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Building code calls for 3" x .131 nails for wall framing. I wanted to use ring shank which have a better hold, but I can't seem to find RS in .131. Whenever we go to RS, the diameter drops to .120. You can get .131 diameter nails in smooth shank though.

So unless I'm mistaken, it looks like you can get RS .120 OR smooth .131, but not RS .131. (These are 21 degree gun nails).

I want to do a quality job, and the inspector doesn't care which kinds of mails I use.

Given the choice, am I better off with smooth shank .131 or ring-shank .120 nails? The rings would probably hold better, but will the reduced diameter cause other issues?

Clarification: The issue that I'm running into is that I can't find the nails that code calls for locally (and I mean at the lumber yards that supply real framers, not box stores).

My code wants 3"x.131, and the lumber yards have RS .120. When I try to get what the IRC prescribes, I get: "that's what everyone uses here" and "they don't even check nails so don't worry about it".

So the problem is, should I be using what the code book specifies (which I would have to special order and is extremely hard to find) or use what all the supply houses in my area are selling to all of the framers for wall framing because that's what they actually use around here?

There are no high wind speed or seismic considerations.

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  • > "I wanted to use ring shank which have a better hold" That's not in the code. That's why you had trouble finding them. Commented May 4, 2020 at 3:18

4 Answers 4

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You'll want to review the nailing schedule of the code that applies where ever you may be. The one at the bottom of this post is pretty standard. Here's a link to California's 2016 UBC nailing schedule. (California requirements may be greater due to seismic requirements.) Note that there's not one single nail specified for all wall framing; there are different nails required for different attachments.

"Upgrading" the required fastener isn't necessarily a good thing. For example do you think it would be good to use 8" spikes made for joining landscape timbers where 16d - 10d nails are required? No, that would be crazy - you'd split the wood to bits and have nails sticking into the next room and etc.

Sure ring shank and spiral shank nails are harder to pull out, they're great for decking and siding. But the upgrade isn't necessary for wall framing - walls built by the standard method hold up great. By substituting ring shank or spiral shank nails you may have unintended negative consequences - more subtle than using landscape spikes but still problems.

As a general recommendation, wait until you have a done a fair number of jobs following all applicable codes and standards to the letter before you try to improve on the standards. Even then, think very hard before getting creative. The code / standard methods are with very few exceptions tried and true, and actually a bit overbuilt to give you some margin of error. You're second guessing all the people that put them together over the years when you deviate from them.

Nailing Schedule

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  • +1 for including a nailing schedule.
    – Lee Sam
    Commented Mar 16, 2019 at 14:33
  • The issue that I'm running into is that I can't find the nails that code calls for. My code wants 3"x.131, and the lumber yards have RS .120. When I try to get what the IRC prescribes, I get: "that's what everyone uses here" and "they don't even check nails so don't worry about it". So the problem is, should I be using what the code book specifies (which I would have to special order) or use what all the supply houses in my area are selling to all of the framers because that's what they actually use?
    – Nick
    Commented Mar 16, 2019 at 15:55
  • @Nick I think you are missing the point. The Code is a minimum. You can use more nails to meet the minimum. If the Code requires 3 box nails, you may need to use 4 or 5 of the nails that are available in your area. Remember, it’s net area of shank.
    – Lee Sam
    Commented Mar 16, 2019 at 16:37
  • @nick - I don't see anywhere in the IRC where 3"x.131 ring shank are required where do you see that? Commented Mar 16, 2019 at 17:19
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I get that you want nails with better hold, but having taken apart plenty of old construction, I can assure you that even smooth shank .131 nails hold extremely well.

As a general statement, Code isn't perfect, but it's pretty decent. It's been written over the years based largely on what works well. If you can get an engineer to stamp your drawings specifying some quirky variation, then go for it. I doubt it's worth the time and expense to do certain tweaks.

My best advice is to use spiral shank 3-1/4" .131s. It'll be solid.

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  • Please see my clarification above. The "time and expense" in this case is doing it to code, as I would have to customer order nails with high shipping and waste over a week because the supply houses that sell to framers here don't stock code nails, they stock what framers actually buy and use, which do not meet code.
    – Nick
    Commented Mar 16, 2019 at 16:02
  • 3 answers have told you that code is useful. If you honestly only have 1 store within 50 miles, I feel sorry for you. My big box stores all stock normal nails. My lumberyards all stock normal nails. Sorry to sound harsh, but go buy a big box of the right nails -- an extra 50 bucks on a framing project shouldn't be such a big deal. Commented Mar 17, 2019 at 3:18
  • There are several stores. None of them sell the size nails prescribed by code. This is an issue of availability, not cost.
    – Nick
    Commented Mar 17, 2019 at 13:08
  • @Nick Why are you trying to install the EXACT size and EXACT number of nails required by Code? All codes allow “or equivalent”. If you’ve ever watched framers on a job, you’ll see they are generous with the use of their nailgun. (Just don’t split the wood.)
    – Lee Sam
    Commented Mar 17, 2019 at 17:35
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The Code doesn’t stipulate ring shank nails. It does require “box” or “common” or equivalent diameter. (See Table R602.2)

The Table gives the size and minimum number of nails required for each type of nailing situation, (i.e.: nailing double top plate together, nailing joists to top plate, etc.) just find the number of nails and type, example: 3-8d and then find the equivalent wire size for ring shank, etc.

Btw, there is a table for sheathing to studs, joists, etc. too.

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  • This is the correct answer. They can't find the nails because they're trying to use different nails than what the code calls for. Commented May 4, 2020 at 3:16
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Assuming the exterior sheathing to be fastened to the wall framing is being used to complete a Wood Structural Panel (WSP) its function is to provide resistance to the horizontal shear force wind pressure and earthquakes can exert on the structure. So, if you choose to deviate from the current code (2018 IRC, September 2020 edition, Table R602.3(3)) in an attempt to exceed (or improve upon it) you have to bear in mind the implications of choosing to use fasteners that are different in either length or diameter from the IRC and, most importantly, conform to what your local building inspection office would accept. The current IRC specifies the necessary fasteners for exterior wall sheathing applied to a WSP based on the thickness of the sheathing.

As an example, the sheathing you've opted to use is 19/32" plywood. Table R602.3(3) would define the MINIMUM fastener requirement for sheathing exceeding 7/16" in thickness as an 8d nail 2-1/2" in length and 0.131" in diameter AND a minimum penetration of the framing of 1-3/4". Okay, that's a lot of numbers to keep in mind when selecting the nail you plan to use on your sheathing. But keep in mind that these characteristics define the "minimum" fastener you can use.

Based on the current code using 19/32" plywood you'd need a nail at least 19/32" + 1-24/32" = 2-9/16" in length to achieve the required minimum penetration of the framing when fastening the sheathing to it. Where I live the nail commonly used with pneumatic nail guns to fasten wall sheathing of any thickness is 2-3/8" long, 0.113" diameter, in part, because this nail is so readily available. You'll note that this 2-3/8" nail is both too short (by 3/16") and just a bit too small in diameter (by 0.018") to meet the minimum code requirement for fastening 19/32" plywood.

What to do? First, keep in mind the code prescribes the MINIMUM fastener. You can choose a nail that exceeds the minimums of all three of the parameters of this prescription. What many framers do is to simply increase the number of nails they use to fasten the sheathing to the framing. This means decreasing the minimum nail spacing from the code specified 6" along the edges and 12" in the field of the sheathing to something like 3" along the edges and 6" in the field. But use caution in assuming simply adding more nails compensates for your deviating from (or improving on) the code minimum. I've come onto jobs where the framers used so many nails spaced only about an inch apart om 7/16" thick sheathing that the strength of the sheathing itself had been compromised; effectively diminishing the effectiveness of the function the WSP was designed to perform.

There's not much worse than tearing out new work and redoing it to make it code compliant whether it is yours or someone else's you were brought in to fix.

When in doubt bear in mind that the code specifies the minimum requirement and your local building official - not the store salesperson who tells you "that's what everyone else uses" - is the best resource to do it right the first time.

Such an approach can be workable BUT you should check first with your local building inspector to make sure the fastener you select meets their interpretation of the current code.

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  • Welcome to Home Improvement! Can you clarify how you determined that the OP was asking about creating a WSP, how you determined that the Sept. 2020 code applies to a question asked in 2019, where you came up with the 19/32" plywood? Also, how does this address the OP's concerns about ring-shank vs smooth nails?
    – FreeMan
    Commented Dec 3, 2021 at 12:23

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