Selecting the right construction nails | Pro Construction Guide
Selecting the right construction nails

Selecting the right construction nails

All about construction nailsNails are used in countless applications, but not all construction nails are right for every job. Selecting the right construction nails is important and here is how to do it.

Selecting the right construction nails for the job is essential. All construction nails have a head, shank and point that vary to match the intended purpose.

Nail heads come in many shapes. They can be flat to provide a large striking surface and solid holding power; textured to prevent slippage, ideal for framing; and conical to use when countersinking the nail.

Point types are also varied. Diamond points, a general-purpose point for wood, are inexpensive and easy to start. Needle points are the sharpest point. Blunt diamond points minimize wood splitting.

Shanks can be smooth, which are the most common; ringed to provide a strong hold in soft- and medium-density woods; or fluted with a vertical thread for use on cinder blocks and other masonry, just to name a few.

Nails are usually made of steel, but aluminum, brass, nickel, bronze, copper and stainless steel fasteners are also available, and each has its preferred use. For example, aluminum nails resist rust and are frequently used on aluminum siding or screening and stainless-steel nails won’t corrode, or streak or stain wood, so they are used with cedar and redwood.

Many nails have finishes — galvanized, blued, or cemented — to help prevent rust or increase holding power.

Sizing construction nails

Once you pick the right nail type, you’ll need to decide on the correct size. Generally, a nail should be at least 2½ times the thickness of the material. Nails sizes date back to England and a time when nails were named for what 100 of a given size cost. For example, if 100 nails cost 4 pence, they were called “4-penny” nails. Today, the letter “d” denotes “penny.”

A 2d nail is 1-inch long; a 3d is 1¼ inches. For each size larger add ¼ inch in length up to 10d nails, which are 2-inches long. There are exceptions: 12d nails are 3¼ inches long, 16d nails are 3½ inches long, and 20d nails are 4 inches long. From there, each 10d adds another ½ inches inch, so a 50d nail is 5½ inches inches long.

The most common nail for outdoor projects is a galvanized 16d common nail. The most common roofing nail is 1¼ inches galvanized. For heavy construction use a 16d nail and to install thin plywood sheeting, use an 8d nail.

Selecting the right construction nails

At least two-thirds of a nail should be driven into the base or thicker material. For example, a 1×3 nailed to a 4×4 beam needs an 8 penny, or 8d, nail. An 8d nail is 2½ inches long, so 1¾ inches will go through the 1×3 and into the beam.

¾” casing 6d
⅝”finishing6d - 8d
½”finishing6d - 8d
⅜”finishing4d - 6d

Common types of construction nails

Common nailsmedium to heavy construction work, incuding construction of framing, nailing studs and joists, rough flooring and roof boardsflat head available in sizes 2d through 60d
Box nailslight construction such as windows and doors, and cornice and trim on a house

lighter and smaller in diameter than common nails
Finishing nailsinstalling paneling and trim panels where you do not want the head to showsmall, rounded head and lighter than common nails
Casing nailswhen the nail head must be hidden, such as cabinets and interior trimsmall conical or cupped nail head. smaller in diameter than common nails, thicker and heavier than finishing nails.
Annular threaded nailsbest for softwoods such as plywood or underlayment, also for studding and sidinghen driven, the threads separate the wood fibers, which then lock into the rings, also called ring shank nails
Roofing nailsinstalling shinglesmuch larger head than common nails, usually galvanized
Drywall nailsdrywall installationoften ringed with indented head and sharp ridges along the nail shaft
Masonry nailsfor use with concrete and concrete block (Should not be used where high strength is required. For brick, stone, or reinforced concrete use screws or lag bolts.)round, square, or fluted
Bradsfinishing, hanging molding or trimvery small diameter and head, 1” or less in length

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