The type of nail you need will be dependent upon the type of project on which you are working. With so many different kinds of nails, it can be quite daunting knowing where to start, especially if you are not overly familiar with handiwork and DIY projects. Using a nail of the wrong size or design can create connection issues, making things unsafe. This guide will identify the most popular types of nails and when to use them.
Nails come in a variety of sizes classed with the Penny system. The Penny system was used many years ago in England, with the pennies representing how many nails could be bought of a certain size. Whilst this system is not overly clear, here is a quick breakdown of common nail sizes:
- 2d – 1 inches
- 3d – 1 ¼ inches
- 4d – 1 ½ inches
- 5d – 1 ¾ inches
- 6d – 2 inches
- 8d – 2 ½ inches
- 10d – 3 inches
- 12d – 3 ¼ inches
- 16d – 3 ½ inches
- 20d – 4 inches
- 30d – 4 ½ inches
- 40d – 5 inches
- 50d – 5 ½ inches
A nail’s design can vary greatly, but all nails share features like the shank, head and tip. Typical nail head designs include:
- Flat heads – this is most often found on nails, and once the nail is driven into the material, the head remains visible. However, as the head is typically quite large, it provides a surface that is easy to drive and increases its holding power.
- Checkered flat heads – the large head has a checkered design which helps prevent the nail from slipping when being driven at difficult angles.
- Countersunk heads – these types of heads are made to be driven into the material so they can be concealed.
Nail tips can also vary:
- Dull tips – best to prevent the splitting of wood, but requires much more power to drive them.
- Diamond tips – offering a slight point that is slightly dulled, these tips are great for use on a range of materials and general purposes.
- Long diamond tips – these tips are very narrow and almost have a needle-like tip, so splitting is never a concern.
- Blunt pointed tips – these tips are cut so they are completely blunt, making them ideal for flooring.
The types of shanks found on nails are designed with specific purposes in mind:
- Standard – features a smooth shank, also referred to as a bright shank, which holds well and is found on a wide range of nails.
- Annular/ring – raised rings form the shank which makes them difficult to remove once penetrated into surfaces.
- Barbed – these kinds of shanks help to keep the nail secure and are often used on hardwood materials.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the most popular types of nails:
As you may have guessed, this nail is common, therefore it is used for a range of purposes in general construction, commonly framework and other structural works. Common nails are thick and strong, but do run the risk of splitting wood if not used carefully. As a tip, some people dull the tip of the nail to prevent the wood splitting. Common nails are generally used when strength and functionality are key rather than aesthetics, as the nail’s head will show.
A variation of the common nail, the duplex nail is best for temporary purposes like scaffolding and staging. Unlike other nail types, this nail features two heads which helps them to be removed with ease. Their double head also makes them popular when preparing for storms, as they can be removed once the storm threat no longer is an issue.
Box nails are quite similar to common nails, however, their shank is narrower. The narrow shank makes them better suited to thinner types of wood as they are far less likely to split the wood. Box nails are not ideal for structural use as they lack the strength that common nails offer. You will often find box nails galvanized to prevent corrosion.
As the name suggests, finishing nails are made for finishing work. They have a barrel-shaped head which is small, helping it go just below the surface of the wood. Finishing nails are ideal for the finishing of crafts and furniture. A casing nail is similar to a finishing nail, but it is just slightly larger so it is ideal for exterior finishing. Both casing and finishing nails are galvanized to avoid corrosion.
This type of nail is another finishing nail that has a small shank and head, preventing the splitting of wood. They are often used for the frames of buildings and other light finishing for woodwork. Due to their small appearance, when they are sunk into wood it is easy to fill around where it is, creating a clean finish.
A roofing nail features a large, round head with short, heavy shanks. As these types of nails are responsible for securing roofing materials, they are designed to keep them in place; they are also galvanized to prevent corrosion. You may also see roofing nails referred to as clout nails.
These kinds of nails can differ in their length and size, but are designed to be driven through brick and concrete. For this reason, they have been made of hardened steel to stop them from snapping whilst driving. For safety purposes, it is always best to wear safety goggles or some form of eye protection when driving masonry nails as it is common that concrete or brick shards are created.
Cut Flooring Nail
Cut flooring nails are very strong and have a slight tapered appearance from the head to the tip. These nails are designed to install flooring, but for ease of use, they are often used with a flooring gun.
Annular Ring Nail
Designed for fastening clapboards or shingles, annular ring nails are typically made from galvanized steel to prevent rusting. They feature grooves throughout the shank of the nail, which helps them grip to wood.
This kind of nail is most commonly used with plywood, as the little rings that run along the length of the nail help keep it secure. The nail head has a cupped appearance, so it is easy to fill and make aesthetically pleasing.