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How Do I Select The Correct Nail Length? What Is “toe Nailing”?

For non structural applications, those without a engineered design, the rule of thumb is to use a fastener that is two (2) to three (3) times the length of the thickness of attaching member. For example: if attaching a 1” fascia board directly to wood framing a two (2”) to three (3”) inch nail would be a good choice. If applied over sheathing or other sub strait, add the sheathing/sub strait dimension to the total length of the fastener of choice. For additional withdrawal use a longer or thicker nail or use a nail with a deformed shank (ring or screw) or a performance finish (eg. phosphate coated). 

ALWAYS avoid attaching a heavy material to a lighter material. Rather than attaching through a 1 ½” board to a ¾” board, drive the fastener through the ¾” into the 1 ½” material.

Toe nailing can provide greater strength than an attachment to end grain of a receiving member. A proper toe nail is driven at 30 degrees to the grains of the wood and into the attaching or main member at a point equal to 1/3 of the nail length.

If my prints call out a common nail, can I substitute a box, cooler or sinker nails?

First, no substitution should be made without prior approval from the engineer of record. That said, an engineer may be willing to allow a substitution for a lighter shank nail in favor of additional nails per connection or a tighter pattern. Some misinterpret language like “box nails may be substituted unless otherwise specified”. This reference does not allow for the use of shanks that are lighter than that specified. The language was added as pneumatic nail guns gained popularity. Early nail guns were only capable of “shooting” nails with lighter shanks. Today more efficient and powerful nailers are, for the most part, capable of driving nails with “common” shank diameters. The shank diameter or equivalent, as specified by the “penny weight” for a common nail, is still required unless proper approval for a substitution has been granted.