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What Kind of Fasteners for Installing Deck Boards

What Kind of Decking Fasteners Should You Use?

wooden deck boards

Building a deck is one of the most rewarding home additions you can make to your house. Not only do they add value, but they are also an excellent place to lounge and relax or throw that summer barbecue for all the people who just won’t fit inside. One of the issues that many DIY deck builders come across when building their deck is determining what kind of fasteners to use.

There are several versions of fasteners that can be used depending on the effect you want to achieve. To demystify the deck building process, let’s go over the types of fasteners that can be used for installing deck boards.

nails vs screws

Nails or Screws?

Screws or Nails is one of the biggest questions when it comes what type of fastener to use. We’ve already gone over that in-depth in another blog post: Screws vs. Nails. The basic premise is that using each depends on the kind of force acting on them. For example, deck framing often uses nails. While nails often seem inferior to screws, they have three benefits that make them worth using in your framing:

  • Shear Strength
  • Cost
  • Speed of Install

Nails have one huge advantage over screws when building a deck – they bend. Decks are often subject to the force of heavy winds. Due to the way wind can get beneath a deck and pull on it, nails will bend and prevent the deck from moving while screws, which have a significantly lower shear strength, will break. So normally a combination of screws and nails are best for the framing process.

For deck boards, screws are the fasteners you want to use for holding strength. They provide excellent retention of the boards and prevent the dreaded board squeak that occurs when nails are used. Board squeak is what happens when there is distance between the deck board and the frame. As the board travels while weight is applied to it, the squeaking occurs. Using screws will limit this, as they have much better holding strength than nails.

Deck screws have a shank, or shoulder, and sometimes a notched point. This notch point is used to remove the need for drilling a pilot hole, however, we still recommend drilling pilot holes where-ever possible to prevent accidental splitting of the wood.

316 and 305 stainless steel deck screws

The Best Fasteners for Deck Boards

305 or 316 Stainless Steel Deck Screws

Stainless steel deck screws usually come in 305 stainless steel. This is a must for deck screws. Deck boards need to have corrosion resistant screws because they are constantly exposed to the elements. If you are in a highly corrosive environment, such as within 20 miles of a body of salt-water, make sure to use 316 stainless steel deck screws. Having the right grade of deck screw is essential for a long-lasting application.

Painted Head Deck Screws

painted head wood screws

Painted head deck screws are the next level of deck screws you will want to consider. They often come in multiple shades of brown but can also be found in other colors. These screws are still stainless steel but have a painted head designed to camouflage them in wood. In many cases, they are not a perfect match but tend to be much less noticeable than the silver of a standard stainless steel screw head.

Wood Plugs

decking wood plugs kit

Wood Plugs are an excellent in-between for a hidden fastener system. Each hole drilled in the deck boards is counter-sunk into the wood. The screw is then installed below the surface of the wood. Once the screw is fully installed a small wood plug, that’s the same diameter as the hole drilled, is glued into the hole. This hides the fastener completely. If you want a specific color, there are also tools to make your own wood plugs, so they match the wood perfectly every time.

Hidden Decking Fasteners

Ipe clips hidden decking fastener system

Hidden decking fasteners are the newest and most visually appealing fastener type. Used with grooved boards usually made of Ipe wood, these fasteners grip into the grooves on the side of the boards to create a strong and hidden fastening system. Hidden decking fasteners can also be used in standard lumber by utilizing a slot cutting router bit to cut notches into the side of deck boards. These fasteners are lined up in the grooves, then screw directly into the frame of the deck. This provides an excellent finish as they help to evenly space the boards and hide fasteners completely from the top of the boards.

Installing Deck Boards

Now that you have your frame built and know what kinds of fasteners you can use for the deck boards, it’s time to start installing them.

Installing Deck Boards Using Standard and Painted Stainless Steel Deck Screws

When installing standard and painted head deck screws follow these steps.:

  1. Position the deck boards on the frame
  2. Using a tape measure and pencil, mark the screw locations on the boards
    • Make sure to keep the screw holes at least 1″ inside the edge of the board. This will help to prevent splitting and cracking in the boards.
  3. Drill the pilot holes through the boards and into the frame
    • Even though many deck screws have a notched tip for drilling, it is not the best solution and pilot holes should be drilled anyway.
  4. Drive the deck screws through the boards into the frame
    • Position the screw perpendicular to the board
    • Slowly drive the screws into the frame
    • Do not over-torque your fasteners. Once the flat portion of the head becomes flush, move to the next screw

Installing Deck Boards Using Wood Plugs

When installing deck boards using Wood Plugs follow these steps:

  1. Position the deck boards on the frame
  2. Using a tape measure and pencil, mark the screw locations on the boards
  3. Measure the length of the wood plug
  4. Using painter’s tape, mark of that depth on a drill bit that is the same diameter as the wood plug
  5. Drill the countersink portion to the depth of the tape on the drill bit
  6. Take the smaller bit and drill a pilot hole for the screw itself through the countersunk hole in the board all the way into the frame
  7. Drive the deck screws through the boards into the frame
    • Position the screw perpendicular to the board
    • Slowly drive the screws into the frame
    • Do not over-torque your fasteners. Once the flat portion of the head becomes flush, move to the next screw
  8. For each exposed hole, take a wood plug and coat it wood glue, then place them into the holes
    • If you are having a hard time inserting them, place a small piece of wood over the plug and tap it into place with a rubber mallet. This will prevent the plugs from getting marred by the impact.
  9. Quickly wipe away any excess glue before moving to the next hole
  10. Some wood glues expand while drying, revisit the holes periodically after installation and continue to wipe away any glue until it has dried, and the plug is set

