Drywall Nails vs Screws

By HomeAdvisor

Updated October 20, 2016

Drywall Nails vs Screws

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!

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  1. Ray, June 27:

    I like installing with screws but when doing drywall removal nails make the removal easier and removing the nails is easier also. IMO. Going with nails.

  2. Danee Cunningham, April 16:

    I much prefer nails. Much easier to put in and out

  3. frank williams, July 7:

    I ‘ve never seen 3/4 inch drywall (5/8″yes) and don’t recall any !-3/8″ d.w. screws, but wish they were available.

  4. Raymond Kristjan Poteet, November 14:

    I have been building, remodeling homes for over 40 years. Never use ring-shank nails for drywall. Obviously, they are NOT. One, they are not plated against corrosion. That will cause corrosion and later staining through of any painted surface work. Two, the heads are not cupped to accept drywall compound and prevent paper tearing of the drywall as they are being driven in. Three, the day anyone has to work on that wall, they will hunt you down.

  5. Keith, October 8:

    Another option, after considering the length of the screw and nail, is install a few nails where the tape will go to quickly get the sheet to hang, then run the screws in the field (middle of the sheet) and other areas for the better holding power.

  6. Tim Corcoran, November 3:

    Nails are for contractors because the job takes less time. Screws are for home owners because you won’t have any nail pops. Nail pops are not due to gravity, as the wood dries out it sometimes pushes the nail out. There are nail pops so bad on roofs that they sometimes push through the shingle and cause your roof to leak. Now tell me that a nail pop is due to gravity.

  7. Vox Pbx, April 23:

    Careful driving of drywall screws at the edges has less chance of bursting out the drywall than hammering away on it to install ring shanked nails. I can say this with over 40 years of drywall installation experience where at one time nails were really the only choice. Do get the proper installation tool for the screws if you are continuing to have screw breakout near the edges. It can help a whole lot. Michael Karas Oct 19 ’12 at 10:50

  8. Joe Goodell, April 25:

    I used to own a drywall contracting company that worked primarily in new custom homes.

    We used screws for everything.

    For interior walls: non insulated — caulked construction glue on the studs, place sheet, screw sheet around edges on studs, then 1 or 2 in the field of the sheet to hold it to the studs.

    Ceilings — obviously screws.

    Insulted Walls – Place sheet and screw 4 screws vertically on each stud across sheet

    Again within reason (depending on sheet size, stud material, etc)

    As article mentions Drywall gun is the difference

    Either way though, if you are going to use nails you want a Drywall Hammer… so might as well go the extra mile and get a driver.

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