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Question: Using Finish Nails for Decking

Don_Russell's picture

I read in an issue of This Old House magazine that Tommy has started using his finish nailer in conjunction with construction adhesive when building decks (only for the decking itself, not the structural members).

Has anyone tried this? I'm planning on building a deck this spring and it would go much faster using this method;I hope that I read it correctly...any comments?



(post #172684, reply #2 of 21)


I agree. Adhesives outdoors will not last, nor be very effective in contact with, usually, wet uncured pressure treated decking. The train of thought I have usually followed is to not create a hole for rot to occur when nailing. Therefore, finish nails, which easily get countersunk when hit hard on the last blow, are to be avoided. Screws are good, but you should really predrill the deck piece if you want to hold it down to the structure. You should also always always (yes, I said it twice) put the hearts facing up so the boards don't try to cup out and away against the fastener as they dry. In lieu of screws, I use ring-shanked (or spiral) flat head nails. The flat head seals the puncture in the wood.

(post #172684, reply #6 of 21)

I am a weekend warrior in the middle of a deck reconstruction using Deckmaster clips. Yes, they are expensive and it would be difficult to overestimate the extra time, especially if working alone (although 20 times might just be pushing it a bit). I would truly hate to bid a job using them where there was any cost sensitivity at all.

That said, they are worth it to me as long as I am doing the labor myself and not paying anyone for the time. I really like the clean look and my wife likes the thought that she will never again stub a toe on a popped nail. Will anyone but me ever actually notice it? Probably not, but I hope they see a clean, finished look without being aware why.

(post #172684, reply #8 of 21)

Last summer I repaired a deck (red cedar) that was fastened with 16d hot dipped galvanized finish nails. They were looking good and holding fine after 20 years on the job. In fact, they were not about to pull out easy.

Make sure the nails are hot dipped. The electroplated junk is good for about 6 months.

I wish the deck was looking that good, but even cedar will give up - butt rot, edge rot. Spacing just encouraged fir needles to collect and help rot things.

(post #172684, reply #10 of 21)

O.K. gentlemen,
We have a couple of different methods for decking that we utilize depending on the TYPE of decking specified.
For crummy p.t. decking, we simply use a ring shank hot-dipped galv. decking nail by hand.
For fir and cedar decking, we use hot-dipped galv. finish by hand. I don't know what people have against using finish nails for this type of decking. I cannot imagine what a job would look like using screws or commons. It must look terrible,though. We have never had any problems or call-backs. I also like to use the finish guns for the ends of our fir decking-that way we don't waste alot of time pre-drilling
For mahogany and pau-lope decking we use the old const. adhesive and pneumatic driven stainless steel finish nails. If you don't use s.s. nails, you are liable to see ugly black marks around each nail. I'm not sure how long Tom's been doing this, but we've been at it for 6 years now w/o a problem. I have to admit I was apprehensive about it in the beginning, but you can't beat s.s. nails and I haven't been able to find hand-driven finish s.s. nails. Even if I could find them,I would still probably use the adhesive only because of the smooth shank of the nails.
Again, as everyone states, time will tell-even though there are some excellent adhesives on the market, wood will be wood. I'm just saying we've never had any problems. Our company is based in New England.

(post #172684, reply #11 of 21)

I wasn't going to respond at all if I was the only one using finish nails for decking. However I have been doing it for about 15 yrs. No call backs to date. I agree that screws would hold down against cupping and warping better tan a finish nail but I couldn't stand the looks either. And yes, wood will be wood! Some additional upward movement may take place with finish nails but the overall look is worth the chance. Deckmaster is a royal pain in the *ss. 20 times the work may be a bit of an UNDER-statement. My advice would be to use hot dipped standard or spiral. I have actually had better results with spiral but they sure do bend easy. For what it's worth....

(post #172684, reply #17 of 21)

Andrew and others-
Sorry if I offended anyone with my P.T. remark. I guess the stuff is pretty common down south and other places. My answer to the s.s. nail question should have been clearer.
We'll use the s.s. finish nails only when the decking will remain "natural" or clear-coated. This is almost always the case with the mahogany decking we use and sometimes the case with the fir.
In any event, if the decking is to be stained or painted then we use hand driven hot-dipped galv. finish

(post #172684, reply #19 of 21)


We simply don't offer p.t. as a choice for decking-and if they ask, we convince them that they don't want it. We explain it's good to use as framing lumber and that's where it stops being good. Like I said, I'm not trying to offend anyone, but I think p.t. decking is terrible and I especially think that playsets made out of p.t. are really terrible.

To answer your 2nd question, we do use pau-lope a few times a year--boy is that stuff indesructible AND very nice looking.

To answer your 3rd question, I don't care for mechanical-galv. fasteners. I prefer hot-dipped and s.s. Since I can't get hot-dipped pneumatic finish nails, we use hand-crankers. And since I haven't yet found a source for s.s. hand crankers, I use pneumatic and const. adhesive.

(post #172684, reply #21 of 21)

I read in an issue of This Old House magazine that Tommy has started using his finish nailer in conjunction with construction adhesive when building decks (only for the decking itself, not the structural members).

Has anyone tried this? I'm planning on building a deck this spring and it would go much faster using this method;I hope that I read it correctly...any comments?



