Professional Tool Reviews for Pros
Deck screws are available in a wide variety of styles, finishes, threads, and drive types. Be sure to first match the types of materials you are fastening. The best deck screws for composite decking may not be the same ones you use on pressure-treated wood decks. Mushroom Head Bolts
Editor’s Note: Check out our recommendation on how to organize screws and nails using the Milwaukee Packout system.
You can find many types of deck screws specifically designed to work best with either pressure-treated lumber or composite decking. The type of material used to make and/or coat the fastener really does matter. For example, stainless steel deck screws (which often have a square drive) can be softer than other screws, but they provide exceptional protection against corrosion.
Other screws feature coatings to give them protection against corrosion. For example, certain Grip-Rite decking screws feature a PrimeGuard Plus coating with a lifetime guarantee against rust and corrosion. Deckmate screws use a similar lifetime polymer coating. Everbilt screws also provide a bonded material specifically geared towards use in pressure-treated lumber.
GrabberGard screws claim an encapsulated substrate which they bond with the surface coating using a thermal fusion process. No matter what type of exterior screw you use, ensure it includes a coating to protect it from the elements…unless you go with stainless steel. The worse the environment (think of a raised oceanfront beach home as your extreme), the more you want to focus on the deck screw material.
When it comes to the type of drive you want in your decking screws, we can all agree on one thing: Philips and “Bugle” heads are out! We highly recommend the use of either square drive or Torx (or the similar “star drive”). Square (Roberts) drive provides a more positive bit engagement over Philips. This makes it easier to drive and harder for impact driver bits to strip the heads of stainless steel decking screws.
For coated screws, we typically prefer Torx or star drive (T-25) as it gives you lots of points of contact. This results in a very confident start, and the bit stays in the fastener throughout the drive.
Many coated deck screws still use a Philips head or a variation of a Philips-type drive. Other than perhaps cost, we see no reason to choose these over T-25 star drive.
Editor’s Note: The biggest reason screw heads get stripped out is because the bits are worn. Using a cordless impact driver also helps to drive screws without stripping the heads. Many times manufacturers use different types of bits to help set their product apart from other similar products. For us, it has more to do with speeding up our workflow. Compared to other drive types, Philips slows you down.
In the past, threads were threads. Now, manufacturers of decking screws have really studied and perfected their products. We see several different types of threads that help when installing various fasteners into pressure-treated or composite deck boards.
No surprises here. You can certainly find coated deck screws that offer standard threads with no frills. You may even save some money buying these fasteners as they don’t include proprietary or patented technologies.
Screws with a self-starting (Type 17) cut point resist splitting. This plays very well when screwing into pressure-treated deck boards. The last thing you want are split ends to introduce water into your 5/4 decking.
Some of the best deck screws include a dual-thread design. This lets the screw use a lower torque for the initial drive and then follow up with a tighter thread to pull the top board tight to the joist.
You can also see on the head of this decking screw that they added a ribbed feature to help countersink the head into the board when fully driven. Many coated deck screws feature a design similar to this and we’ve found it very helpful.
One common problem when screwing down composite decking is mushrooming. The area around the screw pops up and creates a raised area. Adding a reverse thread near the top of these screws helps remove that raised mushroom. Manufacturers also typically pair this with a concave face that pushes material down to get a nice flush finish.
We figured that after giving you all the ins and outs of the tech and coatings we should probably pick some screws that we use regularly. Following are our top picks along with brief descriptions for why we prefer them to other brands and types.
When dealing with pressure-treated deck boards, the tip and coarse threads on these screws prevents splitting. The T-25 star drive makes for quick drives, and the coating ensures these screws hold up over time.
Available in brown, tan, and gray, Grip-Rite Star-Drive Deck Screws present a few of the features we like. You get the easy-drive coarse threads that start and drive smoothly and quickly. You also have a tight reverse thread that works well with the small pan-head to eliminate mushrooming.
The star drive resists stripping and you can find these screws in 2-1/2″ or 3″ lengths. We used these screws on a composite decking project and loved the way they looked. The finished project looked fantastic and we loved how flush you can get these screw heads with very little showing.
I really like Deckmate Square Drive Stainless Steel Deck Screws for their quality and variety of options. Unlike some other stainless screws we’ve used in the past, these aren’t so soft that the heads strip out easily. Rather, they drive quickly, due to the coarse threads and resist splitting.
Deckmate doesn’t do anything fancy with the head, but we found it sinks quickly and easily when driving into pressure-treated wood. Made of 305 stainless steel, you want to use these screws when dealing with harsh environments—including building near the coast.
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One question unanswered by the tests is; which screw can be removed most easily after being in the board for more than a year? The Phillips and square head in my experience were terrible to try and remove.
I started building our shadowbox fence in 1990 about six months after we moved in to our new house. Working on it twice a week on my days off and with no help, it took about nine months to complete including painting it the HOA approved prerequisite color. I used nails when building it, and many years later as the boards started coming loose because the nails corroded from the arsenic used in the pressure treating process, I used coated Deckmate T-25 Torx® screws to reattach them. I have used them exclusively when rebuilding the fence due to post rot… Read more »
We replaced the rear deck on our home in 2015 with a P-T wood system of size approximately 600 s.f. on 2 levels. A portion of the deck is immediately adjacent to the above ground salt water pool. Since my background is structural engineering, I knew that the potential for deck screw corrosion was high with the salt water pool water. Plus, screw corrosion resistance to the P-T wood treatment chemicals was high with the Type 305s. Thus, I chose Type 305 stainless steel screws (star drive) for high corrosion resistance and longevity of performance and purchased from a specific… Read more »
Stainless steel is harder, and hence more brittle, than typical mild-steel that “other” fasteners are made from.
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