Fence Boards: Screws or Nails

If you are building a fence you are going to ask yourself if you should use screws or nails when constructing your fence. When choosing whether to use screws or nails for your fence you will need to assess the following aspects: 

  • Type of wood you are using
  • Length of the fastener  
  • The tools you have available 
  • The amount of work required 

Type of Wood You Are Using: 

Types of wood that can be used in the construction of a fence can vary widely. However nearly all fence construction is done with two types of lumber either, cedar and pressure treated.


  • Using cedar wood is typically more beneficial in regards to the structural integrity and water resistance of the fence while above ground.
  • Cedar is less prone to bowing (bending while drying out) than other types of wood leading to less trouble while during and post constructions.
  • Coupled with the fact that standard pressure treated wood lasts 10 – 15 years on average, cedar has a longevity expectancy of 15 – 20 years on average.
  • The downside to using cedar, like most things that are of higher quality, is the cost.
  • Cedar is roughly 2x more expensive than standard fence boarding.

Pressure treated wood: 

Pressure treated wood is essentially any kind of standard wood (spruce, fur, or pine) that had been processed through vacuum and pressure technology.  Where protective chemical preservatives are injected into the wood, increasing is durability. Giving it added strength, along with increased resistance to rot, insets, and fungal decay. Cedar has its perks however pressure treated posts tend to last just as long or longer when beneath the ground.  

Our advice: to ensure your new fences look great and lasts the maximum amount of time, our team recommends a combination of both. Cedar for everything above ground and pressure treat for the posts. 

Length of the Fastener

Length Screw or Nail You Should Use

There are two lengths of nail that are required to build a fence:

  • 16-D: 3 ½ inch for the rails.
  • 6 –D: 2 inch for picket’s boards or panels.

Same rule applies for screws, 2 inch and 3 ½ inch:

  • Just make sure you buy deck screws ( usually green of beige)

Cedar or other untreated woods.

  • With higher quality woods is recommended to galvanized nails or screws, same lengths and type.

Tools You Should Use for Screws

The best and most effective tool to use for installing screws is a cordless of corded electric drill. My favourite and recently purchased is the “Milwaukee brushless cordless compact hammer drill/ impact combo kit available online or at your local home renovation stores. Simply purchase the required drill bit for the screws you are using (they usually come in cases with all you will need) and get to work!

Tools You Should Use for Nails

Depending on many linear feet the fence is, you could use one of two tools :

  • Standard hammer and nail method
  • Nail gun

My team and I typically use nail guns, but they are more dangerous and require training to use.

Amount of Work for Each Method: 


  • Are faster to install, leading to less labour for the installer which ultimately results in reduced costs


  • Are slower than nails but will secure the fence for a longer period of time
  • They also allow for easier problem solving down the line should you have to make a repair or alteration.

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