Nailing It Down: What Size Nails Should You Use for Framing?

Picture this: you’re about to embark on a framing project, hammer in hand, ready to start nailing boards together. But wait! Before you begin, there’s a crucial question you need to answer: what size nails should you use for framing? Choosing the right nail size can make all the difference in creating a sturdy, long-lasting structure. In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of nail sizes for framing, so you can tackle your project with confidence.

Understanding Nail Sizes and Types

When it comes to framing nails, there are two main factors to consider: length and diameter. Nail sizes are typically designated by a number followed by the letter “d,” which stands for “penny.” For example, a 16d nail is 3.5 inches long, while an 8d nail measures 2.5 inches.

But why the term “penny”? It’s a throwback to medieval England, where nails were sold by the hundred. The price per hundred nails was expressed in pennies, and the “d” became the shorthand for “penny.” So, a 16d nail would have cost 16 pennies per hundred. Today, the “d” designation is simply a way to categorize nail sizes.

In addition to size, there are different types of nails used in framing:

  • Common nails: These are the most widely used nails in framing. They have a thick shank and a large, flat head, making them ideal for joining boards securely.
  • Box nails: Slightly thinner than common nails, box nails are often used for lighter-duty framing tasks or attaching sheathing.
  • Sinker nails: With a coating that helps them slide into wood more easily, sinker nails are a popular choice for framing.

Selecting the Right Nail Size for Your Framing Project

So, what size nails should you choose for your framing project? Here are some general guidelines:

Framing Walls

When it comes to framing walls, 16d common nails are the go-to choice. At 3.5 inches long, they provide ample holding power to join 2×4 or 2×6 boards. For example, if you’re building a stud wall, you’d use two 16d nails to attach each end of a stud to the top and bottom plates.

Framing Roofs

For roof framing, 8d common nails are often used to attach sheathing to rafters. These 2.5-inch nails are long enough to penetrate the sheathing and bite into the rafters securely. However, if you’re working with thicker sheathing or need extra holding power, you may opt for 10d or even 12d nails.


Toenailing is a technique where you drive a nail at an angle to join two boards, such as when attaching a stud to a plate. For this purpose, 10d or 12d nails (3 to 3.25 inches long) are commonly used. The extra length helps the nail penetrate both boards at an angle, creating a strong connection.

The Importance of Building Codes and Professional Advice

While these guidelines provide a solid starting point, it’s essential to consult your local building codes and seek professional advice for your specific project. Building codes may have different requirements based on factors like the type of wood being used, the load-bearing capacity needed, or seismic considerations.

A seasoned contractor or structural engineer can help you determine the ideal nail size for your framing project, taking into account all the variables involved. They can also advise you on proper nailing techniques, such as the spacing between nails and the use of nail guns versus hand nailing.

Nailing It Home

In the end, choosing the right nail size for framing is all about creating a structure that will stand the test of time. By understanding nail sizes, types, and their applications, you’ll be well-equipped to make informed decisions for your project.

So, the next time you’re standing there with your hammer, ready to start framing, remember: it’s not just about hitting the nail on the head – it’s about using the right nail in the first place. Happy nailing!

Other articles