Full round head vs clipped head nails, which one is best for framing and why?
Power nailers utilize nails with various size, length, and heads according to the requirement. In this guide, I am going to explain the different types of heads of nails that are used in framing nailers.
The three most commonly used framing nail heads are,
- Full Round head nails
- Clipped Nails, and
- Offset head nails.
The main difference between a round nail and the clipped nail is that the head of the clipped nail has a small portion of the head clipped to form a D shape. This allows the clipped nails to be arranged very close to each other in a power nailer.
An offset nail, on the other hand, has a full round head but offset to one side with respect to the body of the nail.
Each of these nails got its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s see them in detail.
Round Head Nails
These are the standard nails with full round shaped head. FHR (full round head) nails are the ones that you see and use often. If you have ever used a hammer and nail to hang a picture frame on the wall you have used the round nail.
- Higher holding power compared to other nails
- Standard nail that is available everywhere.
- Confirms the building codes.
- Less nails in a strip.
- You have to replace the nails more often which will affect the productivity.
- Plastic collation flying around during nailing can be a problem.
- Flagging can be a quality issue.
Clipped Head Nails
These are nails with a portion of their round head clipped. While people often call them as D shaped nails, the head of the clipped nails cover more than a semi-circle.
- More number of nails per strip
- Paper collation offers better safety and quality of work.
- Improves productivity since less time is spent changing nails.
- Less holding power.
- Not suitable for roofing, sheathing, etc. where the nail head retains the joint.
- Your local building codes may allow you to use them.
As explained above the head of a clipped nail covers more than half of the round which should give enough strength for most application. So why not use them? The answer is building codes.
Clipped Head or Full Round Head– Which one is better?
The main advantage of the clipped head nails is that they can be arranged tightly in the strip. They also result in a steeper angle of collation. This allows the framing nail guns to be designed at a steeper angle that provides more working clearance.
Another distinct benefit of the clipped head nail is that these nails can be paper collated; whereas the round nails are usually plastic collated. Paper collation is better for clean nailing with no residues and leaves your place tidy.
On the other hand, FHR nails are either held by plastic collation or wire-weld collation. When nailing the plastic or wire collated nails, the remains of the retainer plastic/wire will fly towards you and can result in injury. You should always be wearing protective glasses to safeguard your eyes.
They can also cause flagging problems. Flagging is the defect caused by bits of plastic or wire retainers entering into the work-piece along with the nail.
How about strength?
People who prefer the full round nails often argue that they have more holding power. But the truth is that the capacity to withstand lateral force is directly proportional to the shear strength of the nail. This means that the bigger diameter and longer nails can withstand more lateral load.
In case of framing, you are always trying to arrest the perpendicular force by joining the two pieces by nailing it. The head of the nail is only to limit the depth of penetration and has nothing to do with the strength of the joint.
All these should tell you that clipped nails are better than full round nails. However, there are two major disadvantages for clipped nails.
When it comes to roofing and sheathing clipped nails perform inferior to FHR nails. This is because in these cases, the head of the nail actually retains the joint between the materials. For example, when pulled, a thin plywood sheet can get teared right through the head of a clipped nail. This is one of the reasons why building codes do not allow you to use to clipped nails at hurricane-prone areas like Florida.
Please note that the shear strength of the panel actually depends on the depth of the nail driven. The failure happens when the nail head is penetrated through the outer layer of the ply to form a countersunk. If you do the nailing properly, practically there is very little difference between the clipped and round nails.
Another problem with clipped nail is that the nail head can get sheared when pulling it out. But this is usually not a big deal because it is rare that you need to pull out the nails if you are using a power nailer.
Offset nails have full round head but offset to one side of the shaft of the nail. They can be a good compromise between the FHR and clipped head nails. Offset head nails can be collated closer than full round nails since their pin is off-center. Also once the nailing is done they appear exactly like full round head nails.
Several manufacturers like Paslode nailers are moving towards full round offset nails since they meet the building codes.
Which Framing Nailer Should I get?
As you can see clipped nails offer several advantages over full round head nails. So here is my recommendation.
Clipped Head Nailer: For DIY enthusiasts and homeowners who want to personal projects.
Full Head Nailers: For professionals who want to ensure that there nailing work meets all legal requirements.
Offset Head Nailers: If you are a local builder and your local building code allows the use of offset head nails (most do), then get this one.
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