12d or 16d Nails For Framing: Common & Box Nail Size Chart

Groundbreaking for a new building is a beautiful sight. Seeing your housing project move from bare land to a full-frame is a better sight. But have you thought about what makes a strong house? A strong frame gives the house a robust look and reassures you of safe construction. 

Yet, you can't have a sturdy frame with weak or ill-fitting nails. Getting the right size of nails for framing is the difference between a sturdy frame and a flimsy housing project bound to fail. 

For framing 2×4 dimensional lumber, you should use 16d (aka 16 penny) common or sinker nails 3 ½ inches long. For dimensional lumber in other sizes, it's best to use a nail slightly smaller than the lumber's width. 16d common or sinker nails are made from 8 gauge wire and are preferred over 16d box nails made from 10 gauge wire for structural framing due to their strength. However, most contractors will use a nail gun with 12d or 16d box nails where local building codes allow for their increased speed and efficiency.

You’ll need more than one nail size to finish all your interior and exterior framing. So let’s dig deep into what you need to check when choosing nail size for framing the next time you’re at the hardware store. 

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Common Nail Size and Gauge Chart:

Nail SizeGaugeShank LengthHead Diameter
2d nails151"3/16"
3d nails141 1/4"13/64"
4d nails121 1/2"1/4"
5d nails121 3/4"1/4"
6d nails112"17/64"
8d nails102 1/2"9/32"
10d nails93"5/16"
12d nails93 1/4"5/16"
16d nails83 1/2"11/32"
20d nails64"13/32"
30d nails54 1/2"7/16"
40d nails45"15/32"
60d nails46"17/32"

Box Nail Size and Gauge Chart:

Nail SizeGaugeShank Length
3d nails14-1/21 1/4"
4d nails141 1/2"
5d nails141 3/4"
6d nails12-1/22"
7d nails12-1/2 2 1/4”
8d nails11-1/22 1/2"
10d nails10-1/23"
12d nails103 1/4"
16d nails103 1/2"
20d nails94"

Why Are 16d Nails The Right Size For Framing?

Framing is high-precision work. It provides structural integrity to the rest of the house. Therefore, a strong support structure is essential for the completion of your home project. 

Perfect Shank Length

Most housing projects use common 2×4 lumber. The standard 16 penny nail measures 3 ½ inches long. Using this nail size for framing makes sure you get a good portion of the nail to join two lumbar boards. 

Variable Width

Besides shank length, width is a crucial factor in your frame’s sturdiness. You need nails that won’t split the wood. If the nails are too thick, they’ll split your framing wood. If the nails are too thin, you’ll end up with a weak frame (probably many bent nails). 

16d nails for framing have the right width at the tip to penetrate the wood and set up a smooth entry to both boards. 

However, there are other factors to consider when you buy framing nails. 

How to Choose the Best Nails

Choosing the proper nails goes beyond getting the right length and width. To get the best result, you need to make sure your nail selection is set on getting you a strong structure. In addition, you’ll need to check specific factors such as application, type of nail, and the strength of the nails. 

Common Nails

Common nails are sub-categories of the 16d nails perfect for framing. Commons are your basic general construction nails. They have three key characteristics.

  • Sharp point
  • Wide head
  • Thick shank

The head measures 3.5 inches long by 0.162 inches wide. This width is great for complete hammer-to-nail contact. The thick shank makes the nail strong enough to hold the frame together. The sharp point makes sure your nail penetrates the wood on each hit without damaging the fiber and possibly splitting the wood.

Sinkers

Sinkers are the alternative to commons. Unlike commons, they have three different features that you might consider for your framing project. 

  • Sleeker head
  • Textured head
  • Epoxy finish

For some builders, sinkers are the best 16d nails for framing. The sleeker head measures 3.25 inches long by 0.148-inch wide. Though it's marginal, the difference in width makes it less likely to split the wood during construction. 

