Monday, August 4, 2014

Wood screw or sheet metal screw? More on hardware and a bit on what to have on hand…


I build things with sheetrock screws.  They’re admittedly not the best fastener for all things, but for a lot of projects, they work fine.  The storage shelves I make from plywood and 1x2s are plenty sturdy, and they’re made with sheetrock screws; I’ve put shelf standards on the wall with sheetrock screws.  Wood screws might have been better for the job, but sheetrock screws are usually on hand, and they start so easily…I feel ok with my choice after reading an old post on a forum written by someone with less hair and all of it gray who happens to be male saying he used sheetrock screws as well, even though maybe they weren’t the best for earthquake country (he said that the gold screws are probably better).

There are a lot of different types of screws out there (here’s a good .pdf file with clear pictures as to the different kinds, including sex bolts and mating screws – see, I said I’d talk about screwing).  How do you tell them apart?  Well, I’ve observed that machine screws tend to have fine threads, while things intended to go into sheetrock or wood tend to have coarse threads.  Metal can support fine screw threads, while wood can’t and can tear out, hence the difference.   A machine screw won’t hold as well in wood, and a wood screw’s threads are not strong enough for metal. 

Whichever type you typically use is what is good to have on hand in emergencies.  Putting up a piece of plywood over a window:  sheetrock screws.  Start fast, and I’m screwing into wood.  Attaching a hasp to a metal door:  thread cutting machine screws.  Beefing up the security of an outside door on the shop:  carriage bolts.  And so on. 

I don’t think a mini hardware store is needed by most folks; I happen to have a lot of hardware bits and bobs from having inherited a lot of it.  I have a smattering of this and that, and while I love to be able to go out to the shop and grab a gizmo to do a project with from what I have on hand, I’d still be hard pressed to do much on a large project with what I have on hand as I’m sure I’d run out part way through any significant project.   Most preparedness sites recommend that you have nails and screws on hand, but not necessarily what sizes or types.  Based on what I use, here’s a rough list:

  • 10d nails; these are beefy enough for construction; common and finish are what I have on hand.  I have some old duplex nails with double heads made for (I thnk) concrete forms that would be useful for emergency repairs as they're easy to pull out with the double head that sticks above the surface, but I haven't seen them n stores for a long time...
  •  8d nails; these are good for trim and non-construction (i.e., non-framing) chores.
  • Roofing nails (and anything else you might need for fixing your roof; another site has a post here on that, watch the typos, however).
  • Sheetrock screws:  length depends on use.  For screwing ½” plywood over a window, a 1 ¾” sheetrock screw will probably do the trick.  For screwing two ½” pieces of material together, ¾” sheetrock screws.  Look at what you will be needing for repairs and what you will be screwing together.  I keep an assortment of about 5 sizes on hand for various projects, from 1” to 2 ½”.
  • Replacement hardware:  look around at what you might need to replace.  That’s what you want to have on hand.  Door torn askew in a storm, for example?  You’ll need screws, probably, maybe a hinge or two (and maybe some wood to patch the frame).
The bottom line, unfortunately, is that your hardware will be different from mine because your needs are different; your house is different.  And hardware’s not the only thing you want to have on hand for emergency repairs; you’ll want heavy plastic, lightweight plastic, as for painting; replacement roof covering (shingles or whatever) scraps of plywood (keep the larger ones from projects around the house) and so on.

Walk around your house with a critical eye.  What can fail?  How would you secure that exposed window, or beef up that door, in an emergency?  How would you cover that window busted by a tree branch you never got around to trimming off?   How about simple repairs?  It’s obviously better to keep on top of repair jobs, but there are always things that need it that never seem to get the attention.  If you at least have the materials on hand to fix things…well, when the Intertubes go down and your smart phone is stupid because cell service is dead, you will have something to do.