Fasteners, Screws, and Hardware FAQs
FAQs about one of the world’s most amazing, versatile, necessary machines . . . the SCREW
Below are some of the frequently asks questions we get at Leola Fasteners, mostly about fasteners, screws, and hardware
When did screws get invented?
The basic screw was invented by Archytas, sometimes known as Archimedes, (a buddy of Plato) around 400 BC. It was crude and used mostly for pressing grapes and olives for wine and oil! (Archimedes is also credited for inventing the pulley and the rattle.)
When did screws start being used as fasteners?
Screws began to be used as fasteners (rather than presses) in the 1400s in Europe. Wooden screws gave way to early metal screws as craftsmen and builders began to experiment with the strength and durability of metals.
When did screws start being used on a regular basis?
Around 1770, British instrument maker Jess Ramsden invented a lathe that allowed for faster manufacturing and more consistent sizing and threading of screws. By the early 1900s, more accurate and faster production, as well as screw heads like the Robertson screw and the Phillips head screw, made screws a popular fastener in places where nails were not as effective – like in cars, appliances, tall buildings and more. Screws made the industrial revolution possible. (If you want a good read, the book “One Good Turn: A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw” by Canadian architect Witold Rybczynski details the history of the screw!)
How did screws get their name?
Hmmm...good question. The Online Etymology Dictionary suggests several references to the French word escroue (circa 1400) and scroba (from Roman or Germanic origins). It also has some other ideas on how the screw got its name.
How were screws named?
Early screws were named after their inventors like the Robertson screw (square headed screw in the first Ford cars) or the Phillips head screw, which is still the “basic” screw with the + head. But as screws became more complex, they were named after the specific fastening jobs they performed (deck screws, drywall screws) and detailed information about size, application, material, and more were added. Organizations such as the Industrial Fasteners Institute (IFI), SAE International, and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) have set standards for general fasteners, screws, nuts and bolts, rivets, materials, tools like screwdrivers and wrenches, testing performance, coatings, corrosion resistance, and more for international consistency in sizes and uses.
When were screws first used in furniture?
Historically, metal screws were first used to make furniture in the 1400s in Europe. Because of inconsistent sizes, it took until the late 1700s for screws to be used regularly to fasten furniture together . . . after they could be produced in quantity and in consistent sizes.
A step further . . .
Screws used as fasteners were invented in the late 1700s, when they could be sized consistently. Take a look at a screw. The threads of the screw are simply an inclined plane spiraled around a central shaft or core. This basic machine has been retooled millions of times to fit various needs throughout the world. And even if you are not a builder, bottle tops, guitar tuning, light bulbs, and water faucets all rely on the mechanics of the screw.
PROPERTIES OF SCREWS FAQ
Are screws magnetic?
The short answer is sometimes . . . depending on the materials used to make the screw. Steel screws and steel plated screws are magnetic and great with a magnetic tip driver. Non-magnetic alloys that go into making screws (and drivers) include brass, bronze, various polymers, copper, and aluminum, as well as certain kinds of stainless steel. That being said, if magnetic / non-magnetic properties are important to the job at hand, make sure to tell the pros at Leola Fasteners about your needs and carry a magnet to test the pull for yourself.
Are screws recyclable? How do you recycle screws?
Absolutely YES, at a scrap metal yard. A bucket or a can full of screws, nuts, and bolts can get you a few cents per pound. Screws and other fasteners do not belong in curbside recycling, though.
What are screws made of?
Screws are mostly made of steel, which is a combination of two elements found in nature – iron and carbon. Other elements are often added to the formula to enhance strength, corrosion resistance and durability.
Are screws made of iron?
Yes. Screws are made of steel and steel is made from varying combinations of iron and carbon. Other elements like manganese, molybdenum, chromium, zinc, and nickel can be added to screw fabrication for added strength, corrosion resistance and lightweight qualities.
Are screws made of steel?
Yes. Steel is made from a combination of iron and carbon. Other materials and metals are added in different proportions to enhance strength and corrosion resistance.
Are screws made of zinc?
Screws are made of steel combined with other elements, including zinc. Mostly though, zinc is used as an inexpensive coating to enhance corrosion resistance. It works well, until the zinc coating is chipped off and the screw begins to rust, causing potential weak spots in the screw. Check with the folks at Leola Fasteners to see if stainless steel screws or another kind of dipped screw would protect the structural integrity of your build better than screws with a zinc coating. (Tip: HDG labels on a box of screws mean that they have been hot dipped in galvanized zinc.)
Do screws contain lead?
