Can You Nail PVC Trim?

PVC Trim Installation using nail gun

Working with PVC trim is fairly straightforward. Fastening the trim to the surface requires using the right tools and fasteners. And while most people will use screws to do the job, the question is whether you can use nails to fasten PVC trim as well?

Can You Use a Nail Gun on PVC Trim?

The answer is yes, you can use nails to fasten PVC trim. Use a coil nailer and stainless 8d nails with full round head for PVC trim installation. For indoor trims, the 15-gauge finish nailer works well.

However, nails are not the best fasteners available. If you can, using screws is considerably more secure and stands less of a chance of cracking the trim. Though, nails are a suitable alternative if you use the right size and apply them with the proper tools.

Siding Coil Nailer

You should use a coil siding nail gun to do the job. This is a type of nail gun is designed to fasten delicate materials such as PVC trim. The gun itself is relatively easy to use and can do the job faster compared to using screws. However, depending on the conditions you may find that the nails will not be quite as secure. Plus, you will have to deal with the nail holes as well after the trim has been fastened.

But to do the job right, you will need to use the proper nail size. Nails that are too small will not secure the trim properly. While nails that are too big may crack or damage the PVC trim which means having to repair or replace the trim which is a time-consuming effort.

PVC Trim Nails

PVC trims, also known as cellular PVC trims are made of plastic (Poly Vinyl Chloride). Unlike wood trims, with proper care the PVC can last for a very long time. However, they are subjected to thermal expansion and contraction and you should consider this when choosing the fastener.

For indoor trim, you can use ordinary galvanized nails assuming the environment is not subject to any big changes. In other words, prolonged exposure to heat, cold, or moisture will have a debilitating effect on the nails over time. This means that PVC trim that is applied to the kitchen, bathroom, or laundry areas may be subject to moisture or heat than other areas of the residence are not.

Nails for Exterior Trims

For outdoor trim, it is best to use 3160stainless steel nails or hot dip galvanized nails. This is because these nails are protected from oxidation which is the most prominent concern when using fasteners made from metal. The stainless steel and galvanized surface will resist oxidation which means that the nail itself will not be compromised when exposed to moisture.

Nail Size

The nail size for PVC trims will depend on the location of the trim. Because of the different environmental conditions, the trim on the outside will require different size nails compared to the trim on the inside. The nail should enter at least 1 ¼ -inch into the substrate (usually the studs). Hence the nail length should be the thickness of the trim plus 1 ¼ inches.

Coil Nails for PVC Trim

For PVC trim on the outside, use 8d nails. They are designed for PVC trim that have thin shanks. Be sure to use the 8d nails that have full rounded heads for maximum hold. If they have annular threads, then all the better as the nail will better adhere to the trim and keep it in place.

This is important with trim that is exposed to the elements because of the heat, cold, and moisture which may affect the trim itself. Although PCV is less subject to shrinkage or expansion compared to wood trim, they can allow for moisture to penetrate through the holes unless they are sealed properly. Plus, the nails themselves may be subject to expansion, shrinkage, or oxidation depending on what type you use.

Nails for Interior Trims

For indoor PVC trim, you can a smaller nail to do the job. This generally means using a 15-gauge finish nailer. Because the trim is not exposed to the elements, you do not need as large a nail to hold the nail in place.

Always consult with the manufacturing guides on the PVC trim to ensure that you are using the recommended nail size.

Problems with PVC Trim

PVC trim is generally strong, resilient, and long-lasting. It is designed to hold up against the elements better than other types of trim such as wood. However, there are still issues with PVC trim that you need to know before installation.

1. Expansion and Contraction

The most notable is the expansion and contraction according to the temperature. Although PVC is a tough material, it is subject to expanding when heated by the sun and contraction when it cools. The expansion and contraction can affect the nails used to hold the trim in place. Over time, the expansion and contraction may loosen the nails or cause the trim to crack where the nails have been placed.

Unlike wood that expands (cross-wise) when it absorbs moisture, PVC expands (along the length) when the temperature rises. Expansion and contraction become bigger issues based on the length of the PVC trim. The issue becomes more problematic once the trim exceeds the length of 18”. This because the more material that is present, the more it will move when expanding or contracting. Keeping the trim as short a possible means less will expand or contract when heated or cooled.

This is where nails become more problematic compared to screws which hold the material in place with a stronger grip. The trim is less likely to move when secured with screws, so if you are using long sheets of PVC trim, then you may want to consider using screws to keep it in place.

2. Cracking

Cracking is another issue that may affect your PVC trim. For exterior trims, cracking can take place because of thermal expansion. It may also happen when the PVC trim is impacted. Because the trim tends to be thin and rigid, it may be subject to cracking struck. This is especially true if the trim is hit near where a fastener has been put into place. Wood trim is not as subject to cracking as PVC, but it is also arguably not as durable.

3. Dent

Compared to wood, plastic is a soft material. If you strike it with hard objects plastic can get dents and gouges. But I wouldn’t worry about it because these trims are places where they are not subjected to heavy use.

4. Expensive

Depending on the brand you buy, these can be expensive than wood trims such as baseboards.

5. Not Environment Friendly

Finally, PVC is plastic and is not eco-friendly. They often end-up in landfills and it takes a long time for plastic to decompose.

But, I have a friend who argues that PVC can be recycled and there is no need to cut trees to produce plastic. I guess, when it comes to eco-friendly materials it is more of a personal choice.

Filling Nail Holes in PVC Trim

Covering the nails is an essential part of placing PVC trim. This is because the nails will create holes where moisture may gather and affect the fastener itself. To cover the nail holes, it is best to use the cortex concealed fastening system designed for PVC trim. This will properly cover the hold and the nail, providing effective protection from moisture.

After putting the fasteners in place, you should cover the nail holes with the cortex concealed system. This will add years to the life of your PVC trim by protecting the nails underneath from expansion, contraction, or oxidation.