To fasten things together, hammer away


Lately Randy has been thinking a lot about fasteners, having just entered the 20th century by buying a tool that goes a long way toward eliminating the hammer. It's a compressed air nail gun that will drive a wide variety of framing nails and he's been using it to drive 3 1/4 -inch nails into microlams (laminated floor joists) with 90 pounds of air pressure per square inch. However, not everyone wants to spend $350 for a compressor and $450 for a nail gun, so here's a sort of primer on fasteners for some basic jobs for people who still use old-fashioned methods.

* Installing drywall. The best method is to use a drywall screw gun and 1 5/8 -inch drywall screws, screwed into the studs. If you don't have a drywall screw gun, nail it with 1 1/2 -inch, glue-coated drywall nails.

* Installing 3/4 -inch plywood subflooring. Glue it down with a construction adhesive rated for subflooring and nail with 8-penny glue-coated nails, or 8-penny spiral flooring nails. (Eight-penny is the size of the nail. Higher numbers mean larger nails.)

* Framing. For nailing 2-by-4s, use a 12-penny, coated, round-headed framing nail. In some areas, larger nails, such as 16-pennies, are recommended; check local building codes.

* Connecting joists to plates. Use the appropriate metal connector, nailed to the wood with appropriate nails. There are a wide variety of connector shapes for different purposes. Most building codes specify that connections of load-bearing surfaces cannot be wood to wood, but must use metal connectors. If you are building a deck, use joist hangers to connect joists to wall plates. To connect a rafter or tie a joist to a sill plate, use hurricane clips. Home improvement stores have connectors that make putting together a stairway, fence, shed or even a house a lot easier.

* Assembling a beam to support a deck. Bolt it together with 1/2 -inch carriage bolts staggered 2 feet on center top and bottom for the length of the beam.

* Installing roof and wall sheathing. Nail it with 8-penny coated nails. If sheathing is thicker than 3/4 -inch, use longer nails.

* Building a deck. Use galvanized nails and screws. Look for galvanized spiral nails that twist when you drive them in for extra holding power. Nail the deck surface with galvanized screws designated for use on decks (they have a larger shaft and are less likely than regular galvanized drywall screws to break off). You can pre-drill every hole and put the screws in by hand, or you could use this as an excuse to buy another tool and get a

heavy duty screw gun rated for deck screws. We have seen screw guns mounted on a shaft so you don't have to bend over (though that does seem quite a luxury for one deck).

* Working with fine woods that will be stained or varnished. Use stainless steel screws and nails that won't rust.

There are also specialty nails, screws and fasteners for all sorts of other jobs. Check out the fasteners aisle in the home-improvement center before you start your project; you could find a product designed for exactly what you're doing.


Anyone interested in obtaining the Ergodyne Proflex 1051 back support belt we wrote about last week can call the manufacturer at (800) 225-8238 for the name of a distributor or a chance to order the belt directly. Some Home Depot stores do not carry it.

Mr. Johnson is a Baltimore construction manager. Ms. Menzie is a feature writer for The Sun.

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