Screws used for today’s applications are generally are made of steel. Lead screws are for specialty use, mostly in instruments where “smooth, precise, clean, and maintenance free” performance is needed. Examples include labs and life science equipment, engraving, data storage and heavy lifting. Most of these screws are bolts with polymer or metallic nuts.
Do screws conduct electricity?
Yes, they can but their conductivity depends on the combination of steel (iron and carbon) as well as the proportion of other elements like aluminum and copper, added to the screw manufacture. The environment in which the screw is being used also factors into a screw’s conductivity.
Do screws rust?
Most screws will rust when exposed to moisture unless they are dipped in a rust-resistant coating. And if the coating is chipped or flaked away, rust may form under the coating, undermining the strength of the screw. Stainless steel screws are rust resistant through and through and are better for use in damp areas.
Do screws have a shelf life?
It really depends on storage and the types of metals and coatings used when the screw was fabricated. Plastic bags can trap moisture and heat, coatings can flake off, acids in paper can leach onto the screws. So, check with the pros at Leola Fasteners about the best way to store your fasteners to preserve their integrity and strength.
Do zinc screws rust?
Most “zinc” screws are steel screws that have been dipped or plated with zinc to help prevent rust and corrosion. Zinc screws corrode more slowly than steel, depending on the environment. (Note: Galvanized means steel is protected by a zinc coating. Screws, bolts, and nuts are dry galvanized in a super-heated drum so there is just a thin coating of zinc. Dipping or electro-galvanization may be used for larger items.)
How do galvanized screws react with aluminum?
The zinc coating on galvanized screws enhances corrosion resistance between the screws and the aluminum surface. However, super moist conditions will make the zinc coated steel and aluminum surface connection able to conduct electricity, so if wiring is involved, consider adding a barrier to avoid shocks.
SCREWS VS. NAILS FAQ
Are screws or nails better?
Screws are better for some projects and nails are better for other projects. Here is where the pros at Leola Fasteners can help. Are you building a deck or dock? Hanging drywall? Framing or roofing a structure? Adding closures or cabinets? Sometimes advantages to using screws are obvious but since there are so many different types, ask what types of screws work best for your specific job.
Are screws better than nails? Why do some pros prefer screws to nails?
Often screws just do a better job fastening than nails and there are thousands of specialty screws to choose from. Nails are fast, sturdy, and great to use in applications where some flexibility may be needed. Screws grip tighter and stronger, are easier to remove, join angles more securely and require a little more effort. At times, both types of fasteners can be used together for added strength, in different parts of a structure (like a deck or a wall.) Some construction pros have their own preferences for a variety of reasons, but when you need the best fastener for any job, gather the details and check with the pros at Leola Fasteners. Use top of the line materials for the best project finish.
Are screws or nails stronger?
This depends on the type of “strength” that is required for a project, so check with the pros. Nails are known for “shear” strength and side to side fastening due to their solid fabrication. Screws are a little more delicate in their fabrication because of their threads and diameter but are best when “grip” strength is needed for more vertical or angle fastenings.
Why are screws better than nails?
Screws provide a more secure fastening than nails, holding better over the long term. Screws can also be removed more easily without damaging surrounding areas and there are thousands of sizes and varieties to meet all your fastening needs.
What is a pilot hole?
A pilot hole is a hole drilled into a surface before fastening in a screw. Pilot holes allow the screw to grip the sides of the hole rather than pushing into a surface. Pilot holes help prevent splintering and cracking of the construction surface and prevent screws from snapping off or breaking. It also reduces stress on the driver and helps prevent slippage of the screw. These holes may be drilled as a portion or through the entire hold, depending on what is appropriate for the build. Pilot holes are generally used in wood, concrete and plastic applications.
OK, SO CAN SCREWS BE USED FOR MY PROJECT? FAQ
Can screws be used for framing?
Yes, according to several online sources, although nails are often preferred as they are more forgiving and flexible under the pressure of a hammer or nail gun. Some builders prefer screws, though, and that is OK as long as the right type of screw is used. If you prefer to use screws, construction pros recommend deck screws or structural screws that are appropriate for the build. If you aren’t quite sure, grab you plans and check in with the pros.
What screws are used for framing?
The pros are specific in noting that structural screws are essential for proper 2x4 framing. Structural screws are hardened steel #9 or #10 Phillips head screws and need the proper driver tip for best results. (Note: drywall screws are too fragile and can break off if used in framing. Slotted screws are harder to drive and strip too easily, so neither should be substituted.)
Can screws be used with joist hangers?
Not recommended but if you have that preference, check with the folks at Leola Fasteners about your options
Can screws go into concrete?
Yes, screws can fasten things into concrete, but you will need to drill a pilot hole and use a screw specially made for concrete. These are specialty screws, so a check in with the pros for your exact needs could be helpful. Anchors are not needed but there are some specifics as far as where to drill into concrete in relation to your build.
