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Pole Barn Screws vs Nails: Which is Best?

May 2nd, 2017 | 8 min. read

Angie Dobson

Angie Dobson

Angie graduated from Indiana State University with a Bachelor of Science in Interior Design. Prior to joining the FBi team, Angie was a kitchen and bath sales consultant in Lafayette, IN. In 2012, she started with FBi as the Inside Sales/Marketing Assistant. Today she holds the role of Sr. Marketing and Inside Sales Manager. Angie grew up in a farming community and has always enjoyed helping her family on the farm. A past 10-year 4-H Member, her passion for livestock pursued her to take a career in the agriculture field. She and her husband live in Northwest Indiana with their two daughters. In her free time, she enjoys outdoor leisure activities and spending time with friends and family.

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There are plenty of ways to construct post frame buildings, and each one of our competitors has their own preferred method. Right or wrong, we can’t argue with their construction process, but we can provide the facts about the structural integrity of a pole building

Before you drop thousands of dollars on a new farm building, mini-warehouse, or even garage, don’t you want to know how long your building is going to last? You assume your new building will last you a lifetime, but what if you are incorrect? 

What if the next generation taking over your farm or business runs into problems caused by poor construction? Would you want them to have to worry about solving those issues? We didn’t think so. Did you know that most of the post frame building strength comes from the diaphragm of steel on the sides and roof? Generally, the more secure the steel is affixed to the wood framing, the stronger the building will be. Sure, steel strength, column spacing, and truss placement all play a hand in the buildings structural integrity as well. 

But, do you understand the difference between pole barn screws versus nails? Is this something that has been brought up to you before, or were you told that it’s really not that important? We sure hope that isn’t the case. 

For better holding power and leak prevention, choose screws instead of nails. However, (yes, there is a however) not all screws are created equal. Here’s what to look for and why it matters in the long run.

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What Do the Best Screws Do?

FBi Buildings, Screws, Post Frame Buildings
  1. Hold the building together and keep it strong.
  2. Provide a long lasting, watertight seal that prevents leaks.
  3. Preserve the aesthetics of your building.

Make sure the builder you choose uses screws that have unique, specially designed features that improve the buildings performance in all three areas. 

The overall result is

  • Improved long-term quality
  • Reduced maintenance costs
  • Greater peace of mind
  • Higher resale value

Maintaining Building Strength

If a screw has inferior holding power, your building will have less structural integrity. It may weaken and shift over time. When severe weather strikes, your building will become vulnerable to damage. 

It’s imperative that you pay attention to the structure of your screw. The following two images compare our screws versus other brands. You’ll notice that our screws provide 25% greater holding power than the other screws without special threads. With the additional threads, you will get a stronger, more stable building. 

FBi Buildings, Our ScrewsFBi Buildings, Their Screws

Preventing Leaks

It’s a no brainer that roof leaks can compromise your building over time. Water leaks can lead to discolored, rotting wood, which eventually weakens your building. Sagging headers can make door operation difficult. But, what about the contents inside your building? Will you be storing anything that you don’t want to get wet? You don’t want those items compromised, do you? 

Are you aware with the makeup of your screw? Do you understand all of the components and how they help prevent leaks? If you compare our washers to other brands, you’ll notice that they are protected by an umbrella cap and stay that way when fastened. Washers on other screws have a tendency to “squish out” when they are fastened, leaving them vulnerable to Mother Nature.

FBi Buildings, Umbrella CapFBi Buildings, Competitor_No Umbrella

Another feature that separates us from our competitors is the self-tapping tips that are used to “pre-drill” a hole for the screw. Other screws drill as they fasten, leaving behind steel ribbons that can tear the washer or get between the steel and washer, preventing a tight seal. 

A single piece head design allows up to a 12-degree angle of installation without creating pressure points or the possibility of leaks. Two-piece bonded washer screws are unable to provide this allowance.

FBi Buildings, Pre-Tap Screw FBi Buildings, Competitor Screw_No Pre Tap

In addition to providing greater strength, the special high/low threads also help prevent leaks where the steel overlaps. Compare the pictures below.

  • Wood threads are far apart. Steel threads are closer together. If you are fastening both materials, you need both threads.
  • Screws with only wood threads prevent overlapping steel sheets from being tightened. This can cause water leaks that are difficult to find and correct.

FBi Buildings, Screws vs Nails

Preserving Aesthetics

Your building is going to have hundreds of visible fastener heads. If you care about how your building looks and/or its future resale value, you need to make sure you are getting stainless steel cap head, powder coated screws.

These screws are guaranteed to never rust or discolor, unlike the galvanized fasteners. Those are known to corrode and rust, leaving ugly red spots and streaks on your building. 

Rusty Screws

What’s the Best?

Ultimately, both screws and nails have their place. Whether you’re applying nails or screws, the goal is to provide enough shear strength to support wind and snow loads.

Just because a builder specifies screws, doesn’t necessarily mean you are getting the best. You need to make sure your screws are going to be:

  • Self-tapping
  • High/low threads
  • One-piece head design
  • Protected washer
  • Stainless steel cap heads
  • Powder-coated heads to match your building

If nails were used to fasten roofing steel, water would find its way in wherever the nail heads do not tightly cover the hole. Once the fasteners loosen their grip on the wood–whether they are nails or screws–the building loses stiffness. Once the building loses stiffness, wind and other forces will cause the building to move slightly.

Each movement works the fastener against the steel, causing the original hole to grow. A nail hole gets larger faster than a screw hole. This is because the screw creates a smooth, clean penetration (think of a drill) where nails create a jagged puncture that can tear easily.

With nails, more roof leaks will appear over time and existing leaks will get worse. Roof leaks will then lead to rotten wood that weakens the building structure.

Since a post frame building gets much of its strength from the steel panels, the tighter it is attached to the building, the better. Putting fasteners in the flat of the steel panels provides the tightest possible connection. 

But remember, correct placement of the screws will also allow for tight steel connections. Are your screws going to be placed on top of the rib or the flat area between the ribs? Confirm that your builder is going to be placing the screws on the flat area between the ribs. 

Screws that are placed on top of the ribs allow movement around the critical seal area potentially leading to leaks. Screws placed on the flat area between the ribs provide a tighter, more secure connection between the steel and the wood.

Do you remember what helps defend against leaks? The rubber washer does. Look for a fastener that encapsulates the washer, keeping it protected from the damaging effects of the sun’s UV rays.

The primary goal of a new post frame building is to provide enough shear strength to support wind and snow loads, regardless of what fastener type you will be using.


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Do you have more questions that are not covered in this article? If you need help designing and planning, please contact FBi Buildings at 800.552.2981 or click here to email us. If you are ready to get a price, click here to request a quote and a member of our customer engagement team will help you determine the next steps of your project.