What Type of Nails for Fence Pickets?

What Type of Nails for Fence Pickets?
What Type of Nails for Fence Pickets?

When building or repairing a fence, the little details matter, especially the type of nails you use for your fence pickets. The proper nails can make the difference between a fence that stands the test of time and one that succumbs to the elements prematurely. Let’s delve into the world of nails, exploring everything from the ideal nail material to the perfect size of the nail for your fencing projects.

Choosing the Right Nail Material

The material of the nails is critical for ensuring the longevity and strength of your fence. Here are the top options:

  1. Hot-Dipped Galvanized Nails: These nails undergo a process that coats them in a layer of zinc, offering excellent corrosion resistance. They are ideal for outdoor use, especially with pressure-treated wood.

  2. Stainless Steel Nails: If you’re willing to bear the extra cost, stainless steel nails are the best bet for preventing rust. They work exceptionally well in coastal areas where salt can accelerate corrosion.

Why Material Matters

  • Durability: A suitable material, like hot dipped galvanized or stainless steel, ensures that your nails withstand weather elements without rusting.
  • Compatibility with Wood: Certain materials are better suited for specific types of wood, mainly pressure-treated varieties.

The Importance of Nail Size

The length and diameter of your nails are crucial for the stability of your fence. Here’s what to consider:

  • Length: Generally, long nails around 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 inches are suitable for fence pickets.
  • Diameter: A thicker nail provides better holding power, essential for keeping pickets securely attached to the fence rails.

Selecting the Right Size

  • Type of Wood: The wood used for your fence will dictate the nail size. Softer woods may require shorter nails to avoid splitting.
  • Fence Design: The design of your fence also influences nail size. A heavier picket design might need longer and thicker nails for better support.

Nail Gun or Traditional Hammer?

You can choose between a traditional hammer or a nail gun when driving nails into your fence pickets. Here’s a comparison:

  • Traditional Hammer: While it requires more manual effort, hammering nails allows for more control over each nail.
  • Nail Gun: A nail gun, like a framing gun or siding nail gun, can significantly speed up the process. They are efficient and reduce labor intensity.

Pros and Cons of Nail Guns

  1. Frame Nail Guns: Designed for larger projects, they can drive long nails quickly but might be overkill for smaller picket fences.

  2. Siding Nail Guns: More suited for fence work, these guns are designed for siding and smaller-scale projects, offering precision and efficiency.

The Right Type of Nails for Different Fences

Different fencing projects require different types of nails. Here’s a quick guide:

  • Ring Shank Nail: Known for their incredible holding power, ring shank nails are ideal for fences. Their design prevents them from being easily pulled out, ensuring a sturdy build.
  • Common Nails: Good for general fencing projects, they provide adequate holding power for standard fence designs.

Nails for Specific Wood Types

The type of wood used for your fence impacts the kind of nails you should use. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Pressure Treated Wood: Requires corrosion-resistant nails, like stainless steel or hot dipped galvanized.
  • Cedar or Redwood: These woods pair well with stainless steel nails to avoid staining and corrosion.


Selecting the proper nails for your fence pickets is a detail that significantly impacts the longevity and stability of your fence. Choosing between using hot-dipped galvanized nails, prized for their durability, or opting for stainless steel nails, renowned for their superior corrosion resistance, hinges on several key considerations. These include the type of wood used in your fence, the optimal size of the nail for secure fastening, and the type of nail gun suited for your project. The correct nails do more than physically hold your fence together; they preserve its aesthetic appeal and ensure its structural integrity over time. A fence that weathers the seasons gracefully owes as much to the quality of the nails used as to the wood itself. For a strong fence that looks great year after year, the importance of carefully selecting the proper nails cannot be overstated.

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