.
  • You can depend on the quality of screws to mount hardware and build cabinets, join parts of furniture, and mount trim and hardware. They also produce less vibration and are therefore less harmful, which makes them the one to go with when working with plaster, drywall, and other such delicate materials.

When to Use Nails

  • Nails are rich in shear strength. This is the reason why they can bend under great pressure. Also, you’ll find that they remain intact when you place shear force on them. However, they don’t have much tensile or grip strength.
  • Nails are usually used for large projects. Examples include installation of hardwood floors or house framing where they prove that they can be flexible under pressure, not snap as screws do.
  • Nails are ideal for these jobs as they are stronger than screws and more economical too. Besides, nail heads are smooth and can be inserted easily into wood, especially when hammered in using a hammer.
  • You should also opt for nails when you need to install clapboard siding. This is because they come with a thinner shaft and protect the wood from splitting when you hammer the nails in. Also, if you do some detailed work as in baseboards, moulding, or door jambs, you’ll find nails a better bet than screws.
  • When woodworkers began using pneumatic nailers and air compressors, nails became the choice of wood fastener because these tools helped get the job done faster.
  • For all structural and framing jobs, nails are the fasteners of choice.
  • Nails are known to be stronger than screws, their lengths being the same. They can also bear “shear” pressure so that the two pieces that you join together do not slide past each other.


For most applications, nails are preferred. On the other hand, structural screws are easier to use than bolting. However, in the end, everything depends on your selection of the fastener. Once you decide this, you can choose the right tool—screws or nails—to fasten the wood together. Much depends on the kind of project you have in hand and its unique demands. Based on that, you can decide whether to go ahead with nails or screws or use each of them for specific jobs.

Author: John Clax

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