How to Use a Nail Gun to Build Decking
Building decking used to mean hammering in lots of nails or pre-drilling or driving in lots of screws. It could take all day out in all weathers to get all of the framing timber and decking blanks nailed together. Using a pneumatic nail gun on decking makes the entire construction process much quicker and easier. It’s not necessary to buy a nail gun, as these can be easily rented for a weekend project from a tool hire shop. Safety equipment such as goggles, gloves and hearing protection are often supplied as part of the package.
Using a pneumatic nail gun to build your deck also gives you a few other advantages. In addition to making the process easier (as you don’t have to pre drill all the holes or hammer in nails manually), it will also save your arms from the pain caused by repetitive actions and jarring impact. Nail guns can reduce the risk of injury compared to manual nailing, as it will only fire when in contact with a surface. The nail gun will drive nails in all the way each time, which avoids bent nails and wastage as well as unsightly or dented timber from hammering. This is especially true on ridged decking boards, where crushed or dented timber around nail holes would be obvious.
It is important that you use a nail gun that is right for building decks. You want a nail gun designed to handle both decking and framing, and it’s always good to get a fairly light one since you’ll be holding it for several hours.
Nail gun nails
When it comes to nail length, look for a nail gun that can handle nails from two inches to around three and a half.
- Tool hire shops will often stock the exact type of nails required for its tools and will sell you as many as you need.
- It’s worth asking whether the shop will take back unused nails left over from your job, allowing you to buy more than you need and not running out on a Sunday afternoon, when everywhere is closed!
- Ring shank nails have been available for years as Bostich and Senco and give a stronger hold into timber due to the shaft.
- Many brands of framing nail also include a heat activated glue that bonds them into the timber, making a much stronger fixing, ideal for decking and framing that will expand and contract with the seasons.
- Framing nails come in 50mm, 63mm, 75mm and 90mm lengths.
- Shorter nails (brads) can be used for finishing elements, such as holding down decking boards, handrails or attaching trim elements.
- Finishing brads come in 15mm, 20mm, 25mm, 30mm, 38mm, 40mm and 46mm lengths, with others available for specialist tasks and nail guns.
- Galvanised nails should be used on decking projects, in order to avoid rusting and weakening the structure.
You do have to take into consideration the possibility of the nail gun firing the nails too far into the timber. If the pressure is set properly the nails will finish just below the surface, sitting flush.
Nail gun tips
- Ensure that you don’t nail too close to the edge or ends of the framing or decking lengths to avoid splitting the timber.
- When aligning timber for nailing, make sure to avoid knots as these can throw nails out of their intended trajectory, potentially into hands and fingers if you’re holding timber together for nailing.
- Be aware of where your hands and fingers are and keep them clear, as nails can pass through some thicknesses of timber and use clamps to hold timber if there’s a potential risk.
- Toe-nailing (often required for attaching timber where access from the rear, e.g. a wall plate) can be used to fire nails as crossing angles for strength. The power of the nailing gun will often throw timber off of their intended marks and will therefore need to be tapped back into alignment using a hammer – the traditional hammer should worry about retirement just yet!
- Using a nail gun to build your decking really isn’t any different from using a hammer when it comes to actually putting the pieces together. There’s no special trick to it—just line up your nail gun like you would a normal nail and pull the trigger. That’s all there is to it - get one for the weekend and have your deck completed in no time!