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IN DEPTH EXTRA: Deck Fasteners

New Materials Add Challenges
The range of new materials and new fastening methods means dealers and customers must ensure the proper combinations are understood and used. “Alternative decking options continue to change formulations, which also affect the screw configuration that work best with them,” says Screw Products’ Miller. “We have to get new boards as they are released and test them with our screws to ensure they will work and determine what the best color match is.”

Simpson Strong-Tie’s Park adds, “Wood being used today has a lot more variations than it used to have. A lot is plantation lumber that isn’t as stable or resistant to shrinking, swelling and warping as options used to be. It creates more challenges for fasteners to ensure they can hold it down securely. A lot of engineering goes into creating fasteners that can handle swelling and shrinking, which puts a lot of bending stress on the fastener.”

That’s why manufacturers continually evaluate their screws. “The use of stainless-steel screws is moving inward from the coasts, especially for high-end decks using hardwoods,” says GRK’s Martel. “They have an extremely long life, so builders want to be sure the fasteners will last as long. The type of stainless steel that is used depends on the contractors’ preference.”

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Adds Starborn’s Nowatzki, “There are regional preferences for fasteners, especially along the coasts or where there have been issues with carbon-steel in the past. Chicago uses a lot of stainless steel fasteners due to past safety issues that have received publicity. But carbon-steel predominates in most markets.” Coatings have shifted in recent years, notes Simpson Strong-Tie’s Park. “They’ve moved away from mechanical galvanizing to proprietary versions that create a belt-and-suspenders approach to protection.”

The diversity makes it more important to ensure customers don’t assume they know about materials and interactions or what the code recommends until they’ve checked. “Builders are at the beginning of understanding that they need to know the details to be safe,” MiTek’s Archer says. “We’re in a transition period of understanding that this is a technical industry.”

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