Screws vs Nails in Woodworking (Full Guide)

Screws vs Nails in Woodworking

Screw and nails are some of the most commonly used tools in carpentry and woodworking. They are very mandatory as it can be challenging to undertake any project without them. They are used to firmly hold wooden pieces together, including kitchen cabinetry, outdoor decking, wooden house frames, and many more.

Although nails and screws serve the same functionalities, they tend to be different. It can be tricky to decide which among the two is superior as they have functionalities of which they are good.

To critically understand these popular fasteners and gauge which one is more superior, you need to understand two essential factors: shear strength and grip strength.

Grip Strength

Grip strength entails the ability of fasteners, including screws or nails, to join wood pieces together. Much grip strength is required when the force is vertically placed on pieces of wood being secured together with a fastener.

For instance, in decking, a vertical force is applied when on the decking joists and planks when you walk on top of them.

Shear Strength

Unlike grip strength, shear strength is described as the level of force that fasteners, including nails or screws, can handle from the sides. In decking, for instance, a shear force would be experienced by the fastener when connecting the deck frame and the joist; thus, you would be required to use one with much shear strength.

Which Fastener Is Ideal for Grip Strength?

As compared to nails, screws are ideal for grip strength as they are quite brittle. If adequate shear force is applied to the side of screws, they tend to snap.

The head of a screw tends to pop off while using much energy to drive them into a piece of wood, and this is because they lack much shear strength.

Although screws have minimal shear strength, they deliver tensile strength and an immense amount of grip. Screws are perfect for holding pieces of wood when vertical force is applied on them and even when the same type of force is applied with much pressure.

On the same note, if you are undertaking a woodworking project where gravity or weight, or force is applied downwards, the screws will be ideal.

Which Fastener is perfect with Shear Strength?

Under pressure, nails tend to bend. However, they rarely snap when a shear force is subjected to them. This is because nails have an immense amount of shear strength. As compared to screws, they have minimal grip as well as tensile strength.

A nail is mainly preferred when more force or pressure is applied from side to side. However, depending on the project, you could use both screws and nails.

The Choice of Tools and Size of the Project

The size of the project and tool selected for a particular woodworking project plays a significant role in determining the type of fastener to be used.

For large projects, including hardwood floors installation and house framing, most woodworking experts prefer using nails as less costly and normally stronger than screws.

Nails have shafts and smooth heads; thus, they can speedily and easily be inserted on a piece of wood using a nail gun or hammer.

On the other hand, screws are often preferred for small and medium-sized woodworking projects, including decking. This is because, when extracting and inserting, they provide more control.

Manual screwdrivers need a lot of energy as they use the torque force compared to the blunt force of woodworking hammers.

However, with the use of the state of the art power tool, including impact wrenches and cordless drills, screws have become easy and convenient to use.

Woodworking Projects Where Nails are Ideal

Some of the woodworking projects where the use of nails is preferred include wall framings and structural joining as they can withstand much pressure compared to screws that can easily snap.

Nails are also ideal for securing plywood sheathing for outdoor walls, attaching roofing and siding, and in the installation of hardwood floors. Ordinary nails are often an excellent choice for carpentry, framing, and construction.

To install cardboard siding, you should opt for box nails because they have a tiny shaft that helps to protect the wood from splitting when hit by a hammer. On the other hand, finishing and brad nails are excellent for detail work, including baseboards, door jambs, and securing molding.

Ring shank nails are perfect for woodworking projects that require superior gripping power. Unlike normal nails with smooth shafts and flatheads, ring shank nails boast of hybrid design. These robust fasteners combine the flexible strength of nails and the excellent gripping power of woodworking screws.

Ring shank nails are ideal for demanding woodworking projects. They can also be used on drywall and installation of subflooring instead of screws.

Woodworking Projects Where Screws are Ideal

Screws are ideal for temporary woodworking projects as they can tightly join pieces of wood that can be easily removed compared to when using nails.

Most woodworkers prefer screws as they can be utilized to build jigs; this involves temporary woodworking structures. Screws can be used to mount trim and hardware, cabinet making, and joining furniture, such as attaching the base to a tabletop.

Another impressive aspect about screws as they tend to be resistant to the withdrawal pressure; when removing screws, the surface will not be damaged in the process.

Screws and Nails can be Used Interchangeably.

Although these fasteners serve different functionalities, they can be used interchangeably in various woodworking projects. In small projects, where appropriate, you could opt to use either nails or screws.

However, it would be best if you were cautious enough not to damage the surface of the piece of wood that you are working on.

You should also consider the aspect of time; if you want to undertake a particular woodworking project within a short period, you should use a hammer. Screws are time-consuming as they require spinning to attach two pieces of wood firmly.


Both screws and nails are necessary fasteners that almost all woodworking experts and enthusiasts use to join pieces of wood. Whether to go for screws or nails is purely based on the type of project and on how big it is.

However, nails tend to be superior as they can be used in big and challenging projects with much ease and less time.


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Sokna Chan

Welcome to Carpentry is my passion. I understand that it can be challenging for those seeking to venture into this industry, especially if you are a novice. I hope you enjoy and get a lot of ideas from my website. Thank you so much for your time.

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