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Should I Use the Screw or Nail for Installing Subfloor?

Screw or Nail? Which is Best for Subflooring?

Depending on the type of project you need to do, you will need to use screws or nails. But you may be wondering: "should I use a screw or nail for installing subfloors?" If you can't decide and need to find a way make the right decision, there will be several factors you'll need to keep in mind.

First, you'll need to decide which is fastest. You'll also need to do your research to figure out which one will fit your budget better. Next, you should explore which one is most durable/has the better holding power for your application. In this article, we'll go over all the important factors to consider when choosing screws or nails for subfloor installation.

1. Which is Fastest?

Need to get your project done faster? Consider that an air nailer allows for quickly driving in nails. Screws on the other hand require a screw gun to twist them into the application. This overall requires more time than a nail gun. There are a few screw guns that do allow for faster driving, such as the Senco DuraSpin DS440-AC. Overall, nails will get your carpentry project done faster than screws.

2. Which is Better for a Tight Budget?

On a tight budget? Nails are typically the more economical option. However, keep in mind that not all nails will provide the same level of quality or durability that screws do. Some nails like stainless steel nails are higher quality and are well worth the price in the end to maintain the longevity of your subflooring.

Overall, you will want your subfloor to be sturdy and last for as long as possible. Therefore, consider whether you want to sacrifice quality. Consider opting for either high quality nails or screws to ensure durability and sturdiness for many years to come.

3. Which is the Most Durable?

Subfloors are exposed to heat and cold throughout the year. With this comes expanding and contracting with the changing temperature. You'll want to factor in the changes in your subfloor when selecting either screws or nails for your project. For example, the small thread on a ring shank won't provide quite the level of holding power that a screw will. Choosing to install screws will help to ensure a tighter subfloor overall. However, there are nevertheless a couple drawbacks to using screws over nails.

First, when the subfloor adjusts to temperature, the screw isn't able to move with the shift, causing stress on the screw. In extreme cases, the head of the screw could be sheared off. Additionally, if the screw is over-driven or if the wrong size was inadvertently used, the screw head could potentially break.

4. Which has Better Holding Power?

If you are considering whether you should use the screw or nail for installing subfloor, you'll want to factor in the level of holding power your project requires. For example, ring shank nails are a popular choice for subflooring due to lending excellent grip and holding power. However, when compared with screws, they don't have quite the level of holding power.

Do you want to prevent floor squeaks? Choosing a screw or nail will contribute to whether your subflooring will squeak or not. Due to their flexibility under temperatures, nails overall contribute to a more squeaky floor. By contrast, screws will firmly hold the subflooring in place, which will help to prevent a squeaky floor for many years down the road.

A screw has a larger thread for gripping the surface of the flooring, allowing for much less wiggle room. Nevertheless, there are some nails from certain brands that provide an effective level of holding power. As a result, you'll want to be sure to research your screw or nail options to see which one will work best for your project.


Some brands do provide a hybrid of traditional nails and screws. Called scrails, or scrail fasteners, these provide the best of both worlds. Scrails offer great holding power and speed in the installation process. They can even be used with most framing nailers. Like their cousins, the traditional screw, the scrail has the capability to be adjusted and removed after it is driven.

Using the Screw or Nail: In Conclusion

Screws or nails? Your choice will ultimately depend on you. Overall, nails tend to have more flexibility, whereas screws tend to overall have more strength and durability. Regardless of your choice, when installing subflooring, be sure to not sacrifice quality.

Jake Sales has been providing screws and nails for construction projects for many years. Please browse our large stock of construction screws and ring shank, bright, sinker framing, finish, and roofing nails, to ensure you have the best materials to get the job done! Questions? Please contact us at (406) 752-5253 and our knowledgeable customer service representatives will be happy to assist you.