All of the Options for Deck Fasteners
Has it been a while since you built your last deck? Did you fasten the wooden deck boards with nails or Phillips-head screws? Well, things have changed.
Has it been a while since you built your last deck? Did you fasten the wooden deck boards with nails or Phillips-head screws? Did you nail on joist hangers? Those days are over, my friend. We met with some deck pros, who gave us the lowdown on the new screws they’re using to hang ledgers, secure posts and fasten metal connectors. They also gave us terrific insight into which deck screws and fastening systems they preferred for wood and synthetic deck boards. We guarantee you’ll find something here that will help you build your next deck faster and stronger—and make it look like a million bucks.
Hide the screws
Hidden fastening systems are great, but there’s no more secure way to fasten a deck board than by screwing directly through the board into the framing. That’s why the Cortex Hidden Fastening System is our experts’ favorite. The boards are held down with composite deck screws that countersink themselves. The holes are then filled with plugs cut from the exact material the deck boards are made from, making them virtually disappear. A box of 375 costs about $125 at home centers.
Wood deck screws
Upgrade to composite deck screws
These are the features to look for in the screws you use to secure your composite, capped composite and PVC deck boards:
Structural screws are awesome!
Lag screws and washers have long been the fastener of choice for securing joists to posts and ledger boards to walls. Lags work fine, but they require a predrilled hole and lots of hand wrenching or an impact wrench. Modern structural screws have auger tips and highly engineered threads that rip through wood fibers with very little force and no predrilling. Many can be installed with cordless drivers. Structural screws have wide heads that work like washers and are made of steel with tremendous shear strength. The ones shown here are made by GRK.
It’s a screw and a bolt
Are you a nuts-and-bolts kind of deck builder? Don’t trust structural screws on your deck frame? Well, here’s a product that combines the best of both worlds. The ThruLOK structural screw can be driven into lumber without a predrilled hole. It also has a special nut that threads onto the end of the screw/bolt, sandwiching the framing components together. It’s perfect for handrail posts, which can be subjected to extreme lateral force. ThruLOK screws cost about $2.50 each at The Home Depot.
Hidden deck board fasteners
Here's our advice for choosing among the many hidden fasteners available:
A perfect hole every time
When working with rock-hard decking materials like ipe, our experts predrill holes in the wood with Starborn Industries’ Smart-Bit predrilling and countersinking tool. It has a rubber face and a free-spinning collar, so it won’t damage the surface of the wood. Starborn makes Headcote colored stainless steel trim-head screws that work with the bit, but any No. 7 trim-head stainless screw will work. This bit comes in handy for general woodworking projects as well. Smart-Bit countersinking tools are available at decksdirect.com and other online retailers for about $20.
Screw + nail = scrail
Connector screws work better
Most joist hangers and other metal connectors require a lot of fasteners to hold them in place. These connectors are often in awkward locations with little or no room to swing a hammer. To avoid smashing your fingers, install your connectors with screws instead of nails. A pack of 100 of these Simpson Strong-Tie Connectors costs about $14 at lumberyards and home centers.
The perfect option for wet wood
Here’s a cool, inexpensive tool for fastening wood deck boards. In addition to being fast and easy to use, the Camo Marksman Edge Tool drives the screw into the top corners of the boards, which makes the heads hardly noticeable. This is a great feature because it’s not easy to hide fasteners on wood you want to install without a gap (wet treated pine and other soft woods like cedar shrink and create a gap after they dry).
Buy screws compatible with treated lumber
The preservatives in pressure-treated lumber cause many metals to corrode. If you’re buying screws labeled “deck screws,” they’re probably compatible with your framing lumber. But if you don’t see “ACQ [Alkaline Copper Quaternary] compatible” on the package, don’t buy them. Stainless steel is the least corrosive material for screws, but stainless steel screw heads are softer and more prone to stripping, so they work best with pre-drilled holes.