Fasteners account for a very small proportion of the cost of building decking. However, they are some of the most critical components in the whole structure. Selection of inappropriate fasteners often results in the decking falling apart, and in a few instances will even make it unsafe.
The correct selection of fasteners used for decking is dependent on an understanding of the nature of the decking, as well as the characteristics of different fasteners. Understanding that the quality of fasteners varies depending on the manufacturer is also important, since it helps one identify more reliable vendors.
Bolt varieties such as the grade 2 steel hex lag bolts are suited to handling large amounts of force. The fact that they are a bit more expensive compared to either screws and nails, as well as the fact that they are larger means that they are best used in sections where forces are bound to be large. These include fastening of critical members as well as ledgers and railing. Since decking is located in the open, all the fasteners used on it are bound to corrode if they are made of iron.
A whole range of screws including the alloy steel slotted fillister machine screw exist out there. This is both a blessing and a curse especially for people doing DIY decking installation. The fact that there is so much variety can be overwhelming, and this might make them choose the wrong type out of sheer desperation. On the other hand, the presence of so many screw varieties means that one can find a type that perfectly fits their needs.
When choosing to use screws for decking, it’s important to make sure that they are either galvanized or made out of stainless steel. This protects them from inclement weather. The ones that have a coating of yellow zinc should ideally not be used in such a scenario, as they are not very resistant to corrosion. If you intend to use a large number of screws for the installation, consider getting the type that have a square bit. These are normally easier to drive. Lastly, when buying the screws, you should ascertain that they are structural screws. Nonstructural screws are not meant to withstand large forces and tend to break when exposed to too much strain, such as from the weight of the decking.
These are a common application in decking. However, it’s easy to make the wrong selection when using them. Nails that have smooth shanks are usually not meant to hold material for long. As the wood in the decking shrinks over time due to drying, they tend to loosen, and this will manifest as a separation of the joints between the wood. Avoiding this means using nails with rough edges, and also drying the wood thoroughly before putting it to use.
Should you get hidden fasteners?
All the fastener types above also have hidden versions, which are meant to sit flush with the surface of the decking. They are more aesthetically pleasing, but are more expensive and take longer to install. Whether or not to use them is a matter of personal preference.
Started my career in the fastener world in 1969 at, Parker Kalon Corp. a NJ based screw manufacturer located in Clifton, NJ working in inventory control, scheduling secondary production and concluding there in purchasing. In 1971 I accepted a sales position at Star Stainless Screw Co., Totowa, NJ working in inside sales and later as an outside salesman, having a successful career at Star I had the desire with a friend to start our own fastener distribution company in 1980 named: Divspec, Kenilworth, NJ. This was a successful adventure but ended in 1985 with me starting Melfast in August 1985 and have stayed competitive and successful to date. Melfast serves the OEM market with approximately 400 accounts nationally.