A well-built deck can help transform your backyard from boring to happening in no time. However, if you’re not careful, you can experience a host of problems with your deck – and one of these problems is decking screws that keep snapping. However, before you can fix the issue, you must first understand why it keeps happening.
Your decking screws keep snapping because they are low quality screws. When the wood of your deck shifts, it puts pressure on your screws. Lower-quality decking screws snap easily when placed under this pressure.
In this article, I’ll help you understand why your boards shift and place pressure on your screws in the first place. I’ll also explain what the best decking screws to use are so your deck lasts longer before needing maintenance.
Why Wood Deck Boards Shift
The shifting of wooden deck boards is a natural process.
Wood, including hardwood, absorbs moisture.
As it does so, it expands in size. However, once the sun comes out and your deck dries out, the wood releases the moisture it has absorbed and shrinks back to its original size.
This is a natural process and happens with any wooden object exposed to constant moisture and heat.
However, your wood deck boards have an additional stress factor – the screws.
Because the deck boards are screwed in place, they don’t have the space to expand and contract without issue.
This can lead to changes in the shape of the boards, including cupping, bowing, and twisting.
As the wood shifts, it also places pressure on the screws holding it in place.
If you use low-quality screws to construct your boards, this can lead to screws snapping and breaking.
What Screws To Use for Decking
Among the best – and easiest – methods of ensuring your screws are long-lasting and don’t need to be replaced is using the correct screws for your decking to begin with.
The first factor to consider is the screw materials.
You can buy screws in a wide range of materials, including brass, copper, and aluminium.
However, when it comes to decking, you should always opt for stainless steel screws.
Stainless steel screws are relatively expensive when compared to many other options.
However, they’re also highly durable, resistant to rust and corrosion, and won’t snap easily.
When you consider the replacement screws you’ll need for low-quality screws, the up-front cost of stainless steel screws actually works out to be the more cost-effective choice!
You should also look for decking screws specifically.
These are designed to be used outside and are generally stronger than wood screws.
You will then need to choose your screw gauge and length.
This will vary depending on your specific requirements, but a good general use option is a #10 decking screws.
These screws are usually available in 2.5-3.5 inch (6.35-8.89 cm) lengths and are suitable for most projects.
I recommend using the Eagle Claw Tools and Fasteners Stainless Steel Deck Screws from Amazon.com. These are available in several gauges and lengths and are designed for use in wet environments, which means you can be certain they’ll hold up to moisture well. They’re also suitable for all types of wood, including pressure-treated lumber, softwood, and hardwood.
You cannot use regular wood or decking screws, as they can ruin both your decking and the screws.
In this instance, I recommend using the Jake Sales Composite Decking Exterior Coated Wood Screw from Amazon.com. They are treated to ensure compatibility with composite decking and are made from quality heat-treated steel.
Furthermore, they are available in a range of weights and colors, allowing you to match the screws to the color of your decking.
How To Prevent Wood Movement
Aside from using the right decking screws, a good way to reduce the risk of snapping screws is to take action to prevent the wood in your deck from moving.
While you’re unlikely to be able to completely stop wood from warping, with the correct steps, you can reduce warping to a minimum.
Here are some steps you can take:
1. Use the Right Wood
Like with screws, you should choose the type of wood you use for your deck carefully.
For one, it should be high-quality wood – higher grade boards stand up to moisture much better than lower grade ones.
Additionally, you should choose boards made from wood that are designed to stand up to outside conditions.
Some good woods for decking include:
Additionally, pressure-treated wood and composite woods are a good idea for outdoor decking.
Once you receive your wood boards, you should make sure to properly acclimate the wood.
Furthermore, ensure you treat all four sides of the wood with a UV/fade-resistant sealer and seal saw-cut ends to prevent end checking.
2. Fasten the Deck Boards Properly
When fastening your boards, you should use two screws on each end of the board and two screws at every joist.
This will reduce the space the boards have to warp/cup.
Additionally, screwing the boards at every joist creates an extremely firm and stable product.
Don’t worry if you have a lot of joists that are closely spaced together – this is actually good for your decking.
For decking that doesn’t move much, you should always try to decrease the distance between joists to at least 12 inches (30.48 cm).
Additionally, make sure that you use screws that are long enough to properly hold your boards in place.
The right length will ultimately depend on the thickness of your deck boards – however, you’ll generally need screws that are 2.5-3 inches (6.35-7.62 cm) in length.
Additionally, you should make pilot holes in your deck boards before you drill in screws.
Pilot holes reduce the risk of wood splitting.
Split wood is more likely to move away from the joist, and this movement increases the pressure your screws are under, increasing the likelihood of them snapping.
If your decking screws are snapping, there’s a good chance that you are using inappropriate or low-quality screws.
The screws snap because the movement of the wood used to create your decking puts pressure on them.
To stop this from happening, use the right screws for decking and take steps to mitigate wood movement.
Cheers, tools owners!