(Note: Bricks should NOT be drilled into. If you need to fasten something into a brick wall, the pros suggest you drill into the mortar, add an anchor and screw into the anchor.)
Where should screws be installed in metal roofing?
According to experts, screws should be fastened down inside the part of the roof that touches the sub-roof, using self-tapping metal screws with thin, compressed washers to seal the area. They should be screwed in tightly so that the screw securely grabs the wood beneath.
Should deck screws be flush?
Yes, deck screws should be flush or slightly deeper than flush. Deck screws that are too high are dangerous for people walking on decks and could cause a wound or trip hazard. Place deck screws about 1 inch to the inside of the deck plank to avoid splintering the wood. Also, make sure you are driving the screw straight down and into the deck base.
What screws are used for subfloors?
The consensus is that if the subfloor is ¾ inch plywood, then 3 inch #8, #10 or #12 screws should be used. The different numbers notate the thickness of the screws.
Will screws hold in drywall?
Yes, screws will hold in drywall and specialty drywall screws are becoming the preferred way to fasten drywall to studs. Nails tend to pop as a build is subject to climate change and settling. Like any specialty fastener, there are multiple sizes and applications. Drywall fastens to wood studs best with coarse thread drywall screws while fine thread drywall screws are better for fastening drywall to metal studs. Online DIYers have noted that if you are using coarse thread drywall screws, it is advisable to wear gloves to avoid getting metal burrs or splinters in your fingers.
What screws are best used for drywall installation?
Drywall screws, with their coarse and wider threads, were developed especially for pulling the drywall into a secure fit against wooden studs, using a #6 (or the slightly larger #8) gauge screw. Drywall screws are often used to repair nail pops. Nail pops are one of the reasons screws are becoming more popular for drywall installation.
What screws are used for metal studs?
It depends on the gauge of the studs. Most pros suggest fine drywall screws if you hang drywall on 20-25 gauge studs. If your studs are 12-20 gauge, then it is OK to use self-drilling drywall screws.
Will screws hold in MDF?
MDF (medium-density fiberboard) or particleboard composite can hold screws well with pre-drilled pilot holes and special MDF screws with straight shanks and threads that dig deeply into the fabricated wood product. Long, narrow sheet metal screws or production screws (NOT wood screws) are recommended and for a lasting, firm hold, along with an application of woodworker’s glue, and clamps where possible.
Will screws kill a tree? Will screws hurt a tree?
It depends on where the screw is placed, how many are used, and the general health of the tree, but in large, healthy trees, drilling in a screw or two for something like a hammock or laundry pole should not kill a tree or cause much damage. When metal is screwed into a living tree, there is always some damage to the branch and the surrounding area, but there is a much larger risk of damaging or killing the tree if many screws are inserted.
Will screws hold in fiberglass?
Yes, but it takes the proper materials and tools, attention to detail and a skilled hand. Fiberglass is sealed with a gel laminate that can splinter. Especially in marine applications, the consensus is to smear the screw with a sealant before slowly and carefully driving in a sheet metal screw.
Will screws hold in plywood?
Yes, but again, proper materials, tools, and skills are brought into play. Plywood is simply multiple thin layers of wood glued together – strong, durable and a mainstay for everything from DIY projects to building homes. Some builders suggest pilot holes (smaller than the screw to be used) be drilled partially through the areas you wish to fasten with coarse threaded #6 screws. Others say that self-drilling and self-tapping screws work just as well. Both groups agree that the fastening area should be about 6 inches inside of the plywood borders (to prevent splitting). With many grades of plywood offered for sale, different kinds of screws are recommended. Check with industry leaders like Leola Fasteners for updated recommendations and the best screws for the job.
Do screws need washers?
Another one of those ‘it depends” answers because washers generally protect surfaces and secure nuts and bolts, when used as fasteners. Washers are most often used when screw fasteners are not imbedded into a wood surface. The washer evenly distributes pressure from the nut and bolt to minimize movement and corrosion.
Do screws weaken wood?
Yes, they can but to what degree the wood is impacted depends on the type and thickness of the wood, angle of the joint, and how close the screws are placed to each other. Care should be taken not to split wood (drill a pilot hole) and maybe add glue to firmly secure the screw into the wood, if necessary.
Can screws be cut shorter?
Yes, screws can be cut shorter but to use the screw, you will need a pilot hole to start fastening. To shorten a screw, try snipping with a bolt cutter or wire cutter. Or you can add metal-cutting blades to a hand saw, jigsaw or reciprocating saw (Sawzall), but clamp the screw securely and wear safety equipment.
