Drywall Nails vs. Screws

a pile of nails

Older drywall installers remember a time when drywall nails were the method for fastening drywall to studs and joists. Drywall hammers and a big pouch of drywall nails hung from an installer’s tool belt, and they were accustomed to quickly setting 20 nails or so per sheet. At some point, though, drywall screws became the main method of hanging drywall. Hammers were replaced by power drills, and the nail pouch was filled with drywall screws. These days drywall nails are still available, but screws are by far the main fastener used. This article will compare the two fasteners, demonstrating the pros and cons of each.

Drywall Nails

You will ultimately spend less on the same number of drywall nails than you will for screws. Drywall nails have a ringed shank around them which firmly entrenches them in the drywall, so the issue of fastening ability is largely the same. However, more nails are required per sheet than screws which could offset any cost savings.

Drywall Screws

The first advantage is speed. In the past, drywall hangers undoubtedly became adept at quickly hammering in nails to a piece of drywall. Screws, though, are magnetically attracted to the metal tip of the power drill driver. An installer can simply dip their drill into the pouch and attract a screw onto the tip. This allows installers to work quickly. Drywall screws may cost more per pound than nails, but they secure a sheet of drywall more thoroughly requiring fewer of them.

Drywall Nails vs. Screws

Nails must be hammered in whereas screws twist into the wood. With each strike of the hammer, an installer is in effect putting an indentation into the drywall. Driving screws causes an indent as well, but it is not as wide reaching as a hammer. Not only that, but if you miss the nail, you can put a hole into the drywall which will require a patch. Drywall is very crumbly at its core. The more sudden force applied to it, the greater the risk of weakening it.

Screws are also easier to remove should you have to replace a full sheet or fix a mistake. Prying out a nail may damage the entire piece of drywall, while backing out the screw does not. Both fasteners will hold the drywall to the studs, but a screw bites into the wood. Nails drive deeply into the studs, but it really does not compare to security of a screw.

When assembling joints where two sheets butt up to one another along a stud, both screws and nails need to be properly set so they grab onto the wood. If a nail is driven and feels like it grabs the wood but does not, it could eventually work its way out after you finish the joint, ruining your work. The same thing could happen to a screw, although because of its nature, its threads won’t allow it to simply slide out.

Some installers may swear by nails when hanging drywall, although most people use screws. When compared, drywalls screws certainly are the superior choice for hanging drywall for their security, ease of installation and final appearance.