13 Types of Screws for Metal, Plastic, and More

How to choose the best screws for different projects

An overhead shot of a selection of screws

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Screws are common fasteners, similar in size, shape, and function to nails, except screws have ridges known as threads that are intended to grip the inside of the screw hole when it is driven into the material. There are many types of screws in a wide range of sizes and shapes, including some specialized screws, like hammer-drive screws or double-ended screws, that aren't used with a screwdriver.

A screw is made up of five identifiable parts:

  • The drive is the recess in the head of the screw where a screwdriver or driver bit needs to be inserted to drive the screw.
  • A screw head is the top of the screw, which typically has a wide, circular shape to hold onto the outside of the material and prevent the screw from ripping straight through.
  • The shank refers to the smooth area between the head and the threads.
  • The tip is the end of the screw.
  • The threads make up the ridged part of the screw that wraps around the main shaft.

Screws can be used in a variety of materials, like concrete, brick, or metal, though they are most commonly seen in wood, drywall, and machinery. To improve the safety and success of your DIY projects, it's recommended to research the various screw types. This guide can help get you started with 13 types of screws, their intended purpose, and some information on how to choose the right screw for your next project.

Basic Types of Screws
  Basics Positive Negative 
Masonry Screws Designed for use with masonry materials Common for outdoors Requires pilot hole and special tools
Wood Screws  Most common screw for wood Does not require pilot hole Can only be used with wood
Drywall Screws Secures drywall to wood studs and beams Easy to use and conceal Cannot connect drywall to metal
Decking Screws Used to build and repair decks Countersinks easily and resists rusting Should only be used for decks and no other structural wood
MDF Screws Used with medium- density fiberboard No need for pilot holes Used only with MDF wood
Sheet Metal Screws Attaches wood, plastic, and other metal to sheet metal Steel screws are rust resistant Carbon-steel versions can only be used indoors
Self- Tapping Screws Used for a variety of installations Creates its own pilot hole with sharp tip May split soft materials
Double-Ended Screws Designed to be inserted into two pre-drilled pilot holes to fasten wood pieces Adds durability in pre-fabricated furniture Can't be removed after installation
Mirror Screws Secures mirrors to walls Won't corrode and does not damage walls Requires pre-drilled hole
Security Screws Standard screws meant to prevent tampering Delays or prevents vandalism and theft Not immune to removal with the right tools
Hammer-Drive Screws Secures items from signs and nameplates to tech and auto parts Extremely durable Cannot be removed after installation, needs special tools
Machine Screws Joins various machinery or electronic parts Wide range in sizes and drives for numerous projects No pointed tip
Pocket Hole Screws Secures two boards or parts of wood furniture Designed for pocket hole joinery Designed only for wood furniture
  • 01 of 13

    Masonry Screws

    Closeup of masonry cement screws

    photopaul65 / Getty