WHEN TO USE BOLTS INSTEAD OF SCREWS

Gearing up for your next project — whether it's building an entertainment center, shelving for your shop or a larger construction project — requires a bit of pre-planning. You have to think about what materials you'll need and what fasteners you'll use. Bolts and screws are two standard options, which brings us to a common question:

When should you use bolts instead of screws?

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF BOLTS AND SCREWS?

When it comes to the bolts vs. screws debate, you'll find they have different advantages because they're designed for different applications and materials.

SCREWS

Screws are a versatile fastener, which makes them a favorite choice. They provide a secure grip thanks to their threads and they meet the needs of numerous do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. They come in a variety of sizes and types for wood, metal, drywall and even concrete applications.

Screws are designed to be self-tapping, but in many cases you may still want to drill a pilot hole. If you drill all your pilot holes at once, this process is a little less time-consuming, since you limit how often you're changing out your drill bit.

While you can rely on the DIY "hack" of using a nail to drive your pilot hole, a cordless or corded power drill provides better results. Drills also make the installation — or even removal — of screws easier compared to a handheld screwdriver.

BOLTS

Screws are a versatile fastener, which makes them a favorite choice. They provide a secure grip thanks to their threads and they meet the needs of numerous do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. They come in a variety of sizes and types for wood, metal, drywall and even concrete applications.

Bolts provide the best holding strength compared to screws and other fasteners. Thanks to their threads, bolts can provide an unparalleled level of holding power. They do require a nut and a washer for their installation. The washer helps to spread the load over a larger surface area, which reduces the wear and tear as well as the loosening of your bolt over time while the nut secures the bolt in place.

Like screws, bolts come in many sizes and types. They're also usable with several materials ranging from metal and wood to concrete.

Installing a bolt requires a handheld or pneumatic wrench to remove or install it. Compared to screws, bolts can be easier to remove. The benefit of a pneumatic wrench is that it provides much more torque than a handheld tool, which makes your job easier.

Having a general understanding of bolts and screws will help you decide when to use bolts instead of screws.

HOW TO DECIDE WHEN TO USE BOLTS INSTEAD OF SCREWS

Before choosing a side in the bolts vs. screws debate for your next project, think about these three factors:

APPLICATION

Your project is the biggest factor in whether you use screws or bolts. Remember: bolts provide a tremendous amount of holding strength whereas screws offer a middle-ground for holding power. Light to medium construction projects, like for fencing or framing, are best for screws. Your heavy-duty projects are best for bolts. Bolts are also best when the finished project is meant to be assembled and disassembled easily.

MATERIAL

Whether you're using sheet metal, wood, concrete or drywall for your DIY undertaking, you want to think about how it applies to bolts vs. screws. Material matters.

Materials That Typically Require Screws:

MATERIALS THAT ARE USUALLY BEST FOR BOLTS:

There are some materials that could require either a screw or a bolt assembly for fastening. For example, a 2” x 4” might be best fastened as a stud that is part of the framework for a wall using screws, but for an application like a deck assembly, bolts are likely a better choice. Be sure to consider the load being put on the fastener in combination with the material when choosing between bolts and screws.

COST

Price is always a factor when budgeting a project, especially if you're going to need a large number of fasteners. While using bolts can be more costly, using the correct fastener will save you money in the long run. If you end up having to do repairs on the project because you used the wrong fastener for the material or application, you aren't really saving any money by going the cheaper route.

PICK UP YOUR BOLTS AND SCREWS AT CONSTRUCTION FASTENERS AND TOOLS

Knowing when to use bolts instead of screws, or vice versa, can be a challenge until you have more experience. Help from our team of experts — and access to our contractor-approved inventory and service — can make the process easier and give you more confidence as you begin your project.


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