Nails or Screws for Fence

The first question that you might have when building a fence is whether to use nails or screws. The truth is that both nails and screws have their advantages and disadvantages. The best choice will depend on the type of project you are trying to accomplish.

In this guide, I will compare the pros and cons of screws and nails and give my recommendations on what to use for your fence.

Nails vs. Screws for Wood Fence

Man using screws to attach fence pickets


The strength of the fence is the primary factor when deciding between screws or nails, especially if you live in a windy area or in upcountry where you want to prevent the animals from breaking into your yard.

As you know, metal nails have long, smooth shafts whereas, screws have a spiral ridge that runs down their length. This means that far more area of the screw grabs into the wood compared to a typical nail.

It is true that some nails have barbs or rings that assist in grabbing the wood, but screws are far stronger.

This means when the wood swells and recedes when exposed to moisture, a typical smooth nail might slip from its position while a screw stays tight. However, screws are more vulnerable to twisting, which is an uncommon occurrence in fencing.

Ease of Installation

Nails have a clear advantage over screws in that they can be installed considerably faster. It takes a fraction of the time to hammer a nail into the material, which means less labor that you must either perform or pay for as part of installing the fence.

Use a power nailer to build the fence, and you can drive in several nails in a minute.


This may sound counterintuitive, but nails, when placed correctly, have a better aesthetic appeal compared to screws. Because screws are driven in by pressure, they can be uneven in their appearance. While nails that are forced into the wood using a nail gun can be evenly applied.

You could counter-sink the screws to flush with the surface, but it takes practice to get it perfect and is time-consuming. With a nail gun, all you need is to set the depth initially, and you are good to go.

The result is that nails have a better aesthetic look compared to screws. This assumes that the nails are galvanized or stainless steel, which resists oxidation.


In terms of application, nails are more cost-efficient compared to screws. Nails tend to be cheaper, and they are driven into the wood faster. In terms of initial cost, nails are the far better option compared to screws.

However, if the nails must be removed, that adds a complication.


It is considerably more difficult to remove a nail, especially without damaging the wood, as compared to removing a screw.

If you are replacing old or damaged panels, then screws are the better choice in terms of cost and labor.

Nails for Fence

Generally, nails are the preferred choice for attaching fence panels to the post. There are different types of nails that are used to secure the panels, most notably galvanized or stainless steel nails. Such nails are far more resistant to oxidation compared to nails that are not galvanized or made from stainless steel.

Woman Nailing fence pickets

Type of Nail for Cedar Fence:

For cedar fences, you’ll want to use stainless steel, polymer-coated, or double hot-dipped galvanized nails, as they will stay in place and not corrode.

Do not use zinc-plated nails as they may react with the cedar and cause streaks of corrosion.

Nails for Pine Fence

For pine fences, you can use a wider range of fasteners that include the following.

  • Polymer Coated
  • Stainless Steel
  • Hot-Dipped Galvanized
  • Copper
  • Silicone Bronze

This assumes that the pine is pressure-treated, which most fence materials are. However, if you are using non-pressure treated pine, then you can include zinc-plated steel as it will not adversely react to the wood.

Pros & Cons of Using Nails for Fence

For starters, nails are quite cheap and easily available in the sizes and lengths that are desired. Plus, hammering in the nails is considerably faster compared to driving in a screw.

On the flip side, nails are not really repair and maintenance-friendly.

Screws for Fence

For certain situations, screws may be the better choice, especially in certain structural applications or when holding heavy loads.

Remember that there are different types of screws available, such as structural screws and deck screws, that may be better suited to the type of fencing you are installing.

Screws offer several advantages along with a few disadvantages compared to nails.

Advantages of Screws

The most prominent pros include the following.

  • Creating a Strong Joint: Because the screw thread grabs so much of the wood, they tend to stay in place better compared to nails.
  • Tightening & Loosening: Perhaps the best reason to use screws is that you can tighten and loosen them with ease. This means you can replace panels quickly and adjust the screws that are simply not possible with nails.

However, screws have their issues as well. There are situations in which using screws may not be the best option, particularly if you are on a tight budget or have a limited amount of time to perform the installation.


  • Cost: Screws tend to cost more and not be quite as available compared to nails.
  • Time-Consuming: It takes far longer to drive in a screw the first time as compared to hammering in a nail.

Factors to Consider when Choosing the Fastener

The most important factor is matching the fastener to the specific need of the project you are creating. You may find that nails are the best choice both for the initial installation and screws work best for the long-term maintenance of the fence. Some factors to consider include the following.

  • Fence Panel Weight
  • Type of Wood
  • Location of the Fence

Conclusions & Recommendations

If you are building a metal fence, screws are the obvious choice for fasteners.

For wood fences, I recommend using screws to secure the rails to the post and nails for attaching the fence pickets to the rails.
This will ensure that your fence rails are strong and you can complete the work fast since you will spend most of your time and money on the fasteners used for securing the fence pickets.

Basically, if time and budget are the primary concerns, nails are the better choice. They are cheaper, easier to install, and will last a long time. Plus, they can bend with the wood easier compared to screws.

However, if you are looking for better longevity and faster replacement, screws are the ideal option. They will cost more initially, but over time they will pay off when maintaining your fence.