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Nails are utilized in construction as pinning devices which are driven into, most commonly, wood with a hammer or mechanical gun. Nails are commonly the most popular means of fastening as they can be installed quickly, require no predrilling, and are inexpensive. A common rule of thumb for sizing nails, is 3x the thickness of thematerial being fastened. Depending on the application, nails shanks can be ringed, serrated, barbed, threaded, fluted, or twisted.

rink shank.jpg
smooth shank.jpg

Cement coated shafts are used when resistance to withdrawal is desired. Sharp pointed nails have good holding strength but can split some wood types, in which case a blunt end is used which promoted punching instead. In a structural situation where force must be transferred through the fasteners successfully, the connection must be adequate based on connection length, diameter of the nails, and wood material type/strength being utilized. Generally nails in the US are measured by ‘pennies’ which is abbreviated simply ‘d’ and is thought to be a throwback to the old pricetag of certain boxes of 100 nails. Despite their size difference, common nails, box nails, and finish nails are all measured by the penny or ‘d’ connotation. Nails are most commonly furnished ‘bright’ which are plain, uncoated steel bu they are also available in aluminum, copper, brass, zinc, and stainless steel. If exposed to weather nails should be corrosion resistant (hot-dip galvanized, aluminum, and zinc-coated). Zinc-coated, while resistant to moisture, really are not suitable for exterior use. Corrosion resistant nails are most important on exterior siding, trim, and decks, etc.






Stainless Steel



Machine-driven nails have prevailed as the most commonly used approach to fastening due to the significantly increased productivity. Power driven nails commonly come in collated linear arrays for easy gun loading and the guns are commonly powered pneumatically with an air compressor.


Power-driven nail gun types can accommodate finish nails as well, even recessing them slightly into the substrate so they’re ready for filling.

Powder-driven nail guns utilize gunpowder charges to drive nails into concrete or steel. 


The 3 major methods of nailing are face-nailing, toe-nailing, and end-nailing. Face nailing is the strongest of the three methods. End nailing is generally fairly weak, typically only utilized to align framing members until gravity and sheathing attachments make a stronger connection. Toe nailing is quite strong as well, commonly figuring in at 5/6 the strength of face nailing of the same size.


The following is a listing of nail sizes based on the ‘penny rating:

4d – 1-1/2″

6d – 2″

8d – 2-1/2″

10d – 3″

12d – 3-1/4″

16d – 3-1/2″

20d – 4″

There are a host of different types of nails. below is a description of each and their uses and characteristics:

Common Nails (smooth) – Uses: Typical rough framing connections, general construction. Most commonly used sizes are 16d, 10d, and 8d. (2d-60d)

2d=840ea/lb 4d=530ea/lb 6d=300ea/lb – 8d=105ea/lb – 9d=95ea/lb – 10d=65ea/lb – 12d=60ea/lb – 16d=44ea/lb – 20d=30ea/lb


Box Nails (smooth) – Uses: Typical rough framing connections, wood shingles, some types of siding, light construction (2d – 40d)

2d=1010ea/lb 3d=620ea/lb – 4d=450ea/lb 6d=230ea/lb – 7d=200ea/lb – 8d=130ea/lb  – 10d=88ea/lb – 12d=80ea/lb – 16d=70ea/lb – 20d=52ea/lb

Casing Nails (annular) – Uses: Attaching finish components. Heads set below wood surface with steel punch, later filled with wood putty, finish work. (2d – 40d)

2d=625ea/lb – 4d=490ea/lb – 6d=250ea/lb – 8d=145ea/lb – 10d=95ea/lb


Brad Nails (smooth) – Attaching finish components. Heads set below wood surface with steel punch, later filled with wood putty, finish work.

Finish Nails (annular) – Attaching finish components. Heads set below wood surface with steel punch, later filled with wood putty, finish work. (2d – 40d)

2d=1350ea/lb – 3d=850ea/lb – 4d=550ea/lb – 5d=500ea/lb – 6d=300ea/lb – 8d=190ea/lb – 10d=125ea/lb – 16d=90ea/lb –


Flooring nails (spiral/annular) – Uses: Attaching floor boards.

6d=177ea/lb – 7d=158ea/lb – 8d=142ea/lb

Deformed (Ring) Shank Nails (deformed/ring/annular) – Uses: drywall, sheathing, subflooring, underlayment.


Concrete/Masonry Nails (square or spiraled/fluted) – Uses: Concrete and masonry – Can be driven short distances for furring strips, sleepers, etc. Are typically tempered high carbon steel.

Cut Nails (smooth wedged) – Uses: Attaching finish wood flooring. Square tips punch through wood rather than wedge, minimizing wood splitting


Roofing Nails (annular) – Uses: Attaching asphalt roof shingles. Large heads which prevents tearing of soft asphalt shingles.

2d=225ea/lb – 3d=190ea/lb – 4d=165ea/lb – 5d=145ea/lb

Double Headed Nails(annular) – Uses: Temporary construction for easy removal, concrete forms, etc.


Spikes – Uses: Fastening heavy timbers

10d=43ea/lb – 12d=39ea/lb – 16d=31ea/lb – 20d=23ea/lb – 30d=18ea/lb – 40d=14ea/lb 50d=11ea/lb – 60d=9ea/lb

Power Driven Studs – Uses: For driving into concrete or steel.

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