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In this article, we will be looking at whether you can use a nail gun for decking. This will include the entire build process, including the construction of the frame, and fixing down your decking boards.
In theory, you could use a nail gun for every part of your decking. This includes building the frame and fixing the boards in place. However, this is not a good idea, and in most cases screws are by far the better option.
Screws will give a much better fixing than nails, plus they are less likely to result in maintenance issues in the future.
Nail guns are a fantastic tool, and they can save a huge amount of time on different jobs. In fact I recently purchased a new nail gun, and it has come in really handy on several projects. However, they are not always the best tool for the job.
If you are interested, you can read my DeWalt first fix nail gun review here. As well as some of the jobs I have used it for.
Below we will look at each stage of building a deck and whether a nail gun is an appropriate tool.
Can you build your deck frame with a nail gun?
Before you lay decking boards, you will need a frame to fix them too. Your frame will usually be built from pressure treated timber. This will consist of deck joists and the surrounding frame.
The frame could potentially be built with a nail gun. Once finished, it will be completely covered in decking boards, and it will also be fastened to posts, so all of this will add extra rigidity to the frame. This means the nails are very unlikely to move.
However, the fixing would still not be as strong as screws and there are other things to consider. For example, over time the wood can expand and contract, as the temperature and humidity changes.
There is a chance that this could cause movement and creaking in the deck. This is far less likely when using screws, as the thread has a much better hold in the timber. With that said, ring shank framing nails do get a pretty good grip.
Whenever I have built deck frames in the past, I have always used screws. Personally, I would not consider using a nail gun to build the entire deck frame. Screws will just create a stronger frame and there is less chance of issues in years to come.
Adding noggins to the frame
Noggins are added to add extra support and rigidity to the frame. Depending on the size of your deck, you could have one or more rows of noggins. When I build decking frames, I usually space rows of noggins between 1000-1500mm.
Also, because I won’t be fixing decking boards directly to the noggins, I tend to stagger them. This is a little easier than fixing them in a straight line.
For this process, I would say that using a nail gun is acceptable, especially if the rest of your frame is secured solid with screws. The advantage with a nail gun, is simply the time it will save.
Each noggin will have at least 2 fixings either end, so this can add up to a lot of work, especially on a big deck.
Nail gun for fixing to decking posts
Once your frame is built, it will need levelling and supporting. The most common way of doing this, is via posts. These are usually set into the ground by digging a hole and set in a special type of post concrete.
Once your posts are set in place securely, the frame can be lifted to the desired height, and fixed level.
When doing this, I do think a nail gun is quite handy. I would not use it for the main fixings. However, it can be useful to get an initial fixing when you level the frame.
This can be especially helpful if you are working on your own. By fixing in place with nails, it will secure the frame at your desired height, and enable you to add more secure fixings.
Can you fix decking boards with a nail gun?
So far, we have discussed building the frame and securing it in place. In these previous stages, the nail gun has been an optional, or supplementary tool. However, in every job so far, screws would still be the preferred main fixing.
This is not about to change with the decking boards. In fact I would strongly advise against fitting the boards with nails. This is for several reasons, which include:
- The finished appearance will be better. Screws will just look much nicer than nails.
- Decking screws will give a much better fixing. This means less chance of movement and noises from your deck.
- Screws are very easy to remove. If you nail decking boards, you will have a major headache if you need to lift them or do any type of maintenance in the future. Not only will it be difficult, but you have a very real chance of damaging the deck boards as they are removed.
Screwing your decking boards down, is a time consuming and laborious task. However, any time you save nailing, is likely to come back and bite you 10x in the future.
Unfortunately, this is one of those times, where you need to roll your sleeves up and just do the work. It is extra effort to screw, but in this particular job, it is the best option.
Personally I use screws for the entire project. However, I would definitely consider nailing noggins and using nails as a secondary fixing in some cases.
A nail gun is definitely not the best power tool for building and laying a deck. Screws are far superior in every stage of this job. There is an argument for nailing the frame. However, it is undeniable that screws will give a better fixing.
Also, you would need galvanised ring shank framing nails for outside work. These are not the cheapest option.
The only disadvantage with screws, is the time it takes. But, on the flip side, the future issues and maintenance will be greatly reduced with screws. So in the long term, it will probably save you even more time.
My advice, is to simply spend the extra time screwing everything, and this will achieve the best possible finished job.