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December 2009
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Nail Guide for DIY'ers - Framing Nails

One of the most basic things in building and remodeling are nails. Your entire house, except for the brick and concrete bits is built and held together with nails.  When you walk into the hardware store looking for nails, there is a huge selection of types, sizes, coatings and finishes. One of the things that stops a lot of folks from doing remodeling projects is the wide selection of just the basic stuff like nails.

This is a guide to the most useful nails that you will need for your projects. First up are Framing Nails. Framing nails are used in building walls, roofs, applying sheathing, sub-flooring, and just about everywhere construction lumber is used.

Here are a selection of nails from my   nail carry around. From left to right are a 16d Duplex, a 16d sinker, a 10d common, a 10d box, a 8d sinker, a 6d common, and a 6d box nail.
These are the most common nails that are used in building and remodeling projects

Framing nails come in three basic styles.  Sinkers, Common and Box. Nail sizes  are designated by (d) (penny) which was how much a hundred nails cost, by size back in England. More info on this at Wikipedia. Yeah I know it is weird, but let’s move on.

Sinkers and Commons are the same physical size in both thickness and length.  Sinkers have a waffle pattern on the top of the head to help drive the nails by providing a non skid surface for the hammer face and come in a number of coating styles. Sinkers sre available with vinyl, epoxy and cement coatings. They are also available with a galvanized coating for locations that may be exposed to water. These coatings improve the holding power of the nails significantly. They also make you swear a lot when you are demoing things using these nails.


Commons have no waffling or coating generally. They should not be used in high moisture or exposed area as they will rust.  Box nails are the same length as their sinker and common sisters, but have thinner shafts.

Box nails are a holdover from boxes were made from wood and the materials were thinner,(think fruit crates) and a thinner shaft minimized splitting of the slats when nailing.

Before I announce the winners, the last entrant and the nail on the left is a duplex head nail. The duplex nail has two heads to make removable easier as it is used for applications that are temporary in nature. Most notably concrete forms and temporary scaffolding. Also known as scaffolding nails, from a time when scaffolding was made from wood, before the invention of steel tubular scaffolding. Now that you probably know way too much about nails…..

The Winners Are


The 8 and 16d coated sinkers provide 95% of your needs in framing and sheathing in remodeling projects. They combine the best in holding power, resistance to bending and utility from framing to sheathing. Buying them in bulk will save you money and time. You may think 25 pounds of nails is crazy, but trust me, if you are doing a substantial amount of remodeling you will be surprised.

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