Screws Versus Nails

By Greg Vanden Berge

Some nails over time seemed to loosen up and do not have the holding power that a screw does. Over time both will corrode through the process of oxidizing or rusting. When framing a set of stairs using nails will definitely be faster and more efficient. It would be extremely difficult to screw a set of stairs together and time consuming.

So why would I even bring this up screws versus nails when building a set of stairs. One of the biggest problems with staircase construction are squeaky stairs. And most stair squeaks can be attributed to lose nails. If this is the case why wouldn't I use screws instead of nails when assembling a set of stairs.

Most people don't know or have any idea about the structural strength of a screw versus a nail. If a horizontal force is applied to a stair tread that is screwed, it will take less force to break a screw than a nail. To get the best of both worlds you would need to nail and screw the stair treads.

This would require using three nails and two screws or two nails and two screws to each stair tread. But two nails will give you enough horizontal shear strength and the two screws will help you hold the stair tread down and help eliminate the stair treads from squeaking. No Guarantees of course. I would imagine some building departments, structural engineers and building inspectors could have a problem with this.

You should check to make sure this is an acceptable practice with the authorities that will be inspecting or carry the liability for your project.

Using screws to fasten the stair stringers to the ledgers would not be necessary. Any form of toe nailing or fastening two pieces of wood together by nailing at an angle is a great way to creates excellent holding power. The problems develop when we are nailing perpendicular or Straight into a board. When we nail Straight into a board, over time with the lumber expanding and contracting this could cause the nails to loosen up, creating a safety hazard or squeaking.

Screws and nails definitely have their advantage and should be used with common sense. You are not going to be screwing shear panel and expecting better results from nails. At the same time we will not be nailing light fixtures into the electrical boxes.

Don't forget that nails and screws come in all sorts of different sizes and lengths, as well as different metals. Try to use galvanized nails and screws for the exterior to prevent oxidation or rusting. You can use almost any type of screw on the interior of a house as long as moisture won't be a problem.

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