Why I Use Drywall Screws

by Dale on August 19, 2014

 

Why I Use Drywall Screws

I recently read an article about screws, which was very extensive and well written.

The article explained why certain screws are stronger, and described how screws are manufactured.

Then they did some testing, which is when things got a bit “screwy” in my mind.

As part of the test, they drove the screws into hard maple without drilling pilot holes. They used several different type of screws, and the results were predictable. McFeely’s brand and Spax tied for the strongest while the regular, humble drywall screw came dead last with the most breakage. By far.

This testing method was very surprising to me, because of the omission of first drilling a pilot hole. This was particularly surprising, considering that they were driving screws into hard maple. Had the test been performed with using the proper sized pilot hole for each particular screw being tested, the results would have been much different.

I have been using drywall screws for woodworking for over 30 years—with excellent results. I have had some break, maybe 10-20 at the most- less than one per year. I can’t remember when the last one broke because it’s extremely rare for me. I would venture to guess I’ve probably saved several hundred, if not thousands of dollars by using drywall screws throughout my career.

I don’t use drywall screws for every application, especially where moisture is a concern. I do use them in all my jigs and fixtures in my shop and haven’t had any problems at all. They are successfully holding many cabinets tightly to their walls, and I am confident they won’t fail me anytime soon.

Most applications for screws in fine furniture is as a holding device while the glue sets. Also not mentioned are brass screws, and almost everyone uses them in fine furniture. Try installing brass screws in maple without pilot holes. They break even with pilot holes on occasion, and there are several devices for correcting the problem, it is so common. I have been known to throw away new brass screws and use steel ones right from the beginning, and in some cases the drywall screw.

The real point of this blog is that I agree that premium type screws are stronger – but they don’t need to be! At least not for most applications. I do use premium type screws for some projects – but that is the exception, not the rule. Why use an elephant gun to shoot a mouse?

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Rod Smith August 27, 2014 at 1:24 am

Dale, thanks for the advise. I think you have some very valid points. I have on occasion used drywall screws when I didn’t have another choice, but I see where I can save some money now using them for jigs and a lot of the odds and end things. Good to see an entry from you on the blog, I aways enjoy reading them.

Rod

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John August 31, 2014 at 8:40 pm

Thanks for the article! I had the same experience with drywall screws. Do you have any experience with precision screws as well?

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Dale September 15, 2014 at 10:11 pm

Hi John, thanks for commenting. I have used precision screws as well, usually when moisture is an issue, or when I needed a longer screw or something that needed to be really strong. I have had excellent results with them, just don’t like to spend the extra money when it isn’t needed. I Usually purchase a full box to get the best price and then save them for the special uses. I also keep a good supply of all the different size drywall screws available so I always have the right length when I need it. I used to buy them in 50 lb boxes until the metal prices hit the ceiling. Dale

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Angie May 22, 2015 at 10:09 pm

How do drywall screws do well when a house settling or shifting compare to cabinet screws -it always seem my doors get stuck at certain time of the years- and I assume my cabinets will shift as well.

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Dale May 25, 2015 at 9:33 pm

The type of screw doesn’t matter, if it is tight and the screw isn’t broken. A screw in the proper size hole won’t allow the cabinet to shift. The problem may be the settling or seasonal wood movement on the doors. Usually the doors will swell in the summer and shrink in the winter. If you can adjust the doors when they stick or plane them down then it should solve the problem. There might have gaps in the winter though. I’m just guessing here because I do not know all the circumstances involved in the problem. I hope this helps.

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