(post #172684, reply #1 of 21)

Didn't read that story but some basic good advice on nailing decking is to never rely on adhesives for long term holding power especially on PT lumber. when using a power nailer stick to ring shanks. When hand nailing stick to spiral heavy galvanized deck nails or screw it down with deck screws. ( never use black drywall screws as they are too hard and will snap).

Pete Draganic

(post #172684, reply #3 of 21)

I agree the best is screws and then if you want a clean look and have the time examine a system such as the deck master system. Stay away from using finish nails out side and if you must the ring shank seems the best compromise between holding power and being inconspicous.

(post #172684, reply #4 of 21)

I don't know, DeSilva's method sounded awfully tempting. The finish nails wouldn't do much more than hold the (probably twisted) decking board until the glue set -- and I suppose they'd continue to resist shear much better than the glue. If the mill glaze were roughened up before gluing, or the wood allowed to "season" (mine sat stacked and stickered under a tarp for about 2 mos. w/o warping), perhaps glue is enough to resist the fairly minor uplift forces. I'd like to hear whether DeSilva slides into callback hell on this. He doesn't strike me as the kind of guy to be slipshod.

I also doubt that a recess 1/16" x 1/8" is going to be a gold plated invitation to water infiltration. How much would fit in there -- one drop? A half drop? Screws and nails need to be sunk a bit too, with much bigger screws, and may later pop up to grab passing toes.

P.S. Deckmaster would require about 20 times the labor as the nails. And the d*mn things cost $2 apiece (22")!

(post #172684, reply #5 of 21)


Have used galvanized finish nails while decking and assembling railings for years and years and years......Love em.....No glue.

Jack : )

(post #172684, reply #7 of 21)

Oh -- I agree -- my labor is different from a hired person's labor. The look and water resistance is great, but if I would hate to build someone else's deck this way. I stand by the 20x figure -- as you're attaching the brackets to the joists, and the brackets to the planks, just picture yourself crawling along with a nail gun going pow, pow, pow.

(post #172684, reply #9 of 21)

I've also used 16d, hot dipped, cupped, casing nails for many years on decks. The head is slightly larrger than a finish nail. The shank is heavier too. They make great outdoor finish nails.

I've never seen a nail pop out, but it is possible that the deck pops up around the nail, then is squeezed back down when my uncle walt visits!

I'd rather use the nailing machine now though! And forget the glue. It might actually leave a space that moisture can invade, freeze and expand, and do further damage.

Time will tell, Tommy.


(post #172684, reply #12 of 21)

Amen on the Deckmaster. The result looks nice, though, and hey, it's only money.

Juhnny M., do you choose your fasteners based on the quality of the decking? that is, do you think the SS nails are the best in any situation, just too expensive for "crummy pt"?

(post #172684, reply #13 of 21)

Andrew when I started out on my own I had to complete with low end bids to make ends meet. With a price of $10 per square we had rethink deck building as the company that I had worked with before had always used stainless nails. At $10 per square we used nails and hammered away. Now we can choose and all decks are on the high end of price and thoose **** Deckmaster things take a lot of time. Have wondered about using blocking under decking and fasting that way...... time will tell

(post #172684, reply #14 of 21)

How much does a "square" run now? (Was that $10 per 100 sq. ft., as in roofing lingo? If so, I'd like to fly you out here)

(post #172684, reply #15 of 21)

The last deck that I built, spring of '98 was decked with 5/4x6 cedar and nailed with stainless steal nails that I picked up at Home Depot. By the way they had a great assortment of ss; finish, twisted siding, and more.

Always using SS with cedar too, to avoid black stains.

Jack : )

(post #172684, reply #16 of 21)

Andrew, the sq. is 12"x12" like people who shop houses on sq price..... How much would you charge to build me a 1000 sq ft house???????

Standard answer is $1,000 per sq. ft.

Copper roof,granite floors,imported marble real wall paneling........ect .........ect have yet to build one yet with all this stuff maybe some day

Have seen some of your post's and we're in the same area Washinton Metro area I'm out of southern Md and cross the Wilson to Northern Va a lot. Maybe we need to touch base

(post #172684, reply #18 of 21)

Oh please, I despise pt, I was just curious how you mapped things out. These "nice" wood decks -- are they a premium item, or do ordinary people buy them? The highest i would go was Trex, figuring I didn't want cedar and anything more exotic would be $$$$$$. Can always upgrade later... Speaking of, do you use Ipe or Pau Lopé?

Why don't you shoot the galvanized? Loose nails better quality?

(post #172684, reply #20 of 21)

Hey, I can actually be helpful.

So you were the one who wanted hand-driven SS. I saw some the other day at a lumberyard and remembered ... now of course I've forgotten the brand ... but I need to call them now anyway, just a second ... 6d 8d ring shank (siding) & smooth, from Swan Products and Steel & Wire Products, both of Baltimore ... call Smoot Lumber Co. 703/823-2100.

I recall that McFeely's sells some loose SS nails ... guess what i need to call them too ... they have 304 & 316 (greatest corrosion resistance -- more chromium or something) common & finish SS 4d through 16d too. I would be wary of hand driving SS though because it is so soft. McFeely's has "trim head" SS screws too -- 305 316 410($$ -- marine) (pick your formula!) 1-3" plain & auger point (the latter I highly recommend).

They claim their mechanically galv. "No-Corode"® are far superior to regular kind -- much smaller particles in the plating process. Just installed a couple thousand of them, so I hope they're right.