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Right nails for do-it-yourself project essential
Sep 03, 2004

Some people create problems for themselves by using the wrong nails. So, here are some things to deep in mind when you undertake your next home handyman project. 

When using nails outside, they should always be galvanized. Ordinary coated nails can cause black streaking in wood.  Even if the wood is to be painted, it’s a good idea to use galvanized nails since they will not rust. Using the wrong nails results in rust marks that can show through the painted surface.  

The most common galvanized nails are the “electroplated” type, a nail coated with a thin coat of galvanizing material.   Then there is the “hot-dipped” type, a nail that has a thicker coating of galvanized material.  Hot-dipped galvanized nails are a must when putting together such projects as a wood foundation for a home or nailing together wood that is going below ground level. Electroplated galvanized nails can be used for decks and siding. When building a deck, you should also use galvanized bolts and screws. 

For nailing studs together for a rec room or when building a home, the best nail is the “coated” type.  The nail is thinner than a common nail and is coated with a substance that gives it holding power. These nails should only be used in basic house construction and indoors. 

Common nails are basically steel nails without a coating. Common nails are used for house framing, nailing on plywood sheathing that will later be covered with siding or shingles, and nailing together timbers.  

Finishing nails used on the exterior should be galvanized while those for interior use can be a regular steel type. Finishing nails range from three-quarters of an inch to four or five inches.  The longer finishing nails are used for the installation of doorframes, etc. The small finishing nails are used for installing casing and doing intricate cabinet or carpentry work. 

When nailing on pre-finished wall panels of hardboard or wood in a rec room, you should always use coloured nails. Often such panels are grooved and the lines may be dark brown or black.  The surface of the panel may be walnut or birch. Choose a nail that matches the lines and the surface of the panel. When nailing a four-by-eight wall panel, the edges must be nailed on the surface.  

 The grooves usually work out so that you can nail 16 inches on-centre or every two feet on-centre in the grooves. A panel nail has a flat head and does not need to be set. It also has more holding power since the underside of the head is tight against the wall panel surface.                                                                                                                        On the other hand, a finishing nail is meant to be set and then a filler material used to cover the head. 

When deciding upon the length of nail, a good rule is that the nail should be at least three times as long as the thickness of the material being nailed. This allows two-thirds of the nail to go into the stud or surface to which the material is being applied. For example, when nailing two-by-fours, which are actually one and a half inches thick, you should use a 3 1/2-inch nail.  

When using finishing nails through thin wood prone to splitting, it is a good idea to blunt the end of the nail. The pointed portion of the nail tends to split the material whereas a blunt end will allow the nail to push its way through the wood. Professional carpenters often use an air-powered hammer that shoots “brads” through the wood. This device is primarily used when installing door and window casings. The ends of the brad are flat so that they do not split the wood. 

If you aren’t sure what type of nail is best for your project, check with your 

local building supply dealer for recommendations.