How To Buy Nails

If your DIY project requires the use of nails, you have to know exactly what type of nails you need.  Otherwise, when you get to the hardware store, you will be overwhelmed by the vast array of nail choices.

Before heading out to the hardware store, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. What will you use the nails for?  To join large pieces of wood or small boards, fasten metal or for masonry?
  2. How thick are the materials to be joined together?  This will determine the length of the nails.
  3. Where will the joined materials be situated, indoors or outdoors?  For outdoor purposes, the nails should be rust proof.
  4. Will the materials be joined permanently or dismantled later on?  If you need to dismantle the joined pieces, you may be better off using screws rather than nails.
  5. What are the strength requirements?  Putting up a picture frame requires a lighter nail than framing a house.

Size of Nails

You can buy nails according to their length, size, gauge or number per pound.  Nails come in lengths starting from 1” to about 6”.  The longer the nail is the thicker the body.  Anything longer than 6” is usually referred to as a spike.

Style of Nails

The standard point of the nail is a four-sided diamond.  You can also find other styles in the hardware store.  Depending on the use, some nails come with small flat heads that can be driven into the surface and painted over.  Some nails used for framing have corrugated heads.  This reduces the chances of injury or damage in case the hammer slips.


Nails are mostly made from steel (stainless or otherwise).  You can also purchase zinc coated nails that are rust resistant.  This type of nail is referred to as galvanized nails and is used outdoors.

Type of Nails

Different fastening projects require different types of nails.  Here are just a few of the many different types you can find in any hardware store:

  1. Round wire nail is for general use. When strength rather than the nail’s appearance is more important, round wire nails are usually used.
  2. Clasp or cut nail is used for soft masonry or for fixing lumber.
  3. Oval wire nail is long and used for wood.  It can be hammered below the surface.
  4. Round or lost head nail is the same as the oval wire nail except that it is stronger. 
  5. Panel pin is lightweight making it ideal for use with small moldings or in cabinet-making.
  6. Tacks are short nails usually used for fixing floorboards, carpeting, furniture or textile to wood.  It has a wide and flat head.
  7. Brads are used in nail guns.
  8. Turbo zip nails are used for fixing lumber as well as masonry.
  9. Masonry nails are made of zinc and used to hammer wood to brick and in other masonry jobs.
  10. Galvanized felt nails are used outdoors for fixing roofing felt.  Its’ large head keeps the water out.

Buying nails is not as complicated as it seems.  Before you enter the aisle of fasteners in your local hardware store, you should know the exact purpose of the nails.  Not all nails are created equal.  It is important to use the right nails for the job to avoid damages or injuries.  Consult the hardware store personnel if you have doubts as to which nails to use.  Once you have the right nails, its hammer time!


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