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Choosing the Best Screws for Wood Fences: A Comprehensive Guide

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If you’re in the process of building a new fence, you may be wondering what type of screws to use to attach your wood fence rails and pickets.

Making sure to use the proper fasteners is key to building a long lasting fence. We’ll cover what screws are recommended and which screws to avoid using.

Screws can be used in several phases of fence building including installing fence rails to a fence post and fence boards or “pickets” to fence rails. Lastly, they can be used to hang gate brackets to fence posts.

All those points of contact are crucial to a fence, and you want to ensure you’re using the best screws with excellent holding power.

drill installing screw in fence slat

Polymer coated exterior screws or stainless steel screws are best for installing fence boards, while exterior rated structural screws are best for attaching fence rails to fence posts.

Below we talk about the screws above in detail and showcase why we think they’re best for building your new backyard fence.

Polymer/Ceramic Coated exterior screws

ceramic coated exterior screws

You might be scratching your head when I say polymer or ceramic coated exterior screws, but you always see them at your local hardware stores.

They are the tan and green screws rated for exterior use and often called “deck screws”.

They have a polymer coating so they don’t rust like regular zinc interior screws. These screws are used in 80-90% of exterior projects

Stainless Steel Screws

stainless steel screws

Stainless steel screws are best when using certain hardwoods, such as Ipe or Cumaru. Hardwoods will stain if you use polymer coated or galvanized screws, ruining your very expensive fence.

These screws cost 2-3 times more than other exterior screws and are harder to install. Stainless steel is a softer metal, so screw heads can pop off if too much torque is applied. This is why you have to pre-drill when using stainless steel screws in dense woods.

While all of this sounds like reasons not to use stainless steel screws, they will never rust making them an excellent exterior screw. They require extra time and patience to install.

Structural Screws

structural screws

While structural screws look like regular screws, they are VERY different. These types of screws are perfect to attach your fence rails to the fence posts.

They have similar holding capacities as lag screws and lag bolts but are much easier to install.

I’ve used them for the past 7-8 years on several decks and fences I’ve built due to their easy installation and holding strength.

While they are more expensive than regular screws, but worth every penny. They give me a sense of security when there are storms with high winds in my area.

Structural screws can hold between 250-400 lbs. while regular screws are rated far below at 80-100 lbs.

I use GRK structural screws to attach my fence rails to my fence posts.

I like installing my rails in the middle of the posts and not on the outside. In my opinion, the fence looks more balanced than having everything installed outside the fence post.

When you attach rails to the inside of the fence post, they will either be installed with galvanized brackets or by diagonally screwing through rails to the posts.

If you’re not used to driving screws at an angle, using a Kreg pocket hole jig makes it easier. You can use a 2.5 – 3 inch long screw for the proper holding strength for the rail to the post.

Screws Not to Use For Wood Fence

People tend to go to the store and pick up the cheapest screws they can find to build everything.

Often, these will be screws only meant to be used indoors where they will never become wet. Drywall and Zinc coated screws are not meant to be used outdoors.

They will rust quickly and disintegrate until they can no longer hold your fence board or rail.


Buy the proper screws to build your new fence. If you don’t, you will pay more in time and money repairing and replacing fencing installed with cheap interior screws.

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Jena Slocum Co-Founder

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