Installing Deck Boards Using Hidden Deck Fasteners

Not all hidden decking fasteners are installed the same way, so we will be using Ipe Clips in this example:

*Before we begin: Ipe wood is valued over standard wooden deck boards, because Ipe wood will splinter and often comes with pre-cut grooves on the side of the board. Both of these features make them an excellent choice when using hidden deck fasteners.

  1. Cut notches in each board using a router cutting bit (if applicable)
  2. Install the first board at one end of the deck frame using standard deck screws every 24 inches. For a premium finish you can countersink and plug the hole with a wood plug.
  3. Align each clip in the groove of the board to a joist. With the clip in the groove, screw each clip into the crossing joist. Only one clip is needed where two boards meet on a single joist.
  4. Align the next deck board to the installed clips making sure the grooves match up with the first board.
  5. Use a Deck Board Straightening Tool (Hardwood Wrench) to hold the board in place tightly against the clips
  6. Install the next set of clips against the second board
  7. Remove the hardwood wrench and repeat until the last board
  8. The last board is installed the same as the first, only in reverse. Align the last board’s grooves with the last set of clips, then install with face screws every 24 inches.

Extra Tips

hidden deck finished results
Even Screw Placement

When using exposed screws to hold your deck in place, always mark screw locations prior to installation. You will want to make sure that the screws are all even to create an appealing and aesthetic finish.

Benefit of Ipe Wood

By far the biggest benefit of using Ipe wood is that it does not splinter. This protects the lifetime of the deck and your guests’ feet!

Get the Right Corrosion Resistance for Your Environment

Always double check to ensure your fasteners are ideal for your environment. After all the hard work of making a beautiful deck, you don’t want to start seeing rust stains on the wood from rusting fasteners.

Get a Pair of Knee Pads

Building a deck can be particularly hard on your knees. Find a nice set of knee pads to keep your knees of the wood for an extended amount of time.

Safety Gear

Always use safety gear no matter what you are building to protect your eyes and hands. Whether you’re cutting, drilling or driving a fastener, always have the appropriate gear on to protect yourself.

The End Game

Now that your beautiful new deck is built, it’s time to sit back, relax and party on the newest addition to your home.

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What Screws Should You Use For Building A Deck?

Building A Deck This Summer?Deck Screws For Building a Deck

Having a deck in your home is a luxury many people enjoy having. Being able to sit outside and enjoy the weather or view with family and friends is an excellent way to spend nice days, especially with summer right around the corner.

If you decide to take the journey of building a deck yourself, you are going to have many questions along the way. One of the most important points to consider is “Which screws should I use for this deck?”. We’ve heard this question before and there are quite a few things to take into consideration.

1. What Material Should I Use?

Of all the available materials to use for your deck, the most common is stainless steel. Stainless steel deck screws offer an excellent solution due to their increased corrosion resistance. However, stainless steel can still corrode in certain situations so make sure you have the correct grade for your environment.



2. Do You Want To See The Screw Heads?

One of the biggest concerns when making your deck is choosing the correct screw head. Deck screws are usually only found in flat head varieties so they can sit flush with the wood once installed. The question remains, do you want to see the head?

If your answer is yes, then a standard stainless steel flat head deck screw will suffice. If your answer is no, then you have a few options for hiding the screw heads.

  • Painted Head Deck Screws – These stainless steel screws are stainless steel with painted heads to match common wood colors. They are the easiest way to hide a deck screw because they are camouflaged in plain sight. Just install them as you would any other deck screw.
  • Hardwood Plug Kits – These kits come with little wood corks that you can use to cover the screws. They require more work to install properly but usually leave a great result. First a countersunk hole must be made to sink the screws lower into the wood. Then an adhesive is applied to the plug and placed in the hole over the screw head. One downfall to this method is that removing them is difficult. You can also get a drill bit that can cut these plugs for you instead of buying a kit: Hardwood Plug Cutter Bit.
  • Ipe Clips – A third and quickly becoming a very popular option are Ipe Clips. Ipe Clips are installed between the boards of a deck hiding the screws entirely. Mostly used with Ipe wood, these clips can also be used with regular wood to help create an evenly spaced deck.

What Drive Style Should I Use?

Usually, there are three types of drive to consider here. Phillips, Square or Star drive. Although all three are decent choices, we recommend using the star drive for installations. The star drive has the least chance of slippage and cam out during installation making it the ideal choice when working with finished products where slipping out of the drive could damage the surface you are working on. In fact, on many decks built today you are more likely to see star drive screws being used.

Building a deck can be a daunting task but with the proper screws you are now one step closer to enjoying your yard and the weather this year.



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