If you walk into the hardware store, you can see so many sizes of nails that it can blow you away. It may not seem like that big of a deal: get big nails or small nails, then get to work. But, it may be more consequential than you think. If you are building a new deck, a new wall, or framing a floor, you need to make sure that you have the right nail size so you don’t endanger any of your hard work.
Choosing a nail that is too big can split the wood or punch a nail through to the other side. Using a nail that is too small can lead to weak bonding and a weak structure overall. But, if you get the right size nail, you can get strong bonding and a strong frame without splitting the wood. Plus, the correct types of nails are less likely to bend or twist when they are hammered into a wooden stud.
So, what exactly is the right size to use? Depending on what kind of work you have been doing, it could be very different. Lucky for you, we have assembled here a rule-of-thumb guide to make your decision easier. If you’re ready to learn now, then let’s get started.
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-The Penny System
In the United States, buying nails in bulk can be a bit confusing. To start, many retailers use the so-called “Penny system”, a way of identifying nail length that dates back to 15th-century England. The number of pennies is identified with a “d”, referring to the Roman penny called the denarius. So, a 16-penny nail would be labeled 16d, a 10-penny nail 10d, and so on. 16d, 10d, and 8d nails are some of the most commonly used nails for framing.
16d or 16-penny nails are probably the most common. At 3.5 inches long, they can be used for a variety of construction and related projects. 16d nails come in two varieties: sinkers and commons. A sinker nail has a diameter of 0.148 inches and a length of 3.25 inches. A common nail has a diameter of 0.162 inches and a length of 3.5 inches. A sinker nail has a nail head that is textured like a waffle, while a common nail has a smooth nail head. The waffled nail head makes it easier to strike the nail with a hammer. The sinkers are great for framing, because they have either a vinyl, cement, or epoxy coating to make them slide deep into wood easier, to “sink” easier.
10d nails have a diameter of 0.148 inches and a length of about 3 inches. These nails should not go any shallower than 0.75 inches, and they need to be used in an area that is 3x the size of the nail’s diameter. These nails should not be replaced with any thinner nails. They are great for installing trim on doors, as they do not penetrate too deeply into the attached boards. You can also use these nails to join different flat boards.
8d nails have a diameter of 0.131 inches and a length of 3.5 inches. The diameter of the head is 9/32 inches. Like 16d sinkers, these nails can come with vinyl coating and have a narrower shape than common nails. These nails can be used for projects that require narrow diameters, such as adjoining subfloors, furring strips, toenailing, sheathing, and other objects.
6d nails have a diameter of 0.113 inches and a length of 2 inches. The diameter of the nail head is 17/64 inches. These nails are not as commonly used, but they are very useful for small interior tasks and for adjoining flat woods. You can find them in either box nail or common nail varieties.
-Galvanized Nails and Vinyl Sinkers
As we mentioned before, some nails have different features that make them better suited for particular tasks. Galvanized nails are well-suited for outdoor or exterior framing. They are more rust-resistant than normal nails. For interior framing, the nails are sometimes coated with vinyl to make them easier to drive. These are called vinyl sinkers.
The Right Size for the Right Job
Depending on the job you are doing, you may need different sizes and types of nails to do the job right. Now that you know the difference between all the sizes, and the difference between common nails and sinkers, you can take a look at the different sizes of nails needed for whatever different job you are doing depending on the length, thickness, and whether or not you are using a nail gun or a hammer to drive the nails.
-Doubling Studs for Door Trimmers and Headers
It is best to use 10d nails for doubling studs because they are short enough not to penetrate all the way through any joined boards.
When you are toenailing, driving nails at an angle in order to secure a butt joint, it is best to use 8d nails.
-Building a Wall
If you are fastening two-by-fours together to create a wall, it is best to use 16d nails to fasten studs to the top and bottom plates. You don’t want to use nails that are too long or thick, but you want ones that have a secure hold.
-Securing Joist Hangers
When securing joist hangers, it can be best to use 2d common galvanized nails.
When securing plywood sheathing, framers will often use 6d common nails.
-Subsidiary Framing Tasks
If you have to attach furring strips, subfloors, sheathing, or other materials, you will not need long nails. 8d nails will get the job done, and you can often find them at hardware stores in a thinner, vinyl-coated variety that is easier to drive.
For two-by-four framing, it is best to use the longer 16d nails.
Double-dipped, galvanized 16d nails are best for installing joist hangers. Galvanized nails are stronger and well-suited for this job.
-Using a Nailer or Nail Gun
If you are using a framing nailer, you cannot simply pick up any old nail. Framing nailers can either drive clipped head or round head nails. Although most nailers can support different nail sizes, you will most likely need nails that are made to fit a particular nail gun. The nails are usually lined up so as to make them easier to fit into the magazine of the nailer. Some nail guns have magazines that position the nails at a steep angle in order to make it easier to drive nails in tight places. Nail guns will probably have corresponding nails made by the same brand that can fit easily. It is always a good idea to check the manufacturer’s specifications in order to avoid buying the wrong nails.