Nails or Screws for Fence? How to Decide

So, you are building a fence. There are many decisions that need to be made when building a fence and deciding between using screws or nails is one of the most important ones.

Between screws and nails, screws are more expensive but stronger, making them better for heavy-duty fences. Nails are better for building quickly and under a tight budget but are not as strong. To decide which is best, assess the fence’s purpose, environment, and budget.

There are many deciding factors when it comes to choosing between using nails or screws when building your fence. Keep reading to find out which option is best for your fence!

The Difference Between Nails and Screws

If you are a pro-builder, you will know the answer to this. But, if you are fairly new to building things, this could be confusing!

Nails are a metal spike that has a flat head that can be driven into the wood by a hammer.

They can also be used with plastic, drywall, concrete, and masonry. The purpose is to fasten one or more objects together.

Screws are similar to nails because they are also used to fasten one or more things together.

Instead of being a metal spike, a screw has a metal thread running around it and a slotted head, rather than a flat head, so the screw can be rotated into a piece of wood or any other material to keep it in place.

Rather than using a hammer to insert the screw, you would use a screwdriver or drill to insert in the slotted head and turn clockwise to tighten the screw.

So, when would you choose a nail over a screw or vice versa? Keep reading to find out.

When to Use Nails vs. Screws

The chart below shows scenarios when you should use which. Screws are typically stronger and safer, while nails are faster and cheaper.

Use Screws ifUse Nails if
you need an extremely strong fenceyou are in a rush
you are new to building fencesyou have a tight budget
A long-lasting fenceyou want a more temporary fence
live in an area with extreme weather conditionslive in an area with mild weather

There is a lot to know about nails and screws, so keep reading to find which is best for your fence.

Each fence is different with different needs, so you need to decide what works best for you.

Pros and Cons

ProsEasy to drive in
Easy to remove
Go in faster
Difficult to come out
ConsThey can be short
Time consuming
Cannot be straightened
They can strip
Difficult to remove
Lack of precision
Less safe
Extra force

Above is a chart with the pros and cons of using each material. To get more information, keep reading!

The Pros of Screws

Screws have many benefits when using them to build something.

  • Easy to drive in
  • Easy to remove
  • Safe

Easy to Drive In

When using a hammer, you have to use a lot of force to get the nail in the board. When using a screw, you have a screwdriver or a drill that does all of the work for you.

It takes less effort, therefore, you will not tire out as easily.

Easy to Remove

This is the same thing with driving the screw in. You have a tool so you can easily pull out the screw without having to take down the whole fence.

With hammers, you would have to take apart the fence to get access to the board. Screws save you time and labor because of their ability to be removed by a screwdriver or a drill.

Safer to Use

Instead of using a hammer, where you could easily hit your finger, you would use a screwdriver or drill to install your screw.

A screwdriver or drill is much safer because it takes away the chance of missing the nail and hitting your hand.

You can hardly hurt yourself when using screws.

Screws are also a good option when it comes to building a fence.

The Pros of Nails

Nails have many uses and many benefits when building something.

  • Go in faster
  • Difficult to pull out
  • Ability to use multiple times


Nails are able to go into whatever material you are using faster. You can even use a nail gun to speed up projects even more.

With a few simple pounds of a hammer, the nail is locked in and will not move. It does not take a lot of time to hammer in a nail.


Nails are almost permanent once you insert them in wood because they are hard to take out.

When you have to remove a nail from a piece of wood, you sometimes have to cut out the wood from the fence.

Once the nail is in the wood, it is pretty hard to take out. That just shows how strong the nail is.


Nails are malleable, so their shape can be restored if it bends.

Sometimes when you hammer a nail and the nail hits the head wrong, the nail can bend.

Also, nails can bend sometimes when they are removed from a fence. So it is nice that you can bend the nail back to its shape so you can use it again.

Nails have many pros and are a good option for your fencing project. Now, let’s take a look at the cons of the two fencing materials.

The Cons of Nails

While there are many pros to using nails when building a fence, there are also some cons.

  • Difficult to remove
  • Lack of precision
  • Less safe
  • Extra force

Nails are Difficult to Remove

While it may seem easy to remove nails from wood, it is actually harder than you think.

When you decide to use nails for your fence, you have to know that if you need to remove the nail, you will have to do some serious rebuilding.

To remove a nail, you will have to take parts of the fence apart. You may have to cut out the portion of the wood to get rid of the nail that is in the way.

This becomes tricky if you place the nail incorrectly. Instead of easily pulling it out, you may have to completely start over.

Hammering is Not Precise

Building upon what was just mentioned, it is tricky when a nail is wrongly placed.

This can easily happen because hammering is not precise.

Hammering a nail into a piece of wood is hard because you are using brute force to insert the nail into the wood.

If the hammer hits the head of the nail wrongly, the nail could go in wrong, bend, or even fall out.

Since it is hard to hit the nail precisely with the hammer, it does cause problems with fence building. If you are looking for precision, nails might not be the best option for you.

Nails Can Be a Safety Hazard

Nails can become a safety hazard because of how they are installed.

Hammers, again, are used with brute force. They are not precise, which could be dangerous to those using the hammer.

If not used carefully, one could easily hit their finger instead of the nail, which is quite painful.

You can easily hurt yourself when using a hammer, so it does become a safety hazard.

Nails Require Extra Force

Since nails are installed with a hammer, each nail takes up a bit of energy.

It may not seem exhausting after one or two nails, but after a hundred, hammering a nail into a piece of wood can become tiring.

When compared to inserting a screw into wood, hammer and nails definitely require more force.

The Cons of Screws

When discussing the positives, you should also look at the negatives, so here is a list of the cons when using screws to build your fence.

  • They can be short
  • Time
  • Cannot be straightened
  • They can strip

Screws are Short

A lot of screws are shorter in comparison to nails, which can cause problems if you are trying to join large planks of wood.

When you are looking to build your fence, you need to make sure you look at the measurements of your wood planks before deciding which material to use.

Screws Take Time

While they are safer, screws take more time to install.

When inserting a screw into a piece of wood, you have to turn the screwdriver all the way until the screw is tightened into the wood.

Drills can make this process quicker, but it still takes more time than hammering a nail into a piece of wood.

Screws Cannot Be Straightened

Unlike nails, screws cannot be straightened.

If your screw bends in any way, it is broken and cannot be used again.

So, when you are using screws, you have to be very careful that they do not bend.

Screws Can Strip

Screws can easily strip, which is when the head part of the screw is bored-out.

Stripped screws happen when the wrong tool is used or if it is screwed in at the wrong angle.

This is typical because of user error, so it can easily happen to someone who is not used to using screws.

Overall the choice to use screws or nails are up to you and whatever you need them for. When in doubt, call a professional to get their opinion for your area.

Fence Frenzy

We at Fence Frenzy absolutely love taking on the challenge of building, or even restoring, a fence. Especially elaborate and exotic fence designs that really make us scratch our heads! We're happy to share everything we've learned with you.

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