All Wood Is Not The Same



I started working in Northern California about thirty years ago.The normal woods we use for everything are Western Douglas fir and Yellow Pine. These woods will hold any type of nail very well. But, when I moved to Texas twelve years later it was a completely different story.

Of all the problems that I anticipated using different types of wood their ability to hold a nail never occurred to me. Of course you would expect to have differences in wood strength. The old uniform building code has a very good section on the different types of wood and their structural abilities.

I do not remember seeing any reports on the ability of wood to hold a nail. I had my crew in Texas tack on some form boards with 8d sinkers. The next day many of the nails had slipped out about an inch. I could easily slip the nails back into place with my finger. I went down to the lumber yard and picked up a box of screw shank galvanized nails. When I have a problem with nails holding I always use the screw shank nail. Of course you can usually use screws. I say usually because on exterior finish work I do not like the look of screws.

For general framing you will need to use brights they seem to hold in all types of wood. Even galvanized nails, which are usually very good in most woods, did not do well in some of the midwestern woods. For gun nails use the gold tipped brands. Several companies make them and I have found they hold like screws in all types of wood. I had a problem in a home I was building in St. Louis Mo. the red tipped gun nails just slipped out. I pulled out the red tipped nails and used brights to replace them. From then on I have stuck to the gold tips with no problems.

It’s a different world outside the West Coast, especially when it comes to the trades. Wood types are often not stamped and the lumber yards may not even know what species of wood they are selling you. I have had to change from using solid wood headers to a laminate type for the certainty of structural strength. The east coast douglas fir bends like a rubber band I don’t recommend them for anything.

My advice for those of you who are working outside your normal area is to take nothing for granted and fluff your price as much as possible. If the job very tight cost wise just walk away. Better to lose a job than lose money on a job.


Photo courtesy of: Jesse Wagstaff