The textured head is what scores it more brownie points with builders. Remember that full hammer-to-nail impact? The textured surface of the standard sinker 16d nail makes it less likely for the hammer to slip from the surface of the head. Additionally, the textured finish makes the sinker a favorite for someone working with a nail gun. 

The epoxy finish also makes the sinker edge out the common for framing. High humidity areas are susceptible to rusting. The epoxy finish provides a cover for the nail. The cover prevents it from rusting and weakening the structural support of the frame. 

Also, the epoxy finish makes it easy for the sinker nail to go into wood more smoothly without splitting the wood. If you cannot find epoxy finish 16d nails for framing, you can use the alternative- vinyl finish 16d sinker nails. They have the same easy-slide and rust resistance benefits. 

Why Can’t You Use 16d Box Nails For Framing?

Technically, you CAN use box nails. However, box nails are not as thick as commons or sinkers. As a result, they lack the width it would take to support a structural load. Box nails are a category of 16d nails made initially to reduce the likelihood of wood splitting. 

They were also a business decision that meant you could get more nails in a pack if you bought box nails. In addition, their thinner shanks meant each nail took up less space in a pack.

What Are You Framing?

We’ve discussed how 16d commons and sinkers are the perfect nails for framing a standard building project. However, what happens when you’re a DIY enthusiast, and you’re building a small-scale structure. 16d 8 gauge nails may be too thick for the job. This is where you look at other nails. 

What Size Nails For Small-scale Framing?

Interior jobs such as indoor furniture need framing too. Like big construction projects, a 16d nail would deal severe damage to a small furniture piece. 

In that case, bring out the 16d 10-gauge box nails. The difference between a 16d 8 gauge and a 16d 10 gauge nail is the thickness of the shank. A high gauge size the nails is weaker than the lower gauge nail. An 8 gauge nail is perfect for outside framing, while a 10 gauge is slimmer and therefore appropriate for small projects such as furniture and small internal framing. 

What Size Nails For Framing Roof Truss?

The roof truss is expected to be as strong as the rest of the frame. However, you need a different size nail for the roof truss. 

A 10d 9 gauge galvanized nail is not too different from a 16d for framing. However, most 10d 9 gauge nails are perfect for framing roof truss. The roof can collect humidity relatively fast. 10d nails have the right properties to counter this vulnerability

  • They are 3 inches long

You notice the length is not too different from the length needed to frame the support structure. At 3 inches long, it is enough to drive into two 2x4s. 

  • They measure 0.148 inches in diameter

This diameter is similar to the 16d sinkers you’d use in framing the outer frame. And since you want the wood as strong as possible even when it’s joined, the diameter is wide enough not to split the lumber. 

  • They are 9-gauge

As covered above, the best size nails for framing exterior frames is 8 gauge. These 10d 9 gauge nails for framing roof truss are strong enough to last a long time for the roof. They are almost as thick as the nails trusted to hold up the entire structure.

  • They are galvanized

This may be the most important factor in the 10d 9-gauge nails for framing roof truss. Galvanized nails have a protective zinc coating that prevents rust and corrosion. 

Nails are galvanized by dipping them in melted zinc. Most galvanized nails have an indication of drip on the shank. If you look at them closely, you will see some leftover zinc.

Additionally, you will know a galvanized nail for truss framing by checking the surface of the shank. A typical non-coated nail is smooth to touch. However, galvanized nails have a slightly rough feel if you glide your fingers on the shank. 

What Size Nails For Wall Studs?

Wall studs are the support beams that support the frame. Essentially, they make a vital part of the frame. Wall studs are thick and, therefore, need strong nails. Usually, these are behind the drywall, and you can find them not too far from electrical outlets. 

Modern trends in constructions advocate for double studding a wall for better insulation. In this case, use 16d 8 gauge nails or 10d 9 gauge nails. 

Other than better insulation, wall studs are the best places to frame heavy items inside the house. Here, you can use thicker nails since the wood in the studs is thick enough to keep it from splitting. 

