Nails vs. Screws: What’s Their Difference and Which One Do You Need?

Nails and screws are the most popular fasteners carpenters use in their projects, but because they’re used in really similar ways, it can be hard to determine which type of fastener should be used for which project.

So which one is more suited for your needs? To find out more, it’s important to know the difference between nails and screws, as well as how they’re used.

Most nails tend to be made of mild steel, but you can also find nails made from all kinds of aluminum and brass.
Nails have been used for all kinds of construction and woodworking projects for a long time. They’re generally used for most projects since they’re easy to use and work with, and they save time in the process.

However, the drawback for them is that they don’t work well alone, and in some cases, even need the use of adhesives in order to really fasten the two pieces of wood together.

Nails come in different sizes and shapes to suit different purposes, such as the following:

• Common nail – Your everyday nails used for rough, construction work.
• Box nail – Thinner than common nails, which are less likely to cause wood splitting at the cost of structural strength.
• Finishing nail – Used for finishing work since their barrel-shaped heads can be driven below the wood’s surface.
• Casing nail – Casing nails are slightly bigger than finishing nails, and are used for attaching window and door casings.

Screws are usually made from brass and stainless steel. They are best used for furniture that will separate from top to bottom, and are great for working with plywood and MDF boards because of their holding strength. They are also better suited for projects that are more than six of seven feet in length, such as tables and chairs.

These are the different types of screws used in carpentry projects:

• Drive screw – They can have smooth, round, or mushroom-shaped heads, but have a shorter shank compared to other types of screws.
• Masonry screw – These screws have a blue coating and are inserted to pilot holes in masonry projects.
• Wood screw – Used to attach wood pieces together, which is explains the partially-unthreaded shank.
• Concrete screw – For fastening materials to concrete, these screws are made of stainless or carbon steel.

Nails tend to be used for exterior projects, so if you plan on doing indoor work, you might benefit better from using screws.

This is because while nails have a better shear strength compared to screws, screws have better tensile strength. The former refers to the resistance to perpendicular stress, while the latter refers to its resistance to opposing forces pulling against each other.

So the next time you walk into a hardware store anywhere in Singapore, don’t feel intimidated by the countless little bins of shelves housing thousands of screws, nails, and bolts.