Tip: Drywall Nails and Screws

by Jon Nunan

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Though some claim that the battle of drywall nails vs. drywall screws is a bit one-sided, both of these fasteners have their benefits. It's true that drywall screws are more secure when properly installed, but as drywall nails are far cheaper and, in certain respects, easier to put in, the battle is far from over. Here are a few things to think about when planning a drywall installation, and a few of the reasons why the war of drywall nails vs. drywall screws is more evenly matched than you might think.

Drywall Nails vs. Drywall Screws for Ceiling Installations
Here is once place where drywall screws are the clear winner. The added security of using drywall screws in ceiling installations is something you don't want to go without. With gravity working against them, drywall nails are simply not able to perform as well or as long as their twisty cousins. Fortunately for drywall nails, ceilings aren't the only battlefield in the average remodeling project!

Drywall Screws vs. Drywall Nails for Wall Installations
Here is where the playing field becomes a little more slanted in favor of nails. When used properly, drywall nails are every bit as effective as drywall screws for wall installations. Additionally, the price and ease of installation you get with drywall nails is a big incentive to opt for them.

Now, if you go to your local home improvement center, you'll find that drywall screws are a bit more expensive than drywall nails. As building codes can call for up to double the amount of nails as screws for hanging the same piece of drywall, and screws are not double the cost of nails, you could say that drywall screws are the cheaper option. However, putting in drywall screws effectively and efficiently requires the use of a screw gun; nails, on the other hand, require only a hammer. When you take the time to do the price checks on hammers vs. screw guns, the clear winner is obvious. If you already own a drywall screw gun, there are few scenarios where using drywall nails is beneficial. That being said, purchasing a drywall screw gun for a small project could really up the ante of an otherwise affordable installation.

Drywall Screw and Drywall Nail Lengths
While there is a little wiggle room when choosing a larger size screw or nail, you don't want to go under the recommended length of either. When installing 1/2 inch drywall, nails or screws should be at least 1 1/4 inches long and nails should be of a ring shank variety to provide better security and reduce the chances of "popping". 3/4 inch drywall necessitates a slightly longer 1 1/2 inch nail or 1 3/8 inch screw.

Putting Drywall Screws and Drywall Nails in Successfully
No matter what you use, you'll want to embed the head of the nail or screw slightly deeper than the surface of the drywall (hammers have a slightly rounded head specifically to make this task easier.) With nails, you will have a slight dimple around the head; with screws, try and get the head about 1/32 of an inch below the surface of the drywall, creating a slight indentation. The indentations and dimples you create will later be filled with joint compound and smoothed over. If you bend a nail while hammering, it is generally recommended that you pound the whole thing into the drywall surface rather than try to pry it out.

Though your want the heads of drywall nails and crews to be below the surface plane of the drywall itself, do your best to not rip the paper, as this greatly reduces the holding power of your fasteners!

Jon Nunan is a freelance writer who draws on his experience in construction, ranging from landscaping to log home building, for his articles on home improvement.