Are nails still used for construction work?

I had a barn built last year. There’s not a single nail in it. All screws and threaded bolts.

With the availability of high quality, compact, cordless drills & drivers, screws w/ square drives and star drives, etc. is there ever a reason to use nails for construction?

Nails are still used in wood-frame construction and I think I’m safe in saying that they’re still the primary fastener of choice. Even with electric screwdrivers/drills, a good framer is still faster with a hammer and nail guns can be even faster than that.

Well, here in Brazil people still use plenty of nails for quick and cheap construction. Other than the ease of use (just hit it with a hammer) and cost I really don’t see a reason to use nails. Screws are stronger and easier to remove, but they can sometimes crack certain types of wood. I use nails on woodworking when I am bending wood, but I remove them when the glue dries.

Nails are still very common in construction of houses. Asphalt roof shingles are nailed. Most types of siding are nailed. Most framing is nailed together. Hardwood floors are nailed to the subfloor. Two of the reasons that nails are still so prevalent in construction even though screws make for stronger connections are that nail guns are faster than drivers and there are a lot of materials that wear out over time and need to be replaced. It’s much easier to remove things that have been nailed than to remove things that have been screwed on.

With a pneumatic framing nailer, you can put in about a dozen nails in the time it would take to drill one screw. So yes.

Plus nails are cheap and have better shear strength.

Nails are cheap to buy. Rolling threads is an extra manufacturing step, which adds cost. They seem to work well enough for most folks: houses built with nails are still standing after decades.

They’re also fast to install (with a pneumatic nail gun), so less labor cost.

Someone who is custom-building a house or other structure and is really, really particular about squeaky floors may specify threaded fasteners, but if you’re a developer building a subdivision full of spec houses, it’s gonna be nails all the way down.

I agree, and I think trying to frame a house or even an interior room with screws would be a major pain in the ass.

Indeed. Why someone would use screws on a barn is, well, :confused:.

The only thing that I can think of is that aren’t many interior walls, but still… A barn??? I suspect labor costs would double.

Even hanging sheetrock to metal studs with screws is a time-consuming PITA. I can’t imagine building anything of size with screws. A barn? Really? That’s some dedication.

Good point. Most trim (window and door casing trim, crown moldings, etc) are put on with small, nearly headless, nails. They’re basically invisible when sunk into the wood, so the trim looks OK, and the trim can be easily pulled off when the door or window needs repair. Usually, they can be put right back with the same nails into the same holes.

Screws would be either butt-ugly (because the heads are visible) or a giant, giant pain in the ass to remove (if the heads are covered with filler). In either case, much much longer to install. And there’s no need for the strength of screws if you’re just holding a scrap of molding onto a window frame.

There’s also these things, which probably have a name other than “nail plate”.

Those are used for securing butt joints, usually in stuff like roof trusses.

I assumed he was talking about a pole barn, with a screwed on metal roof and bolts holding the horizontal framing together. Even so, I would expect a pole barn to have roof trusses, and if I were making those, I would use a framing nailer. I would also be inclined to attach the siding with nails, but screws wouldn’t be too bad for that.

Called finishing nails for those who may not know.

or pins.

Screw construction can be weaker then nail construction. Because the screws can not slide as nails can at joints in and out a bit screws have the potential to break at joints. For some applications a nail would be stronger.

I don’t think nails have better shear strength. That’s primarily a feature of the fastener material and diameter. I suppose the threadform might give some stress concentrations, but I wouldn’t think it that significant.

What is true is that nails provide good shear strength, but not much tensile or compressive strength to the joint. Because compression is the material of the wood, the nail doesn’t play a role. And tension relies on friction of the nail to the wood - not much since the nail is designed to slide straight in.

“Weaker” is a poor descriptor. What your actually saying is that nails provide a weaker joint because they allow shifting within the joint, which relieves some of the stresses the more rigid structure would build. Thus, the shifting allows the structure to withstand alignment adjustments that the more rigid joint would not. The overall effect is to make the joint hold up with nails when it might not with screws.

In other words, because screws see tensile as well as shear forces, they get subjected to higher loads than the nails would. The nailed joint would let the wood slip in the tensile direction to relieve that loading. Just means you need bigger or more screws.

Not sure exactly what you’re getting at, but sheetrock is generally installed with screws to wood studs, not nails, so I’m not seeing much of a difference. Sure, you use a different type of screw, but it’s still a screw. And you know how the old saying goes: A screw by any other name… :slight_smile:

                    DIA     SHEAR
* 16d common nail  .162”    138 lb. 
* #8 screw         .164     90 lb.  

(snipped by me)

Nails have better shear strength.
Quoted from the NDS (National Design Specification for Wood Construction, by the American Forest and Paper Association and American Wood Council).