If you are building a large deck, the first thing to determine is how you want to secure the material. There are many types of hardware with which to fasten your decking material together, but which one should you choose?
Each fastening system has advantages and drawbacks, depending on the location, size, and materials of your deck. Using the wrong fastening system can lead to structural insecurity as the hardware undergoes exposure to the elements.
This article provides a complete guide on choosing the right fastening system for your large deck project. Learn the key differences between screws, nails, bolts, and other hardware. Find out where you use each type of fastening system throughout your deck building project.
Fastening System Types for Building a Large Deck
Choosing the best fastening system for a deck seems daunting, but a little information makes the choice much more straight forward. It gets confusing when you are trying to make out the differences between galvanized nails, double-dipped, stainless steel, and coated decking screws.
Which one do you choose?
The question is not so much about what single system is the best, but which fastening system is meant for which part of the project. A large deck uses several different types of fastening systems for different segments of the construction process.
The first fastening system to consider for your deck is the hardware that will fasten the deck boards to the joists. Unless you are using an invisible deck fastening system, you are looking at either screws or nails.
Nails are a favorite choice for many professional construction workers and contractors. When it comes to decking, nails are faster to drive into wood than screws. Nails, however, do not offer as much holding power as screws.
When decking with nails, you need to drive the fasteners into your deck boards using a nailgun. If you do not have a nailgun, you will have to rent one. A hammer does not countersink the nail into the deck boards like a gun does.
For decking work, use ring shank or spiral nails to increase the holding power. These nails feature a spiral shaft that resembles the action of a screw. As the nail drives into the wood it follows the conical of the spiral.
Galvanized nails are the most economical. However, the coating will flake off over time and exposure. When the nails galvanized coating flakes off, the hardware rusts.
Double-dipped galvanized nails are the bare minimum for weather resistance. They function the best when you countersink the nails and cap the hole.
The gold standard for weather-resistant nails is stainless steel. Stainless steel nails are more expensive than galvanized, but they hold up well against corrosion and elemental wear.
Standard and Decking Screws
Nails are choice for the pros, but DIYers everywhere prefer screws. Screws are, simply, more secure in their holding power. When it comes to building weight-bearing structures (like a deck), screws are the best fastening system for ensuring a strong connection between pieces of deck material.
When you are working indoors, you can get away with using common drywall screws for most projects. To build a deck, you need specially made screws called decking screws. Decking screws offer several benefits over nails.
Decking screws are made with a pretreated coating that provides long-lasting corrosion resistance. The tips and ridges are cut very sharp to assist in the screws self-sinking function. Decking screws are usually between 2.5 to 3.5 inches long.
The other great benefit to decking screws over other types of screws is the screw head design. Besides the standard Phillips head design, decking screws come in a square head and hex head designs. Square heads and hex heads provide superior driving power and stability to that of standard Phillips head screws.
Strongtie screws are the ideal fastener for your deck’s joist hangers. Strongtie screws are designed for a replacement to nails in situations where it is not possible to swing a hammer.
Joist hangers are often in tight spaces and up against other material. Use a cordless impact driver to easily drive in screws in the most hard-to-reach spots.
Heavy-Duty Screws and Bolts
Before you begin installing the deck boards, you have to fasten your ledger and joists to pre-existing supports. This connection is very important for the structural integrity of your deck. Nails and screws are not strong enough to hold the weight of the deck and the people on it.
For the joists and ledger, use lag screws or carriage bolts. Bolts are the best fastener for providing structural integrity to weight-bearing sections of your deck. Bolts are much stronger than screws or nails, and the system sandwiches your material firmly together.
After installing your ledger and joists, the frame of your deck uses special framing fasteners. Framing hardware is required for any deck to meet coding requirements.
Along with your ledger, attach joist hangers to attach your floor joists. Where beams sit atop a structural post, use a post cap to securely anchor the beam and post together at the joint.
Depending on the state you are building in, some cities and states require hurricane ties to increase lateral strength. Your upright posts anchor into concrete footing using a post anchor. Post anchors fasten into concrete with masonry lag screws.
When looking at the different options for your deck’s fastening system, remember to use hardware meant for treated lumber. Every outdoor deck is built with treated lumber to keep the material from rotting. The chemicals in treated lumber, however, corrode metal.
So always use fasteners designed for outdoor use and treated lumber.
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