Deck Builders Look to Edge Fastening

Guide tools position the deck screws and provide automatic gapping for easy installation.

CAMO/National Nail

Now an extension of the home, homeowners are currently spending tens of thousands of dollars either refurbishing dilapidated decks or creating lavish spaces complete with multiple tiers, built-in seating, outdoor kitchens, hot tubs, electronics and space heaters. Given the investment along with higher performance and aesthetic expectations of homeowners, the demands for “outdoor room” looks have never been stronger.

As a result, deck fastening has evolved greatly over the past several years to accommodate the natural wood decks that have dominated the category and the growth of low-maintenance composite and PVC decking. For instance, hidden systems such as clips and plugs were introduced for grooved boards that met the demand for higher end indoor flooring looks and safer surfaces. 

But, there are disadvantages. In addition to costing more than traditional face fastening, they can be time consuming to install and can misfire if not placed properly. It also takes a general amount of installation expertise to keep the systems from loosening and producing deck boards that do not squeak or crack over time.

On the other hand, galvanized or even stainless steel screws that are face-fastened from the top of the board are clearly visible, more vulnerable to moisture penetration, and can present a safety issue when deck boards split and fasteners pop.  

Color-matched screws are less visible, but unless the screw heads are plastic coated, they can also get red hot in the sun, since metal heats up much more quickly than wood or composites. 

Screws not specifically designed for capped decking can also produce unwanted affects such as dimpling (an indentation around the screw head), white shearing (the stretching of the outer layer which causes white stretch marks around the head) and curled waste (small attached pieces of plastic that form around the screw head).  Contractors want barefoot-friendly options that give their customers a better aesthetic over time.  

These issues have set the stage for secure, fastening solutions that combine the aesthetics of hidden clips and plug systems with the fast, easy installation of face-fastening. “My customers are looking for outdoor deck styles that mirror the indoors,” said Dominick Paragano, a sixth generation builder and owner of Paragano Construction in Short Hills, N.J.  “That is why a fastener-free look has risen to the top of their lists—they want a clean, luxurious indoor flooring look taken to the outdoor deck.”

Paragano is a proponent of edge fastening, which he calls the next generation of deck fastening. Edge fastening employs a simple technology that is easy to use and is up to 25% faster and 50% less expensive to install than clips. This method can utilize edge deck screws, guides that position the screws and provide automatic gapping, and bits that ensure depth of drive. And they’re easy to use—just set the guide on the deck board over the joist, load the screw, and drive the fastener into the edges of each board with a drill. The guides, which can cost anywhere from $20 to $50, work with virtually any decking material, have variations to accommodate nominal 6” boards as well as narrow boards, and offer multiple gap options including a no-gap option for treated wood decks that attaches to any drill and can also be used with secondary spacers to achieve other desired gaps. 

The faster and more affordable edge-fastening methods have advantages that extend beyond the enhanced aesthetics of a fastener-free surface. Edge fastening can help add life to the deck by reducing moisture absorption and surface cracking around the fastener, since the fastener is not fully exposed on the surface.  

From a safety perspective, edge fastening provides the peace of mind of never having to worry about protruding and unsightly screws loosening over time to create tripping or hazards for bare feet. No matter if the board is square shouldered or grooved, there are no clips that have to be held in place at just the right angle or time-consuming plugs. “My crews are addicted to edge fastening,” said Paragano, “because it’s so fast and easy, and very intuitive.” He noted they jokingly wanted to figure out something else to do with the guides because they saved so much time on the job.

 To further fulfill the desire for smooth, fastener-free surfaces and high-speed installation, one edge-fastening system has been developed that combines the speed of a collated tool with the convenience of stand-up installation. In this case, the installer just walks along the length of the board and fastens it quickly, saving the installer both time and physical wear and tear on the knees and back. Collated stand-up versions average around $300. 

In addition, edge fastening works equally well with most forms of decking ranging from composites and PVC to pressure-treated softwoods, cedar, and tropical hardwoods like mahogany and ipé. “When it comes to speed, strength and a beautiful surface, I think edge fastening is the wave of the future,” said Paragano.

As more contractors seek to bring the beauty and comfort of the indoors to homeowners’ outdoor spaces, they will continue to investigate new fastening systems for decks that speed installation and save time and labor—with stunning results. 

– With 31 years of experience in the lumber and decking industry, Chip Manger is vice president of business development for CAMO Edge Fastening at National Nail, Grand Rapids, Mi. 



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