5 Basic Types of Screws Every DIYer Should Know

While screws may be unfamiliar, they find their way into construction, hobbies, and furniture manufacturing. From everyday tasks like framing walls and making cabinets to making wooden benches, these functional fasteners hold just about everything together. So choosing the right screws for your project is critical.
The screw aisle at your local hardware store is filled with seemingly endless options. And here’s why: different types of screws are required for different projects. The more time you spend assembling and repairing things around the house, the more you will become familiar with the following five types of screws and learn when and how to use each type.
Read on to learn about the most common types of screws, as well as screw heads and types of screwdrivers. In the blink of an eye, you’ll learn how to tell one variety from another, making your next trip to the hardware store so much faster.
Since screws are driven into wood and other materials, the verbs “drive” and “screw” are interdependent when referring to fasteners. Tightening a screw simply means applying the torque needed to screw in the screw. The tools used to drive screws are called screwdrivers and include screwdrivers, drills/screwdrivers, and impact drivers. Many have magnetic tips to help hold the screw in place during insertion. Screwdriver type indicates the design of the screwdriver that is best suited for driving a certain type of screw.
Before we discuss which type of screw is right for a particular item on your to-do list, let’s talk about how most screws are inserted these days. For optimal grip, the screw heads are designed for a particular screwdriver or drill.
Take, for example, the Phillips Screw Company’s Phillips Screw: This popular fastener is easily recognizable by the “+” on its head and requires a Phillips screwdriver to screw in. Since the invention of the Phillips head screw in the early 1930s, many other head screws have entered the market, including recessed 6- and 5-point star, hex, and square heads, as well as various combination designs such as recessed square and cross slot. compatible with multiple drills intersecting between heads.
When purchasing fasteners for your project, keep in mind that you will need to match the screw head design to the correct screwdriver bit. Fortunately, the bit set includes several bits to fit almost all standard screw head sizes and build configurations. Other common screw drive types include:
Apart from the type of head, another characteristic that distinguishes screws is whether they are countersunk or non-recessed. The right choice depends on the type of project you are working on and whether you want the screw heads to be below the surface of the material.
Standard screw sizes are determined by the screw shaft diameter, and most screw sizes are available in several lengths. Non-standard screws exist, but they are usually marked for a specific purpose (e.g. “glasses screws”) rather than by size. Below are the most common standard screw sizes:
How are screw types classified? The type of screw (or how you buy it from a hardware store) usually depends on the material that will be attached with the screw. The following are some of the most common types of screws used in home improvement projects.
Wood screws have coarse threads that securely compress the wood to the top of the screw shaft, just below the head, which is usually smooth. This design provides a tighter connection when joining wood to wood.
For this reason, screws are also sometimes referred to as “building screws”. When the screw is almost fully drilled, the smooth part at the top of the shank rotates freely to prevent the head from being pressed deeper into the insert. At the same time, the threaded tip of the screw bites into the bottom of the wood, pulling the two boards tightly together. The tapered head of the screw allows it to sit flush with or slightly below the surface of the wood.
When choosing screws for a base wood structure, choose a length such that the tip of the screw penetrates about 2/3 of the thickness of the base plate. In terms of size, you will find wood screws that vary greatly in width, from #0 (1/16″ diameter) to #20 (5/16″ diameter).
The most common wood screw size is #8 (about 5/32 of an inch in diameter), but as we said earlier, the screw size that works best for you will depend on the project or task you’re doing. Finishing screws, for example, are designed for attaching trim and moldings, so the heads are smaller than standard wood screws; they are tapered and allow the screw to be inserted just below the surface of the wood, leaving a small hole that can be filled with wood putty.
Wood screws come in both internal and external types, the latter usually galvanized or treated with zinc to resist rust. Home crafters working on outdoor projects using pressure treated wood should look for wood screws that are compatible with alkaline copper quaternary ammonium (ACQ). They do not corrode when used with wood that has been pressure treated with copper-based chemicals.
Inserting screws in a way that prevents splitting of the wood has traditionally required home craftsmen to drill a pilot hole before inserting the screws. Screws labeled “self-tapping” or “self-drilling” have a point that mimics the action of a drill, making pre-drilled holes a thing of the past. Because not all screws are self-tapping screws, be sure to read the packaging of the screws carefully.
Suitable for: joining wood to wood, including framing, joining moldings, and making bookcases.
Our recommendation: SPAX #8 2 1/2″ Full Thread Zinc Plated Multi-Piece Flat Head Phillips Screws – $9.50 in a one-pound box at The Home Depot. The large threads on the screws help them cut into the wood and form a tight and strong connection.
These screws are only used for attaching drywall panels and are 1″ to 3″ long. Their “bell” heads are designed to be sunk slightly into drywall panel surfaces without tearing the panel’s protective paper cover; hence the name socket head screws. No pre-drilling required here; when these self-tapping screws reach the wood stud or beam, they drive straight into it. Standard drywall screws are good for attaching drywall panels to wood framing, but if you’re installing drywall on metal studs, look for screw studs designed for metal.
