How to Choose the Right Hardware for Outdoor Projects
When taking on outdoor home improvement projects like building a deck, fence, pergola, or gazebo, using the proper hardware is key to structural integrity and longevity. The wide range of deck screws, nails, bolts, and anchors now available in various materials and coatings can seem overwhelming initially.
Choosing Deck Screws
The experts at SPAX explain that deck screws are specially engineered for securely fastening wood framing and deck boards together into a solid, stable structure. The sharp threading allows them to grip tightly into the wood grain while the wide threads and smooth shanks draw and hold the pieces tightly together when driving flush.
Use exterior deck screws over standard nails or screws for critical structural connections since they are much less likely to loosen or deteriorate due to wood expansion, contraction, and natural vibration over the years. Look for deck screws made of stainless steel or coated steel that resist corrosion far better than standard varieties when exposed to outdoor moisture, humidity, and temperature swings. Coated versions have an extra water-repellent layer bonded over the threads for added protection. The coating also reduces driving friction, allowing proper tightening without damaging screw heads or drivers. Apply an exterior wood sealer to cut board ends and supplementary contact points if desired.
Selecting Outdoor Nails and Fasteners
While specialized deck screws handle major framing and structural connections, standard exterior nails still work for certain decking tasks like nailing decorative trim boards, balusters, lattice, skirting and molding in place after the main construction is complete.
Choose nails made of galvanized or stainless steel rather than basic steel. Nails that are hot-dipped galvanized or stainless steel ring shank nails provide extra gripping power and longevity while avoiding early rust problems of unprotected nails. Pay close attention to sheathing thickness when choosing nail length. Correct length provides sufficient penetration strength into the house frame or deck subsurface while avoiding poke through issues. Too long and the nails penetrate siding underneath or even protrude dangerously on the other side while too short leads to inadequate framing grip. Exterior-rated trim head screws also secure trim boards and embellishments without the higher splitting risk inherent in thinner gauged nails.
Bolts and Anchors
Carriage bolts work extremely well for bolting vertically stacked posts together in a fence or overhead structure since the rounded head with square neck prevents spinning during tightening. Standard hex head bolts allow easy tightening of construction joints like rafters and ledger boards while providing connection versatility through varied grades and sheep lengths.
Install bolts with code approved washers to maintain proper tension and a snug fit over years of seasonal expansion and contraction. For substantially heavier attachments like arbors, pergolas and patio covers into masonry and concrete walls or footings, wedge anchors and sleeve anchors provide impressive grip strength when installed at proper depth and torque settings per code. Toggle bolts offer high shear strength inside harder materials like brick when threading alone is inadequate. Always apply caulking or sealing washers when passing through exterior walls to prevent moisture intrusion into the building envelope.
Choosing hardware designed specifically for durable exterior use ensures decking, fencing, pergolas, and similar outdoor projects resist corrosion, wind, and water infiltration over decades. Stainless steel offers the best longevity by avoiding rust but coated, galvanized, and approved weather-resistant fasteners also perform sufficiently when properly selected and installed per manufacturer specifications. Always check warranty terms, inspection criteria and load/shear ratings based on intended application before purchasing anchors, bolts, and screws. Investing a bit more upfront in quality exterior-grade hardware prevents premature failure and protects property values for years to come.