Framing is one of the most basic, and most essential parts of almost any construction project. Good framing is the start of any home, and almost all solid structures need some kind of framing. The bigger the building, the more framing it’s likely to need.
Even decks, storage sheds, and other relatively simple home additions often need framing to ensure the finished construction is solid and durable enough for use.
Good framing needs good fastening systems, which means that you need the right kind of nails for the job. Choose the wrong nail and you’re likely to create a weakness in the framing which may need to be redone or reinforced later.
This guide will go over the most common sizes of framing nails, walk through how you choose the right nail for the framing you’re working on, and even cover how you’ll pick the right tool for your nails.
Nail Sizes for Framing
Like all nails, framing nails come in a variety of sizes and shapes, each designed for a different kind of project and a different purpose. It’s important to find the right size and shape of nails since framing provides the underlying structure and stability for any building.
Framing Sizes Explained
Framing nails use a slightly different sizing than other nails. Instead of gauges or inch length sizing, framing nails use d. D, when it comes to framing nails, is shorthand for pennies. A 16d nail is about 3.5 inches long, for example.
There’s one other important consideration when it comes to framing nails, and this is what can define a framing nail as opposed to another kind of nail that’s the same length. Framing nails are at optimum strength, durability, and fastening power when they are roughly 3x longer than they are wide.
Nails that are wider without the added length run the risk of splitting framing materials more easily. Nails that are thinner than the optimal ratio are likely too delicate for framing purposes and might not be able to take the weight of the structure built around the framing materials.
Also called 16 penny nails, this is the most common size of the nail that’s used for framing. There are some variations in the width of these nails though, some are narrower and others a little wider and more durable, so you’ll still need to choose the right nail for each kind of framing.
Sinkers, one common variety of 16d nails, have a textured head and a nail width of about 0.148 inches.
Commons, the other most common variety of 16d nails, have a smooth head and a wide of 0.162 inches. These nails are used often for fastening wall plates and other relatively heavy-duty framing work.
Sinkers use a vinyl cement coating along the outside of the nail that makes it easier to sink the nail into wood, which is the primary reason for the name. Generally, sinkers are the preferred option for any kind of work that requires a lot of nails, simply because they are faster and easier to place than other kinds of 16d nails.
The coating also helps to protect the nails from moisture and other kinds of damage. Commons aren’t coated, which means that they should never be used anywhere that’s likely to be exposed to a lot of water and other potentially corroding elements.
16d nails are generally considered the best option for framing interior walls as well. They aren’t too short or too long, and both width options are relatively versatile and easy to use.
These nails are also the best selection for exterior walls in many cases, but you’ll need to get specifically coated nails for exterior framing. Corrosion resistance is critical for the long-term durability of the nail. 2×4 framing and joist hangers also generally call for 16d nails.
It’s no wonder they are the most common length of framing nails, they’re the default choice for an incredibly wide variety of framing tasks!
10s nails are 3 inches long and about 0.148 inches wide, making them a little shorter but just as wide as sinker 16d nails. These are generally used for attaching two boards that are lying flat against one another since they are a little shorter and aren’t very likely to go through the framing boards.
The most common use of these nails is for framing the roof trusses. The nails are long enough to create a firm connection between your framing materials, while the wider design helps to hold the greater weight your roof needs to handle.
It’s also common to use 10d nails in framing studs, especially when you’re creating double wall studs. Overlapping floor joists can also call for 10d nails for the right balance of durability and length.
8d nails are less common, but they’re still a useful option any time you don’t need something longer for the materials and task at hand. 8d nails are 2 ½ inches long, and 0.134 inches wide. Like 16d nails though, 8d nails do come in a couple of different widths so you can match the width of the nail to its intended purpose.
8d nails have something else in common with 16d nails, there are two common varieties. The varieties of nails also have the names in common, sinkers and commons. Just like 16d nails, 8d sinkers are coated to resist corrosion and sink into wood more easily while commons are bare nails without any kind of protective coating.
These are the ideal choice for siding and subfloor projects. They can also be used for sheathing and any framing tasks that don’t need a ton of length to get a good attachment.
No matter how you’re using 8d nails, it’s important to make sure the nail is spaced so that it will sink into the stud. Otherwise, you’re not creating a good attachment point and you’ll likely leave that part of your project hanging loose. One or two missed nails can create a relatively significant weakness in the framing.
Of all framing nails, 6d nails are both the smallest and the narrowest option. These are generally only used for interior projects that aren’t as critical for the structure and stability of the finished building. At just 2 inches long they aren’t really designed for heavy attachment jobs. The narrower shank of the nails also makes them unsuited to high-stress positions, though they can handle some weight-bearing.
Usually, this kind of framing nail is used to join the finished flooring to the subfloor underneath. They can also be used to join flat sections of wood and any other materials that are flat, relatively thin, and need a narrower nail to help avoid damage.
Choosing the Right Size Nail
Choosing the right nail is usually pretty simple, especially since we’ve already outlined some of the main uses for each kind of nail and which ones are most and least common in framing.
However, if you’re ever uncertain the length of the nail is likely the easiest thing to use as a determining factor. Framing nails need to be long enough to create a firm attachment to the other materials, which means you should usually aim to have a half-inch to an inch of the nail in both sections of material.
If you’re uncertain which of these nails is going to be the right option for the current part of your project, err on the side of being slightly too long.
That doesn’t mean that you should use 16d nails as a default for everything, but a nail that goes a little deeper than it needs to is much safer than a nail that doesn’t have enough length to make a good stress-bearing attachment.
Choosing the Right Nail Gun
Choosing the right nail gun is also critical if you want to be able to sink framing nails quickly and effectively. Most nail guns come compatible with either a clipped head nail or a round head nail, but relatively few will support both.
A lot of nail guns will be compatible with all or most framing nails, but it’s still important to check and make sure your nail gun is compatible with the kind of nails you’re going to be using. You may sometimes need two or three different nail guns for different framing tasks.
Framing Nailer vs Roofing Nailer vs Siding Nailer
There are also several different kinds of nail guns, and it’s important to choose the right kind of nail gun for your project. Framing nailers are generally the best option for framing projects, thus the name, but you can make other nail guns work if you already have them on hand and don’t have a framing nailer as an option.
When it comes to roofing nailers vs siding nailers though, there are quite a few important differences.
Roofing nailers are designed for roofing, which means that they usually use a different style of nail and are designed to first punch through common roofing materials, like asphalt, before attaching the nail to a wooden base. That takes quite a bit of power but usually means that these nailers are less versatile and may need specialty nails.
Siding nailers are usually a little less powerful and are designed for smaller nails that can be hidden with good nail and siding placement. They’re generally pretty flexible and can work with a wider variety of framing nails, but they can struggle with thick materials and may not be compatible with the longer varieties of nails.
Framing nailers on the other hand are generally compatible with the whole range of framing nail lengths and widths and have the power you need for secure and quick attachments.