Types of Nails and Their Uses

Nails are simple fasteners or holders that have been used in different kinds of construction for at least 3,000 years. They are commonly used for joining the pieces of wood or fastening materials to wood and are helpful when the screw is not needed. There are several different types of nails, each with its function and purpose. They are made in a variety of lengths and diameters as desired.

Nails are usually pounded into position by striking them directly on the head. They’re also likely to bend or break when not appropriately driven. When driving a nail into wood, it is best to place the pin at an angle lower to the wood grain to avoid splitting. When the wood is likely to break, or a nail is close to an edge, a ‘pilot hole’ slightly smaller than the nail diameter can be required.

Nails should be of sufficient strength and must have a long enough shank to have an adequate attachment. The friction holds the pins in place, and some designs may include roughened, grooved, or twisted shanks to strengthen the grip.

Nails are mostly made of steel. The steel wire is connected to a system that separates individual nail lengths. Grippers hold wire pieces in place while a hammer flattens one projecting end to form the head and then reduced to the desired size and point. For added strength, masonry nails are made from hardened zinc, and several pins are jolted with an outer layer of zinc to prevent rusting.

When buying nails, keep in mind that vendors usually market them by weight rather than quantity, meaning that a rough estimate of how many are required is adequate, and over-buying is generally advised.

Where to Buy
Professional Grade - 60-D (6" Inch) Common Nails (1 lb.) Approximately 12 Nails Non-Galvanized (1-Pound)
Hillman 592301 Polished Finishing Nails (6D x 2") - 60 Pieces, Silver
Polished Box Nails (6D x 2") - 30 Pieces
B&C Eagle ACR-1 Round Head 1-Inch x .120 Smooth Shank Electrogalvanized Coil Roofing Nails (1,080 per box)
NATIONAL NAIL 93138 Pro-Fit 093138 Square Cut Heat Treated Masonry, 6D X 2 in Hardware-Nails
Grip Rite 8DUP1 1 lb Bright Double-Head Shank Duplex Nail, 2-1/4"
Drywall Nails, Diamond Point, Annular Threaded, 1-5/8”
Annular Ring Shank Nail Bright Finish 50mm Bag Weight 500g

Types of Nails

1. Common Nails

Common nails are also known as round head nails. These are the most commonly used nails for joining wood and other things, especially where a rougher finishing is suitable. It is best to use nails at least three times larger than the thickness of the material being nailed. 

The oval head nail is a type that has an elliptical cross-section which reduces the chance of splitting the wood.

2. Finishing Nails

Finishing nails are similar to common nails; the only difference is that these have much smaller heads that sit in line with the wood surface to provide a neater finish. To entirely hide the head, you can use a nail to recess it. Because of this, they are often used in furniture and decorative or exposed wood. 

The smaller heads also indicate that the wood is less likely to break. To add a decorative touch, you can use brass finishing nails.

3. Box Nails

Box nails are also similar to common nails, but they have a slimmer shank and less gripping strength. They are used to fasten lighter bits of wood and boxes and add clapboard siding. They are particularly suitable for this application because the thinner pin cracks the siding less.

4. Roofing Nails

Roofing nails have a large head and are most commonly used for roofing purposes, such as nailing shingles, attaching asphalts, and other tasks. The large head holds the thin material in place and prevents it from breaking loose. Smaller sizes can be used to secure roofing felt. To avoid corrosion, they are usually galvanized.

5. Masonry Nails

Masonry nails are more rigid and thicker with small heads, usually made of hardened zinc, which is more robust and allows them to be driven easily into masonry surfaces. They are often used to bind wood to stone and brick because the nail’s hardened steel shaft can be forced through more rigid materials without cracking or dulling during construction.

6. Double-Headed Nails

Double-headed nails are commonly used to bind scaffoldings and other temporary structures in place. They are pushed in until they reach the first head, whereas the top head stays above the surface, making removal simple.

7. Drywall Nails

Drywall nails have a ringed or barbed shank that provides more gripping strength. The drywall cement-coated nails have a smooth shank that is resin-coated to improve gripping power. The cupped-head pins have a rounded head that makes countersinking easier for a smooth finish.

8. Ring Shank or Annular Nails

Ring shank or annular nails are mainly used for softer woods. These nails separate the wood fibers, which then lock back into the rings, preventing removal. Because of the pullout-resistant function of the annular rings on the nail shank, this type of nail is often used for drywall or deck board applications.

