Building Your Outdoor Deck and Deciding on a Deck Screw
I Love Deck Screws in the Spring Time!
Ah, spring. The birds are chirping, the squirrels are chattering
and the dog is constantly scratching at the door.
The decision to start your deck project
So -- like last spring, you sip your morning coffee, look at your
yard through winter-grimed patio doors and say, "Yes -- this is the
year I build the Deck Of My Dreams." Or maybe you're squinting at a
tangle of soggy planks with protruding rusty nails and thinking,
"Did someone wreck a fishing boat next to the pool?" Then you
realize that this was
last year's Deck Of Your Dreams.
Let's say that this is the spring where you get your outdoor deck
project off the ground.
Where are the fasteners in your plans?
Whether building or rebuilding a wooden deck, there's one thing you
are going to need in large quantities BESIDES lumber, and that's
fasteners. And if you've ever lived with a wooden deck that was
nailed together you've probably looked at those creaking, buckling
loose planks and wished someone had used deck screws instead.
Compared to the cost of the entire project, fasteners represent a
small part of your total budget, so you are going to see a great
return on your investment if you decide to go with a deck screw.
And the nature of a deck actually demands that you go with a
superior fastening product - which a nail is not.
And a Deck Screw is..?
First, consider what a deck is: an outdoor structure that has to
bear constantly shifting loads. Even your garden shed only has to
worry about snow on its roof and hiding your lawnmower.
But your deck has to support your kids running over it, your
in-laws lounging on it, and your BBQ buddies re-enacting their
famous high-school football plays. And today's decks can be complex
structures as they have a decorative role in your back yard. With
their swooping staircases, fancy lattice work and multi-level
designs, today's decks aren't the brown wooden boxes of yesteryear.
All of this means that your deck really needs to hold itself
together. You'll be investing time and money in designing and
building a solid, attractive deck that your family and friends will
enjoy in safety. Just one look at this frightening case --
Residential Deck Collapse"
-- sort of tells us that we really
should be thinking about what is going to hold everything together. (By the way,
another big lesson from this article - do not NAIL your deck to the supporting
structure, use big, solid fasteners, like
One serious screw
Let's look at the advantages of a purpose-built
deck screw. We'll start with its physical design - the head,
its drive, then the shank with its threading and point.
Bugle vs. Regular Countersunk Head
The deck screw's head should have a "bugle" design, a flared,
counter-sunk profile which presents the same flat top surface as a
flat countersunk wood screw, but with a larger load-bearing surface
against the soft planks. What does that give you? Well, if you look
closely, you'll see the "bugle" head shape flares out to lay
against the board. This shape means the head resists the tendency
to work its way into the wood after it's been set.
Another consideration is the drive -- and for fast and reliable
don't want to go with a slot drive. A deck screw with a Phillips drive has one advantage: it's a
reliable type in common use in the US. Yes, everyone's toolbox is
chockfull of screwdrivers and power-driver bits for Phillips
But growing in popularity in the US (as it always has been popular
in Canada) is the square drive screw. Why? Because when you use a square drive
bit you'll notice its unique ability: the tapered profile of the
driver bit actually wedges into the drive and holds the screw in
place for you at any angle, even when pointing down to drive into a
floorboard. In addition, the square drive arguably suffers much
less from stripping or "camming-out". You can imagine what these
qualities do for building efficiency!
Nails Gone Wild. Ouch.
Next, we turn our attention to the deck screw's shank. This baby is
designed for strength and speed. The aggressive point and deep,
sharp threads are designed to quickly bite into the wood and bury
itself quickly and solidly. Seen edge on, the deep
threading is actually razor-thin and sharp. Imagine how wood
retains the screw in place -- and then imagine a nail doing the
same job. The shank is actually
partially threaded and
tapered so that the threads bore quickly. But by the time the
screw is set and buried, its head is anchored to a full-metal,
unthreaded shank. It's not going anywhere.
Now let's go back to thinking about your BBQ buddies re-enacting
their famous Championship QB Surprise Sack of '95 on those planks.
Not a place for an errant nail.
We've saved the real issue for last: material and coating. This is
what sets this fastener apart as a true all-weather fastener. You
might be looking at a screw in your hardware store and thinking,
"looks like a deck screw to me". But you'd have to read the fine
print to know for sure, because if it doesn't say, "deck screw"
then you have to know if it's made with
steel... and if its stainless
... and if its galvanized... and will
it stain if there's corrosion...
There's an interesting article on the choices here
- but let's run through the options:
stainless steel deck screw if you want incredible longevity.
This is the luxury choice, but you might have a concern with their
appearance. Those shiny heads are going to be gleaming and winking
at you all through the summer unless you paint or stain your deck.
This is something to think about if you are using pre-treated wood.
On the other hand, that whole "chrome" look of your upscale
fastening choice might help get your deck featured on "Pimp My Yard"
You can go for other corrosion-resistant options via coatings. For
example, zinc-plated and galvanized screws are more economical than
stainless steel, but you'll still have that "shiny screw" concern.
But there is something more significant to think about: these
react with ACQ treated lumber and actually corrode, staining
the wood and even raising health concerns from the leached
The aforementioned problem with galvanized screws prompted some
public works departments to switch to a "Dacrotized" coated deck screw
for use with treated woods, particularly in
schools and parks. There's a compelling case for Dacrotized deck
screws, and it's hard to imagine even the finest treated lumber
outlasting these products. The Dacrotizing process coats the fastener in a tough, impenetrable ceramic
coating that keeps the screw stubbornly anchored where it won't
corrode or stain. And its gray-drab appearance means it politely
disappears into the wood without calling attention to itself.
Of course, you'll have your own considerations to take into account
when selecting fasteners for building your deck - your choice of
wood, your budget, painting vs staining, etc. I feel that the most
versatile and reliable choice is the ceramic-coated Dacrotized deck screw - designed to endure the baking heat, the
summer typhoons, the ice storms -- and if you're a pharaoh, the
burning hail and the occasional plague of locusts.
Let's Build It!
Finished your coffee? You've got a lot more work to do, and a lot
more decisions to make. Of course, there are lots of on-line
sources available, but we'd like to recommend this well-structured
article as a fantastic starting point:
And I encourage you to look for more information on deck screws on
your own! In fact, if you find an interesting related product,
tell us about
. This is our business, and people are always coming up with
great new solutions for even the simplest products like the sturdy
little deck screw.
Enjoy your project. Now, I've got to and let the dog out -- it's
spring out there!
Providing bulk fasteners for industry