By: Fix-It Club  | 
Many types of nails with measurements of the sizes of nail pennies.
Nails can be made of a variety of metals, but some are intended to be used with specific materials.

The easiest way to fasten two pieces of wood together is with nails. They are manufactured in a variety of shapes, sizes, and metals to complete almost any fastening job. If you're curious to know how many types of nails are in production, brace yourself, because there are plenty! Whether they're distinguished by nail shape, size, or material, these tools are essential for keeping our modern world intact.

In this article, we'll discuss the most common types of nails, as well as their specific purposes. And for those of you looking for the difference between a french manicure and a shellac manicure, you may have better luck looking elsewhere.


How Many Nails Do You Need?

Most commonly, nails are made of steel. Other types — aluminum, brass, nickel, bronze, copper, and stainless steel nails — are available for use where corrosion could occur. In addition, nails are manufactured with coatings -- galvanized, blued, or cemented -- to prevent rusting and to increase their holding power.

Nail Sizes in the Penny System

Nail size is designated by penny size, originally the price per hundred nails. Penny size, almost always referred to as "d," ranges from 2 penny, or 2d (1 inch long), to 60 penny, or 60d (6 inches long). Nails shorter than 1 inch are called brads; nails longer than 6 inches are called spikes.


The nail length is important, because at least two-thirds of the nail should be driven into the base, or thicker, material. For example, a 1 X 3 nailed to a 4 X 4 beam should be fastened with an 8 penny, or 8d, nail. An 8d nail is 21/2 inches long; 3/4 inch of its length will go through the 1 X 3, and the remaining 13/4 inches will go into the beam.

The Price of Nails

Nails are usually sold by the pound; the smaller the nail, the more nails to the pound. You can buy bulk nails out of a nail keg; the nails are weighed and then priced by the retailer.

Alternatively, you can buy packaged nails, sold in boxes ranging from 1 pound to 50 pounds. For most repairs, a few 1-pound boxes of popular nail sizes will last a long time.


The Most Common Types of Nails

What follows are some of the most common nail types:

Common Nails

Used for most medium to heavy construction work, this type of nail has a thick head and can be driven into tough materials. They are characterized by their thick shank and wide, flat head. Ideal for rough framing, they provide strong holding power in wooden structures.


Common nails are made from wire and cut to the proper length and are available in sizes 2d through 60d. These nails are often referred to as "standard nails".

Box Nails

Lighter and smaller in diameter than common nails, box nails are designed for light construction and household use. Their lighter gauge makes them less likely to split thin wood.

They are perfect for jobs that require less holding power. True to its name, box nails are a go-to for small crates and boxes.

Finishing Nails

Finishing nails are lighter than common nails and have a small head. They are often used for installing paneling and trim where you do not want the nail head to show.

Their thinner shank reduces wood splitting, making them perfect for fine woodworking and crafting furniture.

Roofing Nails

Usually made with galvanized steel for weather resistance, roofing nails have a much larger head than common nails. This helps to prevent damage to asphalt shingles.

Specifically designed for roofing, these nails have a broad, flat head and a short shank. Used to secure shingles, they ensure durability against harsh conditions.

Drywall Nails

Nails made for drywall installation are often ringed and have an indented head. Annular-ring nails have sharp ridges all along the nail shaft, providing greater holding power.

Masonry Nails

There are three types of masonry nails designed for use with concrete and concrete block: round, square, and fluted. Used in attaching wood to masonry, they are essential in construction.

Masonry nails should not be used where high strength is required. Fastening to brick, stone, or reinforced concrete should be made with screws or lag bolts instead.


Less Common Types of Nails

Here are some less common types of nails that are nevertheless important to know about:

Brad Nails

Brad nails are ideal for installing trim. They are smaller than finishing nails and virtually headless. This makes them nearly invisible once driven into wood.


They are commonly used in delicate trim work where splitting is a concern. Brad nails are particularly effective for use in fine carpentry.

Duplex Nails

Unique in design, duplex nails have a double head for easy removal. They are used in temporary structures like scaffolding or formwork.

The secondary head allows for quick extraction once the temporary work is done. These nails are a staple in temporary construction sites.

Spiral Shank Nails

These nails are known for their extra holding power. Their shank is either spiraled or ringed, creating greater friction in the wood.

Ideal for flooring and decking, they resist withdrawal better than smooth-shank nails. Their design is especially beneficial in high-stress applications.

Wood Nails

Wood nails are made entirely of wood and are used in specific applications where metal nails are not suitable. These nails are less likely to split wood and do not corrode or react with the wood fibers over time.

They're not as strong as metal nails are are used primarily for aesthetic or specialized functional reasons.


Tacks and Corrugated Fasteners

Tacks and corrugated fasteners, while similar in function to nails, are actually distinct in their design and application. Available in both round and cut forms, tacks are used to hold carpet or fabric to wood. Upholstery tacks have decorative heads.

Meanwhile, corrugated fasteners (also called wiggly nails) are used for light-duty joints where strength is not important. The fasteners are set at right angles to the joint.


Knowing Your Types of Nails Matters

The world of nails is diverse and intricate, with each type serving a specific purpose. From common nails to specialized masonry nails, the correct selection can make a significant difference in the success of a project.

For that reason, it's essential to pay attention to the details. Mentioning a type of nail's extra length, thinner materials, or cupped heads can mean a huge difference in a hardware store.


Not what you're looking for? Try these:

  • Home Repair Tools: Whether you prefer to use the Yellow Pages for anything that needs fixing around the house or consider yourself a regular do-it-yourselfer, there are a handful of tools that everyone should have in their tool box. Learn all about them in this article.
  • Fasteners: Fasteners, such as nails and screws, are used to connect two things together. Learn about the types of fasteners available and what they are typically used for on this page.
  • Hammer: A hammer just might be the most common home repair tool around, used by even the least handy of people for simple projects like hanging a picture on a wall. Find out more about the types of hammers available on this page.

This article was updated in conjunction with AI technology, then fact-checked and edited by a HowStuffWorks editor.