Choosing The Right Nail For The Job

Knowing what nail fastener to use for your DIY or home improvement project can be confusing at times. You want to make sure it is strong enough to hold the structure, but not too big that it sticks out. Also, the different types of materials used which are suited for different situations like concrete, rain, roofing, and more can be confusing.

Luckily, the different kinds of nails can be explained simply, and by the end of this article, you will understand them better.

Sizing Nails Properly:

The first thing to understand is their size. Generally, the accepted rule is that a nail should be a bit more than 2 times the materials intended width. For example, if you need to go through a 1.5” piece of wood (standard 2×4), you want a 3” nail or bigger- and the standard size for it is 3.5”. 

While inches may seem the most intuitive to measure, the standard method is with ‘pennies’ long. A chart is listed below of the conversion where d is pronounced penny. The most important ones to know are usually 4d- 1.5”, 8d-2.5”, and most used in construction especially when working with dimensional 2×4 lumber- the 3.5 inches 16 penny.

2d = 1inch 9d = 2 ¾ inches

3d = 1 ¼ inches 10d = 3 inches

4d = 1 ½ inches 12d = 3 ¼ inches

5d = 1 ¾ inches 16d = 3 ½ inches

6d = 2 inches 20d = 4 inches

7d = 2 ¼ inches 30d = 4 ½ inches

8d = 2 ½ inches 40d = 5 inches

Types of Nails:

Aside from length measurements, there are different types of nails for different uses that are important to understand.

  1. Common Nails – These are mainly used in general construction and also commonly known as framing nails.  It has a wide flat head with a smooth surface and has a sharp diamond-shaped tip. These are very strong and good for structural applications, but their large head and unfinished exterior makes them not ideal for finishing work, or exterior work (unless specified to be galvanized).
  1. Finishing Nails – During the finishing process, this type of nail is the best choice because they are thin and easy to conceal. They have a head just large enough to hit, but small enough that you probably don’t notice it in all parts of your house; the trim boards and doorways, for example, likely use these to hold stuff together but remain concealed under the paint. 
  1. Brad Nails – This type of nail is like a finishing nail but even skinnier. They can easily be bent, so a nail gun is used to ensure a clean drive. They are not usually very large, nor can they hold much weight, but for small finishing work can work wonders. Also, bigger nails may split materials, where this may avoid it.
  1. Roofing Nails – These have large circular heads that have washer type shapes to keep roofing tiles down. They may also have a rubber part to help make a water type seal. These are often waterproof, and great for holding things down making them a very good job-specific fastener. 
  1. Concrete Nails –  Concrete nails are made of hardened steel which makes them heavier and durable. As the name suggests, this type of nail is used on materials such as concrete that regular nails may bend on. Also, for better holding strength they may be ribbed to provide more grip.

Nails Are Important

Choosing the right nail for the job can make a big difference in holding power, appearance, and use case. Nails have come a long way and can work wonders for their specific use- but you wouldn’t use a roofing nail to finish a house because of its large head. It is important to know these differences so you will know what to use when you build.

When a nail is driven through a piece of wood, it cuts through the very fibers that form the grain. If a nail is pulled out, the fibers tend to jam against the sides of the nail and lock it in place. This is the reason why nails are very effective in fastening wood. 

To drive nails effectively, check out what type of hammer is needed for your project.

R Dawg

Types of Tool Belt Accessories

Tool belt accessories are designed to provide additional storage, organization, and convenience for workers, carpenters, and DIYers who need to carry tools and supplies on

Read More »

1 thought on “Choosing The Right Nail For The Job”

  1. Pingback: 10 Tips To Keep Woodworkers Safe - R Dawg

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart

Get our free
2023 Tool Belt Buying Guide

We asked 100+ professional carpenters, woodworkers, and construction workers to  help you decide the best tool belt for you.