Can You Use Screws For Roof Sheathing? (Explained!)

For structural joining tasks, nails are the most common choice among construction workers.  However, if you are wondering whether you can use screws instead of nails for roof sheathing, this post is for you.

Yes, you can use screws for roof sheathing, but nails are a better option. Furthermore, if you do choose screws, you must use the right size of screws for adequate support. The wrong sizing will make the screw snap under the weight of the roof sheathing.

Roof sheathing, also known as roof decking, involves joining wooden panels and wood boards to your roof’s joists and trusses. Later, the roofer will attach roof shingles to these squares of wood or planks.

Are Screws Good Enough For Roof Sheathing?

While construction companies and workers often prefer nails to ensure solid structural joining, screws are not so ideal. This is because screws can snap under excessive load. On the other hand, nails offer increased flexibility and durability when it comes to bearing pressure.

So when you want to secure plywood panels used in your roof sheathing, nails are the right option. However, you will also find that most experts recommend using screws instead of nails when looking to work with plywood.

However, this is probably not the right case when it comes to roof sheathing. When installing roof hangers, it is best to use 16d double-dipped stainless or galvanized nails. Even manufacturers agree that you must never use drywall screws or deck screws to secure your joist hangers. The reason is that these screws neither have the shank size nor are they tough enough to support the excessive loads of your joist.

Using Screws for Rafters

It is best not to use any deck screws or wood screws when building roofing structural elements. Therefore, it is best to never use screws to attach rafters to the roof’s top plates in a roofing project. Similarly, it would not be a good idea to join your joists to the beams using screws.

Why Do Roofers Use Nails Instead Of Screws?

As we all know, in any construction project, choosing the right tools and parts plays a critical role in your structure’s sturdiness and lifespan. In the case of roof sheathing, using nails is the preferred choice among roof construction companies.

The main reason to opt for nails over screws is that nails are stronger than screws. Another important factor is the price tag. Nails are less expensive compared to screws. Most nails available in the market have smooth shafts and heads, making them faster and easier to insert using a nail gun or a hammer.

On the other hand, screws are more suitable for smaller to medium-sized projects such as floor decking or woodworking. This is because screws offer more control over their insertion and extraction. Using a screw with a manual screwdriver is a painstakingly long process. However, you can fix a nail by applying blunt force over its head with a couple of blows.

Nails are Stronger than Screws

You have to remember that nails tend to be less brittle compared to screws. Therefore, they offer better strength. On the other hand, screws will not be as forgiving, and the threaded shafts may break under greater pressure.

So, while you can use screws for roof sheathing, it is best to use nails to ensure a more solid fixture with fewer chances of breakage.

Screws with plywood

Plywood is a wooden plank that contains many thin wood layers known as veneers. These veneers have been glued in place using a strong adhesive. While using screws on plywood is not that difficult, you must still take care, or a screw can split the plywood plank used for your roof sheathing.

There are various types of screws on the market. You can use most screw types with plywood. Brads, nails, and screws will not hold a thick plywood panel in place. However, you insert a screw into the panel’s edge with a three-quarter-inch thickness of plywood.

Nails are a far better option if you wish to secure the face plies. You can space nails at an interval of four inches to maximize your panel’s strength.

Best for Joist Hangers

Galvanized metal is one of the most commonly used materials for joining joist hangers. This is mostly because joist hangers are also galvanized. Therefore, the ideal type of fastener must also be galvanized to help avoid corrosion. Eliminating the risk of corrosion ensures the prolonged life span of your joist hangers.

While nails can work perfectly as long as they are the right size, experts say it is ok to use specific specialty screws for this job.

Should I Use Screws Or Nails For Roof Sheathing?

Roof sheathing is a critical job as this will act as a base or foundation for your roof shingles to rest on for many years to come. Therefore, the foundation has to be rock solid and must stay that way for many years to come. Any loose ends will end up jeopardizing your roof’s structure, causing a financial burden and safety hazard that affects you and your loved ones.

While both screws and nails are appropriate options, roofers lean towards using nails. This is because nails offer more strength. They are less likely to break and are cheaper, which saves you on cost in the overall project.

Using screws may offer initial security, but screws can break under more pressure. Additionally, they are more expensive and impact the budget for your roof sheathing project. Another issue with screws is that sometimes they can split thinner plywood. On the other hand, nails do not split the plywood. Furthermore, nails can flex a bit more, allowing for the natural contraction and expansion of the wood plank without losing its grip.


In the end, it is safe to say that while you can use screws for roof sheathing, it is best to use nails because they offer more benefits compared to screws. From sturdiness to faster working and cost-saving to securing the sheath, the benefits of using nails can help both homeowners and roof contractors finish the project on time and within budget.

However, it is crucial that you choose the correct length of nails when using them for roof sheathing. A quick tip to remember is that the sharp tip of the nails used for roof sheathing should pass through. Furthermore, the nail must extend at least 3/8-inch past the underside of your roof sheathing.