Nails or Screws for Picket Fence

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Hi,

I'm building 1.5m high picket fence in my backyard.

For the rails I'm using some 1 3/4" x 3" treated timber. These slot into concrete posts.

For the pales I've salvaged some 1" x 1 1/2" roofing battens from a skip (I think they are roofing battens)

Should I use nails or screws to fasten the pales to the rails?

What type, length and diameter of screws and nails should I use for the above timber?

For these screws/nails do I need to drill pilot holes?

Also where can I get the screws/nails from.

Note this project is being done on the cheap cos neighbour is not willing to share the costs!

Any help and advice much appreciated. Thanks
 
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I'd go for screws.....less bashing around, less risk of causing other parts to loosen.
Wickes et al have what you need - consider 50 x 5 screws. A pilot hole always helps to prevent splitting but you can get by without one.
John :)
 
Screws

Nailing into a flimsy fence middle will be like hammering rubber
 
I'd go for screws.....less bashing around, less risk of causing other parts to loosen.
Wickes et al have what you need - consider 50 x 5 screws. A pilot hole always helps to prevent splitting but you can get by without one.
John :)

I've come across the following screws - would these be suitable for exterior wood and does it matter if they are fully threaded or not?

http://www.screwfix.com/p/silverscrew-woodscrews-double-self-countersunk-5-x-60mm-100-pack/58037
 
Last edited:
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They are carbon steel so they will rust......go for a stainless screw preferably or at least one that is plated and designated for use outside.
Fully threaded or not makes no difference here, but every screw needs a clearance hole drilled through the first piece of timber - ideally.
John :)
 
Cheaper alternative to Stainless will be 'Decking' screws - depending where you go you can buy lengths of 50/60 or even 65mm long (65mm will just be on the 2&3/4" depth of the pail & rail together). They can work out even better value if you such in 1000 quantitie...

If you buy fully thraded screws you must either clamp the pail to the rail or clearance drill the pail otherwise you will get 'Ramp-out' where the pail is forced away from the rail where the pail lifts away from the rail before the screw starts into the rail and no amount of tightening will pull them together.
Actually I'd clearance and countersink drill the pail anyway to stop spliting.
 
Cheaper alternative to Stainless will be 'Decking' screws - depending where you go you can buy lengths of 50/60 or even 65mm long (65mm will just be on the 2&3/4" depth of the pail & rail together). They can work out even better value if you such in 1000 quantitie...

If you buy fully thraded screws you must either clamp the pail to the rail or clearance drill the pail otherwise you will get 'Ramp-out' where the pail is forced away from the rail where the pail lifts away from the rail before the screw starts into the rail and no amount of tightening will pull them together.
Actually I'd clearance and countersink drill the pail anyway to stop spliting.

When you say drill a clearance hole in pail do you mean a pilot hole and do I drill it the same diameter as the unthreaded end of the screw - appolgies for the what might seem obvious but it first time I'm attempting this.?

You mean something like these, they seem a bit expensive - ideally i'm looking for pack of screws in the price range of under £5 :

http://www.wickes.co.uk/Deck-tite-Screws-4-5-x-50mm-Pack-200/p/138875
 
Ideally you can drill the rails so the screw can slide through - it doesn't have to be clearance really but any hole will minimise splitting of the timber. When you have more experience you will be able to tell how the screw is biting into the timber. This again helps against 'ramp out' as mentioned here.
Your Decktite screws should be fine but I prefer 5 gauge here - a pilot hole of say 4mm will help the screw through the rail. Try to have someone holding the timber for you and the screws will bite just fine - there's no real need to pilot drill into the uprights as the sharp point of the screw will do that for you.
Have fun!
John :)
 
I use stainless screws round the garden, my best deals have been on ebay.

I was doing some heavier work, and used a lot of hex-headed coachscrews with C-form washers under the heads, everything pilot-drilled, and using decking boards for cladding. I'm sure this was overkill but I'm pleased with the result. Assembling a single order for fixings keeps the carriage costs down.

Even zinc plated will rust after a few years of weather exposure and damp wood.

I formerly used roofing battens around the garden, a bundle can be very cheap especially if you find a down-at-heel local yard selling split, damaged and end-of-line stock at firewood prices.
 
Ideally you can drill the rails so the screw can slide through - it doesn't have to be clearance really but any hole will minimise splitting of the timber. When you have more experience you will be able to tell how the screw is biting into the timber. This again helps against 'ramp out' as mentioned here.
Your Decktite screws should be fine but I prefer 5 gauge here - a pilot hole of say 4mm will help the screw through the rail. Try to have someone holding the timber for you and the screws will bite just fine - there's no real need to pilot drill into the uprights as the sharp point of the screw will do that for you.
Have fun!
John :)

A quick question, I've seen some picket fences where the screws/nails on each pale are offset at an angle instead of parallel to each other (see sketch 1 in attached pic) - what's the reason for positioning the screws in this manner. Is it to prevent the rail from splitting if the screws are too close to each other?

Also the battens I'm using for the pales are only 1 1/2" wide and I want to fix each batten next to each other without any gaps in between. That means each screw between each batten will be spaced approx 1 1/2" apart - won't all these screws being so close to each other risk weakening/splitting the rail - (see sketch 2 in attached pic)?

Or should I be positioning the screws like in sketch 3 in a zig zag fashion. Maybe I'm overthinking.
 

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putting lots of screws in a row increases the risk of splitting, especially if they are not pilot-drilled. It is worse in thin sections.

Outdoor timber swells and shrinks a lot with the weather, so is very prone to splitting.
 
putting lots of screws in a row increases the risk of splitting, especially if they are not pilot-drilled. It is worse in thin sections.

Outdoor timber swells and shrinks a lot with the weather, so is very prone to splitting.

So how would you suggest I fasten the battens?
 
your third picture.

If you can fit in three rows, even better
 
your third picture.

If you can fit in three rows, even better

The rail is 3 inches wide, would three rows spaced with top and bottom row 1/2" from the edge and middle row 1 1/2" from the edge be ok?
 

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