I read up on when to use nails and when to use screws. Part of what I learned is that screws have lower shear strength as can be seen in this video.

It can be seen by just applying common sense, how most the differences between nails and screws come to be. However, I don't find it evident why screws have lower shear strength than nails. Why is this? Isn't it possible to make screws from the same material nails are made from?

2 Answers 2


Answering the question asked, without reference to video posted:

Posit a nail and a screw made from exactly the same material.

Observe the shape. One is a smooth cylinder, one has many sharp deformations arranged in a helical manner.

Even if the screw is sized such that the unthreaded core is the same size as the nail (which would make a much larger screw than nail) the sharp discontinuities of the threads concentrate stresses applied perpendicular (in shear) to the axis of the screw, while the smooth surface of the nail does not concentrate those stresses. Google "Stress riser" for more insight...

In short, the shape makes the screw weaker in that direction.


That video is not demonstrating the shear strength of nails or screws. It's demonstrating the "bendy-ness" or how ductile the two fasteners are. It's not surprising then that they fail so differently, because they are different types of fasteners, designed for different applications, and with different installation methods.

The bottom line is to use the correct fasteners for what they are rated for. That may be spelled out in code, or by a third-party rating or listing. There are screws that won't hold up to the stresses of building construction, just as there are nails that won't. Use the right tool for the job.

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