Where to Buy
HILLMAN FASTENERS 461302 2.5" 8D Casing Nail
BOSTITCH 18 Gauge Brad Nails, 2-Inch, Coated, 1000 per Box (BT1350B-1M)
National Nail 135055 250CT 1-Inch Plastic Cap Nail
Keadic 200Pcs [ 3/4" in Diameter ] Antique Upholstery Tacks Furniture Nails Pins Assortment Kit
M-D Building Products 95638 1-1/4-Inch Screw Nails for Carpet Metal, Silver
National Hardware N278-879 V7721 Corrugated Joint Fasteners in Bright, 30 pack
Galvanised Netting Fencing Staples U Nail 30 Mm Pack Of 40
Maze, W. H. HF167112 Hardened Flooring Nails

9. Casing Nails

Casing nails are large finishing nails commonly used in exterior applications like installing external trim boards and nailing door frames and trim. These types of nails are usually galvanized for corrosion resistance. A casing nail has a tapered nail head that can be placed flush or below the wood surface.

10. Brad’s Nails

Brad nails or Brads are made from 18 gauge steel wire. Its gauge scale shows the thickness of the nail. The gauge number of thinner nails is higher. Because of their small diameter, brad nails are easy to conceal in wood trim or paneling. They are more delicate than regular nails and have a smaller head.

11. Cap Nails

Cap nails are used for attaching roofing felt, house wrap, tar paper, and insulation foam board. As opposed to galvanized nails, a cap nail has a steel shank and a large polyethylene cap to avoid leaks.

12. Upholstery Nails

Upholstery nails serve two purposes: to hold material in place on furniture and add decorative accents. Since most of the nails are designed for indoor use, they are not rust-resistant. 

They can be cleaned easily by rubbing gently with a dry and soft cloth. You should avoid using polishing creams on these nails as it will ruin their finish. 

13. Carpet Nails

Carpet nails are small and sharp nails used for affixing carpets to the floor. They usually have a flat top, a shaft, and a pointed end. To put and secure it in place, it usually stays into and around the carpet’s edges.

14. Corrugated Nails

Corrugated nails, commonly known as corrugated fasteners, are made from cold-roll steel strips. These corrugated nails have a chisel point and can be easily driven into wood, forming a specific angle between the waves.

15. Staple Nails

Staple nails or staple fasteners are used for securing materials together. Large staples are used with a hammer or staple gun for roofing, masonry, corrugated boxes, and other heavy-duty applications. The smaller nails are used in conjunction with a stapler to join pieces of paper together; such pins are more permanent and durable for fastening paper documents than paper clips.

16. Spiral Flooring Nails

Spiral flooring nails have a spiraled shaft and were traditionally used for subfloor nailing. Nail guns and specially made nails have mostly replaced these nails in today’s construction work.

How to Choose the Right Type of Nail?

Nail Size and Length

In practice, a good nail length should be three times the thickness of the material that’s being nailed. For example, an 8 penny nail is suitable for fastening a 1-inch thick material, and a 16 penny nail is ideal for securing a 2-inch thick material.

Material and Coating

Sometimes the material can get exposed to outdoor or wet environments for an extended time. If this is the case, an anti-corrosion surface coating, in addition to sufficient nail length, is another thing to consider in making the project solid and reliable.

Types of Coatings

1. Electro-Galvanized

Electro galvanization is a zinc electrolytic process that coats carbon steel nails with a thin layer of zinc. Electro-galvanized coatings can endure dry and low-corrosion applications for several months, if not a year. However, it is not recommended to use in corrosive conditions.

2. Hot-Dipped Galvanized

Hot-dipped galvanization is an efficient method of metal corrosion that is mainly used for metal structures in industrial facilities. For pressure-treated wood and cedar that can cause regular nails to corrode quickly, hot-dipped galvanized steel nails are recommended.

3. Stainless Steel 304/316

Stainless steel is highly suitable for high-level corrosion safety requirements, particularly for the majority of exterior applications. 316-grade stainless steel, as well as chromium-nickel alloys, can withstand marine and corrosive industrial environments.

Nail Shank and its Patterns

The various shank patterns of the nails dictate their multiple uses. The main differences lie in the holding strength, nailing process, and installation effect.

Head type and surface

Another thing to consider is the surface and the head type of the nail. There are two types of heads in a nail; a flat one used to hammer into place and the other for screwing it in and out, which can come in either minus or plus shape. 

Nails – The Essentials of Construction 

Ever since its creation, nails have been a vital and crucial part of construction and household items. Every construction work requires nails, which help join things together and keep them in place. Since then, many different kinds of nails have been developed with lots of other purposes. Hence choosing the right type of nail is very important, depending on the work required.