Nails or screws?

We like to build things.  We built our own chicken coop and run after doodling the whole thing out in a composition book.  The design changed slightly from the original design, but all in all it is still true to the original concept.  In the building of the coop we used a combination of fasteners.

For the legs, floor joists, frame, and flooring we used ring shank nails.  For the construction of the rest of the structure we used screws.  This was not originally part of the design, but the idea is based on mobility.  It is possible that we may move in the next few years, and not everyone is keen on having a chicken coop in their front yard. So for the sake of curb appeal, I built the whole structure with the ability to take it down fairly easily.

The siding, laying boxes, roof, and framed walls can all be simply unscrewed and removed.  The lower structure is heavy, but light enough that you could easily lift it onto a trailer and then relocate or sell the whole lot.  Other than the 4x4s, the uprights of the run are just simply screwed to the landscape timbers on the bottom and the upper horizontal ties.  Once those screws are removed, it would take just an afternoon of shoveling to dig the posts out and remove almost any trace of the coop and run.

This brings us around to the concept of when to use nails and when to use screws.  I certainly feel that both are excellent options, of course when the correct fastener is used.  You would not use trim head nails to frame a house, nor would you use decking screws.  The first option being not strong enough, and the second not being fiscally sound. The obvious choice here would be 3 inch coated framing nail.

When building outdoor projects I typically stick with decking screws.  They are relatively inexpensive, permanent when used properly, and easy to use.  The bonus is that they are removable if and when you decide to modify your design.  You can remove nails, but its a lot more work, not as safe, and the majority of the time you damage the fastener so that it can’t be reused.

For furniture, I use a mixture of air nails and pocket screws.  Both fasteners act as clamps to hold joints tightly until the glue in them dries.   The nails are used anywhere they might be visible such as face frames.  The pocket screws make for strong joints where they can be hidden.  They are best used on the bottom surface of shelves or table tops, and the backs of cabinets or frames.

When I make anything that has a rustic flair, such as a pallet wood wine rack, I use a combination of flat head nails and dry wall screws.  They add a good bit of character especially when sanded and stained. I have even intentionaly soaked both to create rust and yet another dynamic of appearance.

Whatever you are building consider what fasteners are available and best for your application.  Also remember to figure the cost of your fasteners into your project budget. You can easily spend more on the screws for a project than the actual lumber, but you also don’t want it to fall apart.