What Nail Sizes for Framing – A Comprehensive Guide


In order for you to do the best job when you are framing you need the best tools and supplies. A nail gun is a great way to nail boards together. The nail guns uses air or electricity to force the nail out of a chamber much like a normal gun forces a bullet out of the chamber.

The nail is forced out of the chamber so quickly that it drives into the material it is aimed at and only stops when the head of the nail reaches the surface of the material.

Using a nail gun is much faster than using a traditional hammer. Often people ask what nail size they should use for framing. There are many different sizes of nails. To decide which one is best you will take into consideration:

Nail Sizes for Framing

Understanding Nail Sizes

The first thing you may want to take into consideration when choosing the nail is the length of the nail. The length of the nail is specified by a system called the ?penny? system. The penny system derives from the old English penny. These pennies were marked with a d. The d stood in representation of the denarius, or Roman coin.

In the early days of carpentry the penny denoted the cost of the nails. If you purchased a 10d nail the by the penny system you could get 100 nails for 10 denarius or 10 pennies.

Today the penny system is used to refer to the length of the nail not the cost of the nail. A penny refers to ? of an inch. The measurement systems starts with the 2d nail that measure one inch in length. Then each penny represents an increase of ? of an inch. A 16d nail measures 3 ? inches in length.

Nails and their lengths

  • 2d nails are 1? long with a 0.072 diameter; not normally used for framing.
  • 3d nails are 1 ?? with a o.o83 diameter; not normally used for framing
  • 4d nails are 1 ?? long with a 0.109 diameter; not normally used for framing
  • 5d nails are 1 ?? long with a 0.109 diameter; not normally used for framing
  • 6d nails are 2? long with a 0.12 diameter; only used for special framing like the joiningg of sub and finish flooring
  • 8d nails are 2.5? long with a 0.134 diameter; frequently used for some framing purposes
  • 10d nails are 3? long with a 0.148 diameter; frequently used for some framing purposes
  • 12d nails are 3 ?? long with a 0.148 diameter; frequently used for some framing purposes
  • 16d nails are 3 ?? long with a 0.152? diameter; frequently used for some framing purposes

What Nail Size for framing

  • 16d nails are best for joining materials creating wall plates or even rim joints
  • 10d nails are 3 inches in length. They measure about 0.148 inches in diameter. These nails work great for nailing two boards that are lying flat against one another, like when you are doubling wall studs. They are also great when you are nailing floor joists that overlap.
  • 8d nails are best used for projects like laying subflooring. They can be used to attach your studs to wall plates, or when you are attaching your rafters to the top of your wall plates. The 8d nail is 2.5 inches in length and has a diameter of about .134 inches. You will find the 8d nail perfect for attaching furring strips.
  • 6d nails are 2 inches in length and have a diameter of about 0.12 inches. They are used when you are doing things like nailing together the finish floor and the sub-floor. They are shorter and have a smaller diameter so they are less likely to damage the boards they are nailed into. They are not used for any other type of framing work.

Smaller nails

The smaller nails are less likely to cause the board they are nailed into to split. You should always choose the smaller nail when you are working.

Remember that the nail must go through the board and connect into another board so consider the thickness of the board, and the thickness of the board you are attaching to.

Final Thoughts

When you go to buy the nails to use on your project you have to consider what materials you are going to use those nails on. You will likely have to buy more than one size nail to do a good job on your framing project. Most contractors keep several different nail sizes on hand so they are always prepared no matter what issues they face.

You probably thought that you would never use the algebra you learned in school, but when you go to figuring out what nails to buy you just might need it.

Scroll to Top