Nails for Pressure Treated Wood: Selection, Usage, and Compatibility

Pressure-treated wood is a popular choice for outdoor structures, as it is treated with chemicals to resist decay and insects. However, selecting the right nails is crucial for maintaining the structure’s integrity and longevity. The chemicals used in wood treatment can react with certain metals, causing corrosion and structural failure. Understanding the compatibility between nails and treated wood is essential for a successful construction project.

Understanding Nails and Pressure Treated Wood

Pressure-treated wood is lumber treated with chemicals to increase its resistance to decay, insects, and weather. The treatment involves placing the wood in a vacuum chamber and infusing it with preservatives. This makes the wood more suitable for outdoor applications exposed to harsh conditions.

Types of Nails Suitable for Pressure-Treated Wood

When working with pressure-treated wood, it’s essential to choose nails that won’t react negatively with the chemicals in the wood. Here’s a look at the two main types of nails suitable for pressure-treated wood:

Galvanized Nails

Galvanized nails are coated with a layer of zinc to provide corrosion resistance. They are a common choice for pressure-treated wood as the zinc coating prevents reactions with the chemicals in the wood. However, not all galvanized nails are suitable, and selecting ones specifically designed for pressure-treated wood is essential.

Stainless Steel Nails

Stainless steel nails are another excellent option for pressure-treated wood. They offer superior corrosion resistance and are often considered the best choice for projects that require maximum durability.

Compatibility Between Nails and Pressure Treated Wood

Understanding the compatibility between nails and pressure-treated wood is vital. The chemicals used in wood preservation can react with certain metals, leading to corrosion and weakening of the structure. Galvanized and stainless steel nails are generally compatible with pressure-treated wood, but it’s essential to consult with the manufacturer or a construction professional to ensure the right selection.

Benefits of Using Stainless Steel Nails in Pressure Treated Wood

Stainless steel nails offer several benefits when used with pressure-treated wood, including:

  • Superior Corrosion Resistance: Stainless steel does not react with the chemicals in pressure-treated wood, ensuring long-lasting performance.
  • Strength and Durability: Stainless steel nails are strong and resilient, making them suitable for heavy-duty applications.
  • Aesthetically Pleasing: Unlike galvanized nails, stainless steel nails maintain their appearance over time, adding to the structure’s visual appeal.

Choosing the Right Nails: A Comprehensive Guide

Selecting the right nails for pressure-treated wood is more than just a matter of compatibility. It’s about understanding the specific needs of your project and choosing the nails that will provide the best performance, aesthetics, and longevity.

21-Degree Nails for Pressure Treated Wood

21-degree nails are often used in framing and are known for their strong holding power. These nails are typically used with a framing nailer that holds 21-degree plastic collated nails. When working with pressure-treated wood, it’s essential to ensure that the 21-degree nails are suitable for treated lumber to prevent corrosion.


  • Strong Holding Power: Ideal for structural applications.
  • Compatibility: Available in materials compatible with pressure-treated wood.

Finish Nails for Pressure Treated Wood

Finish nails are used for finer woodworking projects where appearance matters. They have a small head and are often used in trim work. Selecting stainless steel or other corrosion-resistant materials is crucial when using finish nails with pressure-treated wood.


  • Aesthetically Pleasing: Small heads allow for a clean finish.
  • Versatility: Suitable for detailed woodworking projects.

Brad Nails for Pressure Treated Wood

Brad nails are smaller than finish nails and are used for delicate trim work and cabinetry. They are typically used with a Brad nailer. Like finish nails, brad nails for pressure-treated wood should be corrosion-resistant.


  • Precision: Ideal for intricate woodworking tasks.
  • Minimal Visibility: Small size ensures a seamless appearance.

Utilizing Air Nails for Pressure-Treated Wood Construction

Air nails are driven by pneumatic nail guns, providing speed and efficiency in construction. They come in various types, including framing, finish, and brad nails. When using air nails with pressure-treated wood, choosing the right type and material is essential to ensure compatibility.


  • Efficiency: Speeds up the construction process.
  • Versatility: Available in various types for different applications.

Vinyl-Coated Nails for Pressure-Treated Wood

Vinyl-coated nails have a thin layer of vinyl that provides extra holding power. They are often used in outdoor applications and can be a good choice for pressure-treated wood if they are designed to resist the chemicals in the treatment.