What Nail Size For Framing Overlapping Floor Joists?

Building multi-storied houses need decks. Framing joists to floor decks need strong nails to keep overlapping floor joists straight and secure. Since the joints typically overlap by at least 3 inches, you’ll need 3 inch long nails to frame the joists. 

Bring out your 16d nails for framing overlapping floor joists. Using 3-inch nails to nail the joists to the sill plate makes sure you have straight joists with no sagging.

What Nail Size For Framing With Nail Gun

Construction is all about efficiency. Therefore, most construction workers will choose a nail gun over hand hammering. However, there’s a different set of rules when you use a nail gun versus hand hammering. 

Nail guns are length-specific. The size of the nail you use needs to be compatible with the nail gun. Each gun comes with its nails. You need to check if your nail gun has a special requirement for manufacturer-specific nails.  

For framing with a nail gun, you'll need a select the nail that suits what you are framing. For example, for non-loadbearing dimensional lumber, a 12d hot-dipped galvanized box nail will be sufficient for exterior use or a 12d vinyl-coated steel smooth framing nail for interior use.

12d nails are used in most nail guns. Sure, the naming is different. However, 12d nails for framing are 3¼ inch long. So the difference between 12d and 16d for framing is the ¼ inch length. Otherwise, they mostly have the same strength. 

Also, hand nailing 16d nails takes longer than using a nail gun. Therefore, If you used nail gun 16d nail, you might end up damaging the wood and putting the frame's structural integrity at risk.

There are four types of nail guns, and each of them is suited for specific tasks. 

The Framing nail gun is a heavy-duty gun. This is structured for shooting out 3 inch long nails. The framing gun is the bad boy you bring out for your main construction work. This includes building your fences, nailing the decks, wood sheathing, and siding.

Local laws and community guidelines regulate their usees. The main reason for the rules is the nails have clipped heads. Check with your area’s residential laws to know if you're within your rights to use the magazines. 

The other nail guns include:

Pin nailer: This is the nail gun for your DIY projects that require a soft touch. It’s a handy tool meant for construction projects like door trimmings, window casing, and furniture trimming.

Finish nailer: Finish nailers are used with headless nails. Bring out this nail gun when you're installing hardwood floors, putting up staircases, furniture, and building cabinets. 

Brad nailer: Brad nailers are equipped for 2-inch long nails. Your brad nailer won’t cut it with any of the house's e exterior framing or interior framing. However, keep it handy for your “Just built this house” picture frames. 

Tips For Choosing And Using Nails For Framing

  • Buy extra nails

Overdriving nails is common at worksites. Bent nails are also common, especially if you’re using a hammer instead of a nail gun. Although the American Plywood Association says there’s no reduction in strength for nails overdriven by one-sixteenth or less, you can add one nail for every 2 overdriven nails. 

  • Don’t nail across the same grain line

Driving thick nails too close to each other across the same grain line increases the chances of splitting your wood. Distance the nail in a slight zigzag such that there is no clear fault line that might become too weak. 

  • Blunt your nails

Blunting nails is a trick used by builders to smooth the entry of the nails during construction. You can do this manually by hammering once the sharp tip of the nail. The dull surface, therefore, cuts through the wood fiber instead of splitting the wood.

  • Angle your nails during nailing

You can use your nails to make a stronger frame. Instead of driving all your nails straight into the wood, slightly angle each nail in the opposite direction from the last. SAnd since they will not be in the same grain line, you make the frame more sturdy through the nailing. 

  • Avoid edges and ends

During framing, avoid nailing close to the edges and ends. Nail a few millimeters from the center of the wood. If you notice signs of splitting as soon as you hammer in the nail, pick a different spot. There is a big chance the wood will split if you insist on nailing a section that shows signs of splitting. 

Conclusion

Precision in framing is the difference between neat outcomes and costly mistakes. Now that you know the ins and outs of nail sizes, you can make easy choices at your next hardware store run for nails. 

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.

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