Just as important as the quality of the lumber that goes J into your fence is the quality of the fasteners that will hold it together. Whatever outdoor fasteners and hardware you choose, make sure they are rustproof—galvanized or stainless steel, brass, or other rust-resistant metal.

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Once sold for so many pennies per hundred, nails today are sold by the pound. But nails still are described and sized by this old terminology—a 16-penny or a 4-penny nail. To further complicate things, “penny” is indicated by the letter d (probably for denarius, Latin for coin). What really matters is the length of the nail. In most cases the thickness of a nail follows its length.

Just as there are many sizes of nails, there are many types of nail shank. Each has a different holding power. Rings hank and spiral-shank nails grip the wood fibers better than smooth (common or box) nails and don’t easily work their way out. In fact they can be difficult to remove.

Of all the sizes and shapes available, these nails work well for most fence projects:

  • Common or rings hank nails (16d) for the frame— in 2x or thicker stock.
  • Box or ringshank nails (8d or ld) for the infill— in lx or thinner stock.
  • Finishing nails (6d or 8d) for the fine trim.

Duplex nails for temporary fasteners; they have a double head that makes them easy to pull out when you strip away forms or braces for example. For small jobs buy nails in 1-pound boxes or in bulk quantities by the pound. Keep an assortment of brads on hand. Brads look like miniature finishing nails; use them for molding and finishing jobs.


Screws hold better than nails and come in a multitude of styles. They’re also easy to remove, which makes correcting mistakes easier. Your fence construction will require deck screws—usually in 2×4- to 3/2-inch lengths. Deck screws are coated to resist the elements and are sharp and self-sinking. You can drive them with a cordless drill about as quickly as you can drive nails.

Regardless of the size you use, predrill holes when driving them within 2 inches of the end of a board. This keeps the wood from splitting. Use a drill bit the same size as the screw shank (not the threads).

Screw heads vary in style and slot type. You need phillips, square-drive, or combination heads. Get square-drive heads if possible. They tend to strip out less than phillips-head screws.

A lag screw is a large screw with a hexagonal head used to secure heavy framing members and hardware. Tighten them with a wrench.

Bolts And Brackets

Bolts, nuts, and washers provide a solid connection with excellent load-bearing strength. Use only zinc-coated or stainless-steel ones. Drill holes with a bit of the same diameter as the bolt shank. Bolts are sized by diameter, threads per inch, and length. For example, a 1/2-13×3-inch bolt is 1/2 inch in diameter, has 13 threads per inch, and is 3 inches long.

Metal fence brackets work well for quick installations and solid connections. Brackets can join rails to posts, prefabricated fence bays to posts, and louvered boards to posts (horizontal louvers) or rails (vertical louvers).

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