  • Enhanced Holding Power: The vinyl coating provides additional grip.
  • Weather Resistance: Suitable for outdoor applications.

Nail Guns and Pressure Treated Wood

Working with pressure-treated wood often involves using many nails, and doing this manually can be time-consuming and labor-intensive. Nail guns, also known as pneumatic tools, have revolutionized how nails are used in construction, making the process faster and more efficient.

Types of Nail Guns Suitable for Pressure-Treated Wood

Nail guns come in various types, each designed for specific applications. Here’s a look at the main types suitable for pressure-treated wood:

Framing Nailers

Framing nailers are used for heavy-duty construction tasks like framing walls or building decks. They are compatible with larger nails, including 21-degree nails, making them suitable for pressure-treated wood.

Finish Nailers

Finish nailers are designed for more delicate work, such as trim or molding. They use smaller finish nails and provide a clean and precise finish, making them ideal for detailed woodworking with pressure-treated wood.

Brad Nailers

Brad nailers are used for the finest woodworking tasks, like cabinetry or intricate trim. They use small brad nails and offer precision and minimal visibility.

Choosing the Perfect Nail Gun for Pressure-Treated Wood Work

Selecting the right nail gun for your pressure-treated wood project requires understanding the specific needs of your task. Here are some factors to consider:

  • Type of Project: Choose the nail gun based on the project’s requirements. Framing nailers for structural work, finish nailers for detailed work, and brad nailers for intricate tasks.
  • Compatibility with Nails: Ensure that the nail gun is compatible with the type of nails suitable for pressure-treated wood, such as galvanized or stainless steel.
  • Ease of Use: Consider the nail gun’s weight, balance, and ergonomics to ensure comfortable use.

Safety Considerations When Using Nail Guns with Pressure-Treated Wood

Using nail guns requires careful attention to safety. Here are some essential safety considerations:

  • Proper Training: Ensure you are trained in using the specific nail gun and understand its operation and safety features.
  • Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): Wear appropriate PPE, including safety glasses and hearing protection.
  • Regular Maintenance: Inspect and maintain the nail gun to ensure it works properly.
  • Follow Manufacturer Guidelines: Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for the nail gun and the nails, especially when working with pressure-treated wood, to prevent any adverse reactions or malfunctions.

Screws vs. Nails: A Comparative Analysis

When it comes to fastening pressure-treated wood, both screws and nails are commonly used. However, they offer different advantages and are suited for various applications. Understanding the differences between screws and nails, their strengths, ease of use, applications, and best practices can help you choose your pressure-treated wood project.


Screws provide strong holding power due to their threaded design. They are less likely to pull out under tension.Nails offer excellent shear strength, making them suitable for structural applications with lateral forces.

Ease of Use

Screws require a screwdriver or drill for installation, allowing for precise control. They can be removed and adjusted easily.Nails can be quickly driven using a hammer or nail gun, making them efficient for large-scale projects. However, they are more challenging to remove or adjust.


Screws are ideal for applications that require strong holding power and precision, such as decking or cabinetry.Nails are commonly used in framing and structural applications where shear strength is essential.

Best Practices for Pressure Treated Wood


  • Choose the Right Material: Select screws specifically designed for pressure treated wood, such as coated or stainless steel screws, to prevent corrosion.
  • Pre-Drilling: Pre-drilling holes can prevent splitting, especially near the edges of the wood.
  • Use the Correct Driver Bit: Match the screw head with the correct driver bit for efficient installation.


  • Select Compatible Nails: Use galvanized or stainless steel nails compatible with pressure-treated wood.
  • Consider Nail Size and Type: Choose the appropriate size and type based on the project’s requirements, such as framing nails for structural work or finishing nails for detailed tasks.
  • Use Proper Tools: Utilize a hammer or nail gun designed for the specific type of nail.

Special Considerations: Aluminum, Zinc, and Galvanized Fasteners

When working with pressure-treated wood, choosing materials for nails and fasteners is crucial. Different materials offer varying levels of compatibility, strength, and corrosion resistance..

Aluminum Nails

Aluminum nails are lightweight and resistant to corrosion, but their use with pressure-treated wood requires careful consideration.