Should screws be longer than their anchors?
For basic plastic drywall anchors, yes, because as the screw twists into the anchor, the anchor expands and stabilizes the screw. If the screw does not reach the anchor, the anchor may not expand properly. But there are many types of anchors and fasteners to choose from, and many different reasons for needing an anchor. When choosing the type of anchor to use, check on the load/weight of the object being hung (a picture versus an antique mirror; heavy, medium or light duty), environmental surroundings and the base material (drywall, tile, plaster, block, brick).
What screws do not rust?
Stainless steel screws are the most rust and corrosion resistant screw made. They are more expensive, but since they are stainless throughout the entire screw structure, the rust resistance will not break down. Other screws are galvanized (coated in zinc) which can wear or chip off, leaving the base screw vulnerable to rust and corrosion.
Which screws are strongest?
According to online experts, hardened steel screws (also known as construction screws) are the strongest multipurpose screw available. But check with the pros at Leola Fasteners since you also want the best screw for the job…coarse threads to grip wood, coated screws for corrosion resistance…strength is relative!
Why do screws break?
That is a loaded question with many answers! Screws break because a wrong driver is used. Screws break because folks use the wrong type if screw for a specific job. Screws break because the internal screw structure has been corroded or rusted. Screws break because too much pressure is applied during fastening. Screws break because they are made with cheap material; and this is why it is important to purchase quality fasteners for every project.
Will screws split wood?
Screws can certainly split wood but there are several pro tips for preventing this issue. First, drill a pilot hole. Pre-drilled holes allow the screw threads to grip the sides of the hole and reduce the torque necessary to drive the screw, while ensuring a tight, straight fit. Second, make sure that you use the proper, quality screw for the application. Third, check to make sure your screws are not placed at the very edge of a project; move them in just a little. If boards are very narrow or the wood is very dry, some splitting may occur, so again, pilot holes, quality screws and proper drivers are your friends!
Why do screws have different heads?
The original slotted head screw and driver were easy to use and effective, but as different sizes and applications for screws were developed, better screws heads and drivers were needed so that drivers could be centered and additional torque could be used to tighten the screw. Different weights, sizes, thread smoothness and spacing between threads were also tweaked to ease the effort needed to fasten different objects together for a variety of purposes.
Why do screws get stripped?
Screws are “stripped” when the head of the screw becomes so damaged that it cannot be turned with a screwdriver. This can be caused by using the wrong size driver on a screwhead, power screwing too fast or slow, poor quality tools and screws, overtightening a screw or continuing to work the screw when it has already shown signs of being stripped. There are tools available to help remove stripped screws, but some people swear by using a rubber band in the screw slot and firmly pushing the driver into the rubber band, creating a good grip.
Why do screws strip so easily?
Poor quality screws, wrong driver for the job, too much torque or pressure during fastening or unscrewing, wrong screw for the job. Plain and simple, use the right screw and the right driver of good quality, for best results.
ANATOMY OF A SCREW . . . WHAT KIND OF SCREW DO I NEED? FAQ
With so many screws available for so many purposes, it is easy to get caught up in comparing screw heads, sizes, threads, gauges, materials and more, especially for big projects. Not sure of the difference between a #6 or #8 gauge screw? Do you need a washer? Or a special driver? Coarse threads or smooth threads? Check out the basics below, but see your local pros at Leola Fasteners for exact specifications, options and substitutions.
What are the basic parts of a screw?
The head is the top part of the screw. It can be rounded, countersunk or raised and has slots on top for the screw drive. The screw drives come in a variety of shapes but the most common ones include slotted, Phillips head, Torx, hex and square. Next is the screw shank (underneath the head) and this part connects the head to the screw threads. Sometimes there is a smooth area, and sometimes it looks as if the head is attached directly to the screw threads. The threads are the spirals that make the screw what it is. Some threads are spaced close together, some are spaced farther apart. At the very end is a screw tip. Some tips have sharp, penetrating points, others are smoother.
(image coming soon...)
How are screws measured?
Screws are measured by 1) Screw gauge (which is the outside diameter of the threads), 2) shaft length (the part of the screw that is driven into the surface), and 3) threads per inch (TPI) which measures how many threads per inch on the screw.
How to choose the right screw
While screws may look the same length, there are other factors to consider when choosing the screw right for the job. First, look at your plans. They may provide the exact screw dimensions you need, that can be ordered from a place like Leola Fasteners. Their pros can offer additional advice and substitutions depending on availability and new product introductions.
Screw heads and overall length along with the diameter of the threaded/unthreaded shank areas should be taken into account.
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) provides standards and guidelines by which screws (and many other tools) are measured.