How to Choose the Right Screws for Your DIY Project

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Building your dream home takes a lot of work and isn’t something that happens overnight. Unless you have enough money to pay someone to do everything for you, you’re going to need to develop your DIY skills a bit. In fact, being able to do things for yourself is an incredibly important skill to have.

If you own a home, learning DIY is essential to keep things regularly maintained and in good condition.

One of the most important things to consider when starting a DIY project is whether you have all the right tools and equipment. In this article, we’ll be looking at screws, including the different types you can find and what they’re used for. This guide will help you choose the right screw for your next DIY project, ensuring it’s a success.

What Are Screws Used For?

Screws are essential in almost any DIY project. Whether you’re putting together flatpack furniture, fixing an appliance or simply putting up a shelf, there’s a good chance that a screw will be involved. These little devices are found all over the home, and they’re incredibly easy to use.

Screws are designed to be inserted into a threaded hole and can be fixed into place using a screwdriver. They fasten two materials together and, despite being easy to use, are great at applying a lot of force. In addition, you can simply unscrew them at any time, allowing you to assemble and disassemble your project whenever you want.  

While screws are all used to fix materials in place, there are many different kinds which can be used for different purposes. Grub screws are specifically used for securing moving components in place. Rather than using tapering screw grooves, grub screws have threaded inserts.

Other screw types include self tapping screws which can be inserted into a material without drilling a pilot hole, and double ended screws which are used to create hidden joints. The shape and size of the screw affect its function, as do the type of threading it uses and its material. Last but not least, screws can have specialised heads, which means you need to have the right screwdriver to use them.

How to Choose a Screw

With so many different types of screws to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start. The first thing you need to do is think about your project and what you hope to achieve. A lot of projects require screws, but the exact nature of the work you’re doing will mean some are more effective than others.

When thinking about which type of screw you need, consider the materials you’re using. Whether it’s wood, metal, plastic or anything else, these all have different properties. This affects how they’re used and the type of screws that are most effective. For example, wood is generally much softer than metal, and the amount of force you use could damage the surface if you’re not careful.

Aside from the material you use, it’s also important to look at the dimensions. Larger materials are typically heavier and will need larger forces to hold them together. Ensure that the screws you use are properly rated to support the load, and choose a size based on the dimensions required. Screws should sit comfortably within the material without protruding out the other side.

Another thing to consider is whether or not your DIY project is indoors or outdoors. Your garden furniture, as an example, will need to be protected against the weather. Sun, rain and changing temperatures can all affect the material and the screws you use. Make sure any screws used in outdoor projects are corrosion-resistant.

How do I know what screw I need?

There’s a wide variety of screws available, each designed for specific materials, environments, and purposes. Here are some of the most common types of screws for DIY projects:

  1. Wood Screws: Specifically designed for wood projects. They have a sharp, pointed tip and a tapered thread to grip into wood.
  2. Machine Screws: Generally used with nuts or threaded holes. They have a uniform thread and come in many head types.
  3. Sheet Metal Screws: Designed for metal, fiberglass, and plastic. They’re self-tapping, meaning they can create their own hole as they’re driven, but for thicker metals, you might need to pre-drill.
  4. Self-drilling Screws (Tek screws): These have a drilling tip and thread, allowing them to drill their own hole and fasten materials together in a single operation.
  5. Drywall Screws: Used for attaching drywall to wooden or metal studs. They have a bugle head that allows for a smooth depression in the drywall.
  6. Deck Screws: Specifically made for outdoor wood projects like decks. They’re often coated or made of stainless steel for corrosion resistance.
  7. Concrete or Masonry Screws (Tapcon, for example): Designed to be used in concrete, brick, or block. They’re made of hardened steel and are threaded to cut into masonry.
  8. Particleboard Screws: These are similar to wood screws but are specifically designed for the softer material of particleboard.
  9. Confirmat Screws: Specially designed for joining particleboard or MDF, common in flat-pack furniture.
  10. Lag Screws (Lag Bolts): These are larger screws that provide heavy-duty fastening, often in wood.
  11. Euro Screws: Typically used for mounting cabinet drawer slides and hinges.
  12. Dowel Screws: Double-sided screws (threading on both ends) without a head, used for joining two pieces of wood.
  13. Security Screws: Designed to resist tampering, they come with unconventional head shapes requiring specific bits.
  14. Tamper-resistant Screws: These are screws that can be installed easily but are difficult to remove without a specific tool.
  15. Eye Screws: These have a looped head and are used to hang things.
  16. Sems Screws: These come with pre-attached washers.

Different screws also come with different types of heads, such as:

  • Flat (Countersunk)
  • Pan
  • Round
  • Truss
  • Oval (Raised)
  • Button
  • Hex
  • Socket (often with a hex or Allen drive)

Additionally, there are various drive types, including:

  • Phillips (cross shape)
  • Slotted (flat blade)
  • Square (Robertson)
  • Hex
  • Torx (star shape)
  • Pozidriv
  • Tri-wing
  • Spanner (snake eyes)

When embarking on a DIY project, always choose the appropriate screw for the material and purpose of the task. And remember, the length and gauge (diameter) of the screw are equally crucial; ensure the screw is long enough to securely join the materials but not so long that it risks piercing through the other side or splitting the material.

What length screw do I use?

The appropriate screw length depends on your project and the materials involved. Typically, the screw should penetrate the underlying material by at least half its thickness but not protrude out the other side. Ensure the screw secures the materials firmly without causing splitting or damage. For example, when fastening two 3/4-inch boards, a screw longer than 1 1/2 inches but less than 2 1/4 inches is ideal. Always test a sample or consult a hardware expert for specific projects.

Jen Stanbrook
Jen Stanbrook

Jen is an award winning digital publisher and has been creating interiors and home decor content for over 10 years.
She has an insatiable love of home interiors, has worked with hundreds of brands, and currently supports many bloggers within the creative industries to share their expertise through writing.
She spends most of her time in her little garden office pod, has 2 daughters and 2 (fighting) cats.

Find me on: Web | Twitter | Instagram

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