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Community and Q&A

Screwing vs. nailing

Hammer 🔨 | Posted in General Questions on

So I have to hang a prehung door, apparently I have to either hammer in 8d nail or use a finishing nailer.  I have a paslode framing nailer and a brad nailer.  Do I need to buy yet another gun, ie a finishing nailer?  Can I just screw in prehung door or use a smaller nail in my framing gun?  I‘m very comfortable using screws but will I need to nail from time to time?  Could I frame my entire basement with screws over nails?  It just seems to much easier to screw, if you mess up I can just take it out and start over

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  1. GBA Editor
    Brian Pontolilo | | #1

    Hi Joe.

    I'm assuming that you are talking about an interior pre-hung door. Unless you like excuses to buy tools or have a houseful of doors to install, I'd say screw the door. I've always had a nailer to use for doors, but it seems like screws would give you more control to keep the door square, level, and plumb than hand nailing would. I bet some trim-head screws would do the trick just fine and would be easy to countersink and hide. As far as the basement framing, I've never framed with screws either and think a framing nailer makes sense for speed alone during a process where precision is important, but aesthetics not so much.

  2. Trevor Lambert | | #2

    For non structural loads, there's nothing wrong with screws. I framed the entire interior of my house using 3" construction screws. I removed and reinstalled more than enough screws to offset any extra time screwing takes vs a pneumatic nail gun. Compared to hammer and nail, it's obviously no contest.

  3. Expert Member
    Michael Maines | | #3

    I agree with Brian that there is no harm in installing doors with screws. In fact I prefer using screws for heavy exterior doors. If the door will be painted you can use trim-head screws, or for stain-grade work (or premium painted work) you can counterbore, use bugle-head screws and plug the hole.

    I have framed with screws in certain situations, such as when there was a good chance I would need to redo the work after client review, or in tight spots, or when only a few framing members need to be installed. Installing screws is slower and not any stronger than nails (except in pullout resistance, not usually a major factor).

  4. Jamie B | | #4

    A brad nailer is a finish nailer

    Shim the door within the rough opening to get it good and drive screws to hold the door in place to the rough opening.

    Use your brad nailer to add the trim. Fill the brad holes with spackle and paint it.

    For framing it's much faster to use your framing nailer, but screws are easier for fastening studs in situ vs building a wall on the floor and lifting it up in place (you can't really do that in basements). Nails are only necessary for structural because they bend, screws shear (except structural screws which are new)

    If we want to get deeper into the weeds, when Framing with nails, if your stud is off a bit you just hammer it in place where it needs to be. the nails will bend with the wood as it's supposed to. You can't do that with screws. With screws you have to take the screw out, burn your fingers on the hot screw, reposition and if its a minor adjustment you have to drive through a new hole because the old holes will realign to the previous position. Screws can be slow relatively, especially for you Americans with Philips head screws. It's a three hand operation, holding the wood in place, holding the screw on the bit and operating the driver.

    1. Trevor Lambert | | #6

      I'm not sure there's official definitions, but in general a finishing nail is at least 16 gauge, whereas a Brad nailer will do no bigger than 18 gauge.

  5. Dan Kolbert | | #5

    You can also remove 1 or 2 hinge screws from the top and bottom hinges and replace them with ones long enough to hit the framing. Heavier, exterior doors typically come that way. Still need to use fasteners on the strike side.

    And some of us are old enough that we framed and trimmed entire houses without nail guns. You can buy a pound of 8d finish nails and a nail set for under $10.

  6. Hammer 🔨 | | #7

    Thanks for help, didn’t want to have to buy yet another tool. Yes I’m American and have used the Phillips where you need 4 hands. Switched to star drive goes through wood like butter only need 2 hands. Structural screws are new??? How have they compared in performance? Here’s a throwback for old hammer and nail framing, full 80s gear on

    1. Expert Member
      Zephyr7 | | #8

      Structural screws compare favorably with nails for comparable applications. There are tables of shear and pull out strength for both nails and structural screws. As long as you pick the correct fastener for the application you’ll be fine. Nails with a nail gun are by far the fastest, by screws are better in some places (especially places subjected to cyclic forces like doors).


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