Compatibility: Aluminum can react with the chemicals in some pressure-treated wood, leading to corrosion. It’s essential to verify compatibility before use.

Strength: Aluminum nails are generally softer than steel nails, making them less suitable for heavy-duty applications.

Best Practices:

  • Check Compatibility: Consult with the manufacturer or a construction professional to ensure that aluminum nails suit the specific pressure-treated wood type.
  • Consider Application: Aluminum nails may be more suitable for decorative or non-structural applications.

Zinc Fasteners

Zinc is often used as a coating for steel fasteners to resist corrosion. Zinc-coated fasteners are commonly used with pressure-treated wood.

Compatibility: Zinc is generally compatible with pressure-treated wood, but the thickness of the coating and the type of treatment can affect performance.

Corrosion Resistance: Zinc offers good corrosion resistance but may wear over time, especially in harsh environments.

Best Practices:

  • Choose the Right Coating: Select zinc-coated fasteners with the appropriate thickness for the environment and application.
  • Inspect Regularly: Monitor zinc-coated fasteners for signs of wear or corrosion, especially in outdoor applications.

Galvanized Nails

Galvanized nails are steel nails coated with zinc to provide corrosion resistance. They are a popular choice for pressure-treated wood.

Compatibility: Galvanized nails are generally suitable for pressure-treated wood, but choosing ones specifically designed for this purpose is essential.

Strength and Durability: Galvanized nails offer strong holding power and durability, making them suitable for various applications.

Best Practices:

  • Select the Right Type: Use hot-dip galvanized nails or those specifically labeled with pressure-treated wood.
  • Avoid Mixing Metals: Mixing galvanized nails with other metals can lead to galvanic corrosion. Ensure consistency in materials.

Building a Pressure Treated Wood Fence: A Step-by-Step Guide

Building a fence with pressure-treated wood is a popular choice for homeowners looking to add privacy, security, and aesthetic appeal to their property. Pressure-treated wood offers durability and resistance to weather, making it ideal for outdoor projects.

Step 1: Planning and Design

  • Determine the Fence Layout: Measure and mark the fence line, considering gates and corners.
  • Choose the Fence Style: Decide on the fence’s design, height, and style.
  • Obtain Necessary Permits: Check local building codes and obtain any required permits.

Step 2: Selecting Nails and Materials

  • Choose the Right Nails: To prevent corrosion, select galvanized or stainless steel nails suitable for pressure-treated wood.
  • Pick Pressure-Treated Wood: Select pressure-treated wood that meets ground contact and outdoor use requirements.
  • Gather Tools and Supplies: Prepare tools such as a hammer or nail gun, saw, level, and other construction tools.

Step 3: Setting Fence Posts

  • Dig Post Holes: Dig holes for fence posts, following the local code for depth and width.
  • Set the Posts: Place the pressure-treated posts in the holes and ensure they are level and aligned.
  • Secure the Posts: Fill the holes with concrete or gravel, tamping down to secure the posts.

Step 4: Installing Fence Rails

  • Measure and Cut Rails: Measure and cut the pressure-treated wood rails to fit between the posts.
  • Attach the Rails: Use the selected nails to attach the rails to the posts, ensuring they are level.

Step 5: Adding Fence Boards

  • Measure and Cut Boards: Measure and cut the pressure-treated wood boards to fit the fence design.
  • Nail the Boards: Attach the boards to the rails using the chosen nails, maintaining consistent spacing.

Step 6: Finishing the Fence

  • Inspect the Fence: Check for loose nails or misaligned boards and make necessary adjustments.
  • Add Finishing Touches: Consider adding caps to the posts or applying a stain or sealant to enhance the appearance.
  • Install Gates: If applicable, install gates using suitable hardware and ensure proper alignment.


Pressure-treated wood construction is a popular and rewarding practice for outdoor projects. Understanding pressure-treated wood, selecting the right nails and fasteners, and using the proper tools are crucial for successful construction. Understanding the unique attributes of aluminum, zinc, and galvanized materials helps make informed decisions. Embracing the process, following guidelines, and adhering to best practices ensures a well-executed project. The world of pressure-treated wood construction offers creativity, functionality, and long-lasting results.