Guide to Buying and Using Drywall Screws

Drywall Screws

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Drywall screws are the standard type of fastener for securing full or partial sheets of drywall to wall studs or ceiling joists. Lengths and gauges, as well as thread types, heads, and points, might initially appear to be vast and confusing. But within the area of home improvement, drywall screws have a relatively well-defined area of usage. Learn about the best types of drywall screws to purchase and how to correctly use them.

  • 01 of 05

    Best Drywall Screw to Use

    There is no universal drywall screw for all needs. Grip-Rite, a major manufacturer of drywall fasteners, carries over 90 drywall screws, from 1-inch to 6-inch, in a variety of gauges and coatings. Common lengths range from 1 1/8-inch to 4-inch for a majority of building work, with #6 (0.1380-inch) and #8 (0.1640-inch) being the most common gauges.

    Yet most do-it-yourself home remodeling work involves a standard type of drywall found at home centers, in a standard sheet size and thickness. Most homeowners will be installing either 1/2-inch drywall on most walls in the house or a slightly thicker drywall, 5/8-inch, often called fire-rated or Type X, as a code requirement for fire-prone areas such as garages.

    As such, the phosphate coated, coarse thread 1 5/8-inch drywall screw does a reliable job of fixing 1/2-inch wallboard securely onto studs. This screw is inexpensive and can be purchased in large tubs, since drywall work requires a multitude of fasteners.

    But the 1 5/8-inch drywall screw can be difficult to sink, since so much shaft remains after the first 1/2-inch of the drywall thickness is covered. Stepping back on length does mean reducing strength. But the great benefit is that the screw is easier to drive into the stud. Since the last 1/8-inch of sink is critical (where the bugle head of the screw needs to crease but not tear the outer paper layer), this shorter screw makes it easier to calibrate that last 1/8-inch of drive.

  • 02 of 05

    Coarse vs. Fine Drywall Screw Threads

    One important feature to be aware of when purchasing drywall screws is thread type: coarse or fine.

    Coarse thread drywall screws work best for most applications involving drywall and wood studs. The wide threads are good at gripping into the wood and pulling the drywall against the studs. One downside of the coarse screws are the metal burrs that can embed in your fingers like thorns.

    Fine thread drywall screws are best for installing drywall to metal studs. Coarse threads have a tendency to chew through the metal, never gaining proper traction. Fine threads work well with metal because they are self-threading. 

  • 03 of 05

    Where to Use Drywall Screws

    The main purpose for drywall screws is securing full sheets of drywall (usually 4-foot by 8-foot for do-it-yourselfers). Any cut sheets of drywall can also be secured with drywall screws. 

    Secondarily, drywall screws help fix nail pops. If you have an older house and find walls that have mysterious circular bumps, then you have what are called nail-pops. Before drywall screws came into widespread use, drywall was nailed into place with short, wide-head nails. While drywall nails are still around and do have their use as a quick way to fasten wall board, drywall screws have evolved as the standard method of attaching drywall to studs precisely because of the nail-pop problem. 

    Finally, some do-it-yourselfers use drywall screws for one unintended purpose: building projects. There are many arguments against using drywall screws for building projects. Drywall screws tend to be brittle; rather than bending, they can snap. Drywall screw heads are especially prone to cleanly breaking off, leaving the shaft section embedded in your wood.  No screw extractor can remove a headless screw.  

    No woodworker would ever use drywall screws for fine building. Avoidance of drywall screws is especially important with heavy or even moderate building tasks, critically with outdoor projects like fences and decks.  

  • 04 of 05

    How to Drive Drywall Screws

    As a do-it-yourselfer or any type of casual drywall installer, you will not need a dedicated drywall screwgun. A drywall screwgun is a specialty tool used for ​hanging drywall. It is a more compact, lighter, and lower torque tool than most cordless drills. While screwguns do an excellent job of driving drywall screws, they have such limited functionality for homeowners that it is unnecessary to purchase them.

    If your cordless drill does not have an adjustable speed and a clutch so that you can vary torque, then you will need to purchase one with these features. The ability to lower torque with the clutch prevents you from stripping the screwhead, otherwise known as camming out.

    To properly drive a drywall screw, pierce the paper with the sharp point of the screw. Place the drill-driver bit on the screw, turn on the drill, and let the screw begin to draw itself into the drywall and stud. About three-quarters of the way through, you will need to exert more force; otherwise, the head will cam-out.

    Stop when the head and paper are even with each other. Then apply another quarter- or half-turn to the screw to cause it to sink just below the paper, without tearing the paper.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Drywall Screw Terminology and Features

    • Bugle head: Bugle head refers to the cone-like shape of the screw head. This shape helps the screw stay in place, without tearing all the way through the outer paper layer. 
    • Sharp point: Some drywall screws specify that they have a sharp point. Is this necessary? Yes, most drywall screws have this now. It makes it easier to stab the screw into the drywall paper and get the screw started.
    • Screws-per-pound: How many drywall screws are there in a pound? This depends on the type of screw, but 1 5/8-inch coarse thread #6 screws will yield about 200 screws per pound.
    • Drill-driver bit to use: For most drywall screws, you will generally use a #2 Phillips head drill-driver bit.
    • Coatings: Black drywall screws have a phosphate coating to resist corrosion. A different type of drywall screw has a thin vinyl coating that makes them even more corrosion-resistant. Additionally, they are easier to draw in because the shanks are slippery.