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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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Hidden Deck Fasteners

Deckwise Hidden Deck Fasteners

Premium USA Made Hidden Deck Fasteners and Accessories

Here at Albany County Fasteners we are proud to announce the launch of our new line: Hidden Deck Fasteners and Accessories by Deckwise. As a Deckwise Authorized Dealer we are able to offer this extensive USA made catalog. Deckwise Fasteners, Tools and Accessories are used to create some of the most beautiful decks we have ever seen which highlight the natural beauty of hardwoods and create a top quality smooth finish.

Shop Deckwise Hidden Deck Fasteners Today!


Ipe Clip Kits

Ipe Clip Kits offer everything you need to get started on a Hidden Deck Fastener System. Black Stainless Steel Ipe Clips with a protective colored polymer coating, as well as all of the additional fasteners required for an Ipe assembly. Ipe clip kits contain Ipe Clips, Trim Head Stainless Steel Deck Screws, Ipe Plugs, Bits and spaces depending upon the kit desired.
Ipe Clips, also known as hidden deck fasteners are used to install the boards of a deck to the main beams. Ipe Clips are used with pre-grooved boards (sometimes called Ipe Wood) as part of a hidden deck fastening system. For boards that are not grooved, slots for these clips can be added quickly with the use of a biscuit joiner or router.
Each Ipe Clip attached a deck board to a joist or beam with the use of a 45 degree deck screw on one side. The clip’s polymer coating is colored, often as well as the screw, to be as inconspicuous as possible and provide a smooth, clean, finished look. The Included Deck Screws can come in either 305 or 316 stainless steel.
Shop Ipe Clip Kits


Hardwood Plug Kits

Hidden Deck Fasteners don’t always mean Ipe Clips. Deck Builders and Clients each have their preferences, and a deck without visible screws often means countersinking the pilot hole, installing the screw and then plugging the top of the hole. This process is also required when installing an Ipe Clip system for the start and end boards.
This method of finishing is often used to create a smooth clean finish that highlights the natural look of the wood. Matching wood plugs are used to create a sleek and hidden finish, however contrasting wood plugs are also used to create a premium luxury look.
Hardwood Plugs, often called Ipe Plugs, are used as part of a decking system. First, a pilot hole is drilled into the deck board with a 3/8 inch countersink to accept the wood plug at the end of installation. Next, a trim head deck screw is installed into the hole to face screw the board into a joist or beam. A strong adhesive, such as Gorilla Glue, is then applied on top of the installed screw, which is used to hold the finishing wood plug-in place.

Shop Hardwood Plug Kits


Painted Head Deck Screws

Painted Head Bugle Head Deck Screws feature a flat head that has been painted to closely match the color of the wooden or composite decking boards being used in a deck installation. The purpose of the paint is to make the heads of the screws less noticeable, and create a sleek and smooth looking finish. Stainless Steel Deck Screws in this selection feature a notched Type 17 point for easy installation into deck boards and joists, as well as a shoulder with sharp coarse threads to pull the boards closely together and ensure excellent retention with a snug fit. The double countersink flat bugle head has 6 nibs; utilizes a 6 lobe star drive to reduce cam-out and increase torque; and comes as a chipboard thread screw with partial thread and triple spline (one at the beginning on the thread and two at the end of point).


Shop Painted Head Deck Screws


Decking Tools and Accessories

Installing a wooden or composite Deck is no easy task, but these tools and finishes are designed to create a top quality deck by working smarter, not harder. Premium board straightening tools, Power Bits and Drill Bits designed to simplify and streamline the installation process of both boards and fasteners, as well as cleaners and oils to ensure a premium finish and maximize the life of any deck.
Decking Tools and Accessories are designed to work in as many applications as possible, whether the Deck be face mounted with screws or built using a hidden deck fastener system. Many of these items are formulated to be used on a wide variety of decking materials including wood, hardwoods, PVC and composites.

Shop All Deckwise Decking Tools & Accessories


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