Tricks For Nailing Your Home Improvement Projects
Nailing may not be an exact science, but knowing a few tricks can certainly make light work of an otherwise difficult building task. There are three basic types of nailing. Face-nailing, end-nailing and toenailing. Face nailing is when the nail is driven through the face of one piece of wood into the face of another piece. End nailing is when a nail is driven through one piece of wood and into the end of another piece. And toenailing is when a nail is driven at an angle (usually about 45 degrees) from one piece of wood into another.
Face nailing is most commonly used to attach sheeting to roofs, walls and floors. Also, it is the technique used to join two or more boards placed side by side. Here, nailing usually occurs along the length of the boards being connected. When face nailing long boards together it is especially important the hold both pieces together tightly until each nail has been driven all the way in. More often than not, as the nail exits the first board – and as it attempts to penetrate the second board – it pushes the second board away from the first one. Not good when the object is to connect them together. Applying firm hand pressure from the back of the second board helps to make this task easier to accomplish. In situations where the work is bigger than you are clamping may simplify the process making the job one that you can handle.
End nailing is physically less tasking than other types of nailing. The end grain accepts the nail with little resistance. This is also the least sturdy of the nailing connections. Driving the nail with too much force can actually loosen the connection. The blow of the hammerhead – as it drives the nail home – can actually jar loose the end of the wood being nailed. With face nailing the second piece is pushed away by the nail. In end nailing it is the final blow of the hammer that can loosen the connection after the nail is fully seated. The trick with end nailing is to reduce the force of the final blows watching carefully to insure that a solid connection has been exacted.
Toenailing is somewhat more difficult than the other methods and takes a bit of practice. Proper nail placement is a must. Placing the nail too close to the end of the first board can split it and result in a connection that may not hold. Holding the nail back too far can reduce the chance of splitting but can result in a weak connection. The trick is to get about half the nail in the first piece and the other half of the nail into the second piece. By the way, splitting is a common problem with toenailing.
Tip: To reduce the chance of splitting the wood when toenailing or nailing near the end of a board many experts recommend pre-drilling. However, predrilling isn’t always an option – especially if there is a lot of nailing to do. Here’s a trick. Simply tap the “business end” of the nail (the pointed end) with a hammer. Kind of like nailing backwards. Place the head of the nail on a hard surface and gently tap the pointed end with a hammer. Then, turn the nail around and drive it in as you normally would. When the tip of a nail has been bent it causes the nail to tear the wood thereby reducing the chance of splitting. Tearing is good. Splitting is bad.
We though it might also be a good idea to share a couple of important tips about nailing’s most important tool – you! The one thing you don’t want to end up with mid way through a nailing project is tennis shoulder – a common problem among carpenters. Tennis shoulder – like its close relative tennis elbow – results from over use of the shoulder joint. Swinging the hammer properly can drastically reduce the chance for such an injury. Using the shoulder, elbow and wrist in unison does this. By bending each joint a little, rather than any one a lot, overall joint stress is reduced. Also, don’t swing the hammer from the end of the handle. Find the balance point – usually only a few inches from the hammerhead. Using the fingers, wrist, elbow and shoulder together a 16d nail can be driven with fewer blows and with reduced force exerted.
Bending protruding nails to prevent them form working their way loose is a good idea, however it is important to remember that removing the nail later becomes more complicated. And, if you aren’t careful you can actually loosen the nail if you strike it incorrectly.
Finally, when nailing plywood remember that the top of the nail should be flush with the top surface of the plywood. Nails that are countersunk into plywood reduce the holding strength of the nail. In most cases this is not a critical building problem. But, with some subfloors, roof sheathing and shear ply the building inspector may ask you to add nails near those that have penetrated the surface of the plywood too deeply. And, good luck!