Nails working themselves loose is the last thing you will want to witness on your timber deck.

After all, the sharp nail heads can give rise to tripping hazards for any person walking around with their shoes. And even worse, it can cause gashes on the feet of people who don’t have their shoes on. Not to forget your lovable, furry companions who love to take occasional strolls on the deck. They can be severely hurt.

Close Up Of Hammer Removing Nail From Timber

But then, you can’t always avoid loose deck nails altogether. So, you’ll have to deal with the problem as soon as possible. That’s why we’ve prepared this simplified guide to help you out.

Why Do Deck Nails Come Loose?

Firstly, you should know that seasonal changes are primarily responsible for such a fault. That’s because they can generate sufficient force to loosen the nails. 

During the winter months, the low humidity causes the boards to shrink so that the nail holes open up. And naturally, the opposite happens during summer, with the boards swelling up with moisture. As a result, the wood re-grips the nail to force upwards with the increasing thickness of the board. 

When winter returns, the boards settle and loosen, which leaves the nail heads slightly elevated. This cycle continues, and in a few years, you’re likely to see several nail heads protruding up by about half an inch!

Note that this effect is especially detrimental for decks that are often bombarded with a whole lot of sunlight during the daytime. This can cause the boards to warp and twist, and the grain can eventually crack and loosen with time.

That’s why you should try to get on top of this problem long before there are dozens of such nails sticking up from various parts of the deck. 

Family Deck With Chairs And Sun Beds

Fixing The Problem

The most effective way out of this issue is to replace the nails with screws, as these don’t rely on friction for fastening to any wooden surface properly. Instead, the many threads on the screws prevent these fasteners from giving in. Another great advantage of screws is that their orbital and shaft threads make them more comprehensive than nails. 

To replace the deck nails with screws, the materials needed are as follows: 

  • A framing hammer weighing around 450 g
  • A 20V driver/drill combo
  • A pry bar
  • 3-inch exterior screws

Now, here’s how you should go about the procedure:

Removing Nail From Timber

Step 1: Pulling Out The Old Nails 

Start by using the framing hammer to pull the nail out of the deck. But keep in mind that you shouldn’t use too much force during this procedure. If the deck isn’t in good shape, prying and yanking the surface hard might damage it further. 

Instead, it would help if you used a steady and firm prying motion. And if the nail doesn’t seem to come up, switch over to a crowbar or pry bar. You may also try putting a pry block of scrap wood under the claws. However, if the head breaks off, you will have to use a “cat’s paw” nail puller. 

Step 2: Using The Right Screws

As a replacement for the nails, you must use exterior-grade ceramic-coated screws. And be careful to choose longer pieces than the old nails, as that will help you drive the screw past the nailing depth to ensure that it’s fastened more securely. 

For this, you’ll have to measure the old nail to be sure about its length. Note that nails used for 5/5 deck boards will most likely be about 2½ to 3-inch long. That’s why the replacements should be at least 3-inch long. 

Likewise, if your deck is covered with 2x framing lumber that is 1½-inch thick, you’ll have to use 3½-inch long screws. Also, if the deck is brownish, using brown deck screws will ensure that the replacements blend in well. 

Step 3: Driving The Screws

For this procedure, you can use an electric drilling machine. As for the drill bit, ideal for this purpose should be of the same width as the screw shaft and not the threads. 

But a better alternative is an impact driver to set the screws more firmly. 

Now, start driving the screw. Know that it’s likely to sink very fast as it passes through the hollow bored out at the spot where the nail was inserted. However, it will slow down on hitting the bottom of the hole. It would help if you continued driving it further. 

Finally, when the threads bite the lumber below, you’ll feel resistance. And the screw head will sink slightly into the surface of the board. These are indications that the screw has been set. 

But if the head continues to spin, it indicates that the hole has been compromised. In that case, you’ll have to drill a new hole adjoining it. 

Now, you must repeat the entire process for all the parts where you find the nail heads sticking out. Note that this also applies to the stairs and railings attached to the deck.

Fixing Your Loose Deck Nails

There you have it, a quick and straightforward method to deal with loose deck nails efficiently. Following each of the steps accurately will help you finish the job in a couple of hours. So, gather all the tools and materials and get started! 

However, if you have any more queries, you can always reach out to us in the comments section below. 

Before we wrap up, here’s one last piece of advice. If the deck you’re working on is stained, it would be best to dab the screw head with a bit of matching stain. That way, the screw will blend well with the surroundings. 

That’s it for today. But we’ll be back soon with more informative guides. Till then, all the best! 

It’s a Match

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