The humble nail is one of the oldest types of hardware and the simplest way of attaching wood, metal, cloth and mesh to timber. But the fasteners aren’t one size fits all. Here’s all the info you need to pick the right nail for your next DIY project.
Indoor nails vs outdoor nails
The location of where you are using nails dictates the type of fastener you need. Bright steel and zinc-plated nails should only be used indoors, as they are prone to rusting if exposed to the elements. If working outdoors and with treated timber, use nails that have been hot-dip galvanised, which are dull grey in colour. You can use galvanised nails indoors, especially if you need extra grip, as their rough surface gives you a little more holding power.
Which nail head do I need?
Flat head nail
As the name suggests, these nails have flat, wide and round heads. They’re used to fix sheet materials such as fibre cement or plywood, where the greater surface area of the head holds the sheet. You also use flat head nails on very thin materials, such as sheet metal. There are different types of flat head nails with slight variations to suit the properties of the material you’re holding. Check the pack for more advice.
Bullet head nail
This type of nail has a small head- not much larger than the shank. They’re ideal for jobs where you don’t want the nail to have a big visual impact. You can even make them disappear by punching them below the surface and filling the hole with wood putty. They come in a wide range of lengths, too. The longer nails are for framing and construction jobs, while the shorter nails are perfect for finer woodworking.
What length nail do I need?
Wherever possible, nail through the thinnest material into the thickest. Nails hold by friction, so the more length you can get into the material – the better! When nailing across the grain, try to penetrate about 10 times the diameter of the nail. Into end grain, try for about 15 times the diameter, as nailing into end grain isn’t as strong.
Types of nails
There are a host of specialty nails for specific applications. Here are just a few examples.
Plasterboard nails have a ribbed shank that has greater holding power, and a concave head, suitable for filling with plastering compound.
Upholstery nails have a decorative head to add a smart-looking touch to upholstered furniture.
U-nails are designed for the purpose of attaching mesh or wire to timber.
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