NOTE. To install them, you will also need to purchase a drywall drill, as it is not always included in the standard set of drills. This is similar to a Phillips bit, but has a small guard ring or “shoulder” near the tip of the drill to prevent the screw from being set too deep.
Our Pick: Phillips Bugle-Head No. 6 x 2 Inch Coarse Thread Drywall Screw from Grip-Rite – only $7.47 for a 1-pound box at The Home Depot. The drywall anchor screw with an angled expanding shape allows you to easily screw it into the drywall without damaging the panel.
The first thing you’ll notice about masonry screws (also known as “concrete anchors”) is that the tips of many of them are not directed (although some are). Masonry screws do not drill their own holes, instead the user must pre-drill the hole before inserting the screw. While some masonry screws have a Phillips head, many have raised hex heads that require a special, suitable hex bit to install.
Check the package of screws, what bits and exact dimensions are needed to pre-drill the holes, then drill the holes in the anchor. Pre-drilling requires a rock drill, but these screws can be used with a standard drill bit.
Suitable for: To connect wood or metal to concrete, for example, to connect wooden floors to concrete foundations or basements.
Our recommendation: A suitable screw for this task is the Tapcon 3/8″ x 3″ Large Diameter Hex Concrete Anchor – get these in a pack of 10 from The Home Depot for only $21.98. Masonry screws have tall and fine threads designed to hold the screw in concrete.
The screws used to fasten the deck or “deck floor” to the deck beam system are designed to have their tops flush or just below the wood surface. Like wood screws, these exterior screws have coarse threads and a smooth shank top and are made to resist rust and corrosion. If you are installing a pressure treated wood floor, use only ACQ compliant floor screws.
Many decorative screws are self-tapping and come in both Phillips and Star screws. They range in length from 1 5/8″ to 4″ and are specifically labeled “Deck Screws” on the packaging. Laminate manufacturers specify the use of stainless steel floor screws when installing their products.
Best for: Using decorative screws to fasten trim panels to the deck beam system. These countersunk screws do not rise above the floor, making them perfect for the surfaces you walk on.
Our Recommendation: Deckmate #10 x 4″ Red Star Flat Head Deck Screws – Buy a 1-pound box at The Home Depot for $9.97. The tapered heads of the decking screws make it easy to screw them into the decking.
Medium Density Fibreboard (MDF) is often found in homes as interior trim such as baseboards and mouldings, and in the construction of some bookcases and shelves that require assembly. MDF is harder than solid wood and is more difficult to drill with conventional wood screws without splitting.
There are two options left: drill pilot holes in the MDF and use regular wood screws, or shorten the work time and use self-tapping screws for MDF. MDF screws are the same size as conventional wood screws and have a torx head, but their design eliminates the need for splitting and drilling pilot holes.
MOST FOR: To avoid having to drill pilot holes when installing MDF, use MDF screws, solving problems with both drilling and inserting screws.
Our recommendation: SPAX #8 x 1-3/4″ T-Star Plus Partial Thread Galvanized MDF Screws – Get a box of 200 for $6.97 at The Home Depot. The tip of the MDF screw has a micro drill rather than a standard drill, so it drills a hole for the screw when it is inserted.
When you buy screws, you will notice a lot of different terms: some define the best screws for certain types of materials (for example, wood screws), and others refer to special applications, such as burglary-resistant screws. Over time, most DIYers become familiar with other methods for identifying and purchasing screws:
While some people use the terms “screw” and “bolt” interchangeably, these fasteners are very different. The screws have threads that bite into wood or other materials and form a strong connection. The bolt can be inserted into an existing hole, a nut is required on the other side of the material to hold the bolt in place. The screws are usually shorter than the material they are made of, while the bolts are longer so that they can be attached to the nuts.
For many home DIYers, the number and types of screws available may seem overwhelming, but they all have their uses. In addition to knowing the most common standard screw sizes, it is helpful to know the different types of screws that are available for specific applications, such as sheet metal screws or spectacle screws.
The most important thing for DIYers to remember when buying screws is matching the type of screw head to the screwdriver. It also won’t help to buy tamper screws if you don’t have the right drivers to use them.
The market for fasteners is large and growing as manufacturers develop different and better screws and screwdrivers for specific applications. Those who are studying the various ways of fastening materials may have some questions. Here are answers to some of the most popular queries.
There are dozens of types of screws, varying in diameter, length, and purpose. Both nails and screws can be used to fasten and connect various materials.
Torx screws are hex-headed, can be internal or external, and require an appropriate Torx screwdriver to install and remove.
These screws, such as Confast screws, are designed to be driven into concrete and have alternating dark and light threads, which are considered the best for fixing in concrete. They are usually blue and have Phillip screw heads.
Pan head screws are available in a variety of materials and have a small drill point (instead of a screw point) so there is no need to drill pilot holes before inserting the fastener.
These common screws are used in home construction and renovation projects. They are made of strong shear strength steel and come with different types of screw heads.

Post time: Jun-12-2023