Nails vs Screws for Framing

Welcome to my article about nails vs screws for framing! When it comes to wooden housing framing, deciding between nails and screws can be tricky.

So, I’ve decided to put together an article weighing the pros and cons of each so you can make the right decision. But first, a quick summary:

Nails Vs Screws for Framing – Quick Summary

Overall, nails are better than screws for wooden house framing. Not only do they offer better shear strength and flexibility, but are also cheaper and easier to install. Screws offer more grip strength however they are more brittle and so may break over time as the wood expands and contracts.

Ok, now let’s get into the details of nails and screws for framing!

Nails Vs Screws For Framing – Similarities and Differences

Nails and screws have different strengths and weaknesses.

Here I will take a detailed look at nails and screws under the properties most relevant to constructing a wooden frame to see which one performs better.

home with wooden frames

Grip Strength

Winner: Screws

Grip strength is a major consideration when you are trying to decide whether to use nails or screws for wooden house framing.

The grip strength is the fastener’s ability to hold wood together. When you are building the frame of a house, you want to use tools that will hold the wood together for some time to come.

Screws tend to be best for grip strength. This is largely due to the threading on the body of the screw.

They will hold up well under vertical force, which occurs when force is vertically placed on the wood. They won’t break down when force is applied.

Shear Strength

Winner: Nails

Shear Strength is the amount of force a fastener can handle from the sides. It’s important when you are nailing wood together that can get jostled from the side.

When it comes to shear strength, nails are the winner.

Screws are relatively brittle. If force is applied from the side, the head of the screw may pop off.

Nails, on the other hand, can bend under pressure and will rarely snap under shear force pressure.

To determine which should be used for wood framing based on shear strength vs. grip strength, you should consider whether your project is more likely to get force from the side or the top.

Another option is use hybrid pins called ring shank nails. They will combine the flexibility of the nails with the gripping power of the screws increasing a nail’s gripping power by up to 40%.


Winner: Nails

Nails have greater flexibility than screws.

In addition to helping them hold up to vertical force, it also allows them to be fastened from different angles and bent as required.

Furthermore, wood swells and contracts with temperature changes as the seasons change. Screws may offer a better grip strength, but they are more brittle which means they may break over time with this movement in the wood.

Nails are much more likely to hold and bend with the wood as it moves, making them a better option for framing.

nails vs screws for framing

Suitability for Large Projects

Winner: Nails

Nails are often the tool of choice for large projects like house framing. This is because they tend to be stronger and less expensive than screws.

They are also favored because their smooth heads and shafts allow them to be inserted quickly and easily.

Screws are more commonly used in small and mid-sized projects like decking and woodworking.

This is because they provide more control when they are inserted and extracted.

While they take more effort to insert, cordless drills, impact wrenches and other electrical power tools make them easier to work with.


Winner: Screws

Installing nails is generally easier due to their smooth surfaces, but they are also more difficult to remove.

If you nail them into the wrong place, you will have a difficult time gripping them with the back of a hammer to lift them out.

And while screws are easier to remove, they are also harder to cover up.

Nails are so small that if they are hammered into the wrong spot, they can easily be hidden with a paint job. And if you do remove them, they will leave a small hole.

If screws can’t be removed, they will be difficult to cover up. If they are removed, the hole they leave behind will be quite noticeable.


Winner: Nails

A nail’s thinner shaft makes them ideal for thinner woods. They will keep the wood from splitting while it is being fastened.

This makes them a good choice for door jambs, molding and baseboards.

Screws are easier to remove which makes them good for temporary jobs. They are often used for building jigs, temporary structures, putting cabinets together and joining furniture parts.

They are also good to use on drywall and plaster because they produce less vibration and will not split under pressure.

In addition, nails can easily be inserted using a nail gun, which allows you to almost insert one per second – extremely efficient and time saving if you have to nail together a large project like a house frame.

In contrast, screws take time to drill in one by one, making them less convenient for large projects.


Winner: Nails

Screws and nails are both generally cheap, but when you are using a lot of them in a construction project, costs can add up.

If you are looking for the economical choice, nails are an obvious winner.

A 5 lb. box of 8 penny screws that are 2.5” long will cost about $12 as compared to a 5 lb. box of 2.5” screws for $30.

Nails vs Screws – Which to Use for Framing?

Both nails and screws have their share of advantages and disadvantages when it comes to framing projects.

However, nails are the better choice.

They will fasten into walls without splitting the wood and provide a smoother finish.

They are also less likely to fail as the wood expands and contracts as the seasons change.

You must also consider which types of nails you will be using for your framing.

16D sinker and common nails are the two most used varieties.

Common nails have a smooth head and are .162” in diameter whereas sinker nails have a textured head and are .148” in diameter.

Sinkers are generally better for framing due to their size and their epoxy or vinyl coating which makes installation easier.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this article! Here are some related articles you may also like:

Pin Nailer vs Brad Nailer
Liquid Nails vs Wood Glue