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Choosing the Right Type of Screw

Revised: 7/26/19
Grainger Editorial Staff

Finding the right right type of screw can be a tedious task. There are dozens of screws types that work in a variety of applications. Learn about the important characteristics of screws, and find out how to choose the right type of screw for the task at hand

1. Basic Types of Screws

The style of a screw directly determines its function. This includes the type of material the screw is made from, the style of the screw itself and more. Although there are dozens of different types of screws, there are three basic ones that get the most use. They are the following:

  • Sheet metal screws: screw threaded all the way to the head, no interruption in the threading
  • Drywall screws: curved on the junction connecting the head to the shaft to prevent tearing
  • Wood screws: standard screw that forms its own internal mating thread in wood or other resilient material, threads may hold the gap between the two pieces open, rather than closing them tightly together

As you can see by the names of the most common screws, it’s easy to determine what application to use these screws in. But there are other components that factor into choosing the right type of screw, including size and length.

2. Screw Size

The size of a screw is extremely important. This determines how much your screw can efficiently hold or anchor. For a safe and accurate application, the screw thickness needs to work for the width of the material you’re placing the screw into, in addition to the weight it will have to support.

However, keep in mind it’s not always that simple. If your load is 50 pounds, a screw that can hold 50 pounds will simply not suffice. The tightening of the screw during application needs to be factored into the total load capability, as well. Make sure that the pre-load is at least twice the weight of any external loads to reduce risk. Check the packaging to confirm load capabilities before application.

3. Screw Length

When choosing a screw length it’s important to remember that the nail should always be three times as long as the thickness of the material in which it will be driven into. To find this: hold the screw up against the piece you’re putting it through and select a nail approximately three times the thickness.

Although there are several factors to consider when choosing the right type of screw, it truly depends on the application itself. Just make sure you have the right screwdriver lying around.


The product statements contained herein are intended for informational purposes only. Such product statements do not constitute a product recommendation or representation as to the appropriateness for a specific application or use. W. W. Grainger, Inc. does not guarantee the result of product operation or assume any liability for personal injury or property damage resulting from the use of such products.

The information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This article is not a substitute for review of current applicable government regulations, industry standards, or other standards specific to your business and/or activities and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.


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