The height of 3 of 6 of the 4x4 posts I need to make on a deck are only 3.5" high. These would be on top of concrete piers and then (2) 2x8 beams on top of that and then joists on the beams. Its just barely enough room to fit the hardware for attaching the posts and I'm wondering if I have to worry about splitting the wood in the short posts. Would it be acceptable to drill small pilot holes in the post for the nails to attach hardware to reduce the chance of splitting. Or perhaps I should use pilot holes and screws?
pilot holes are almost always a good idea to prevent splitting. They are just time consuming. They can reduce the holding power of nails, so if you just have a few, I would use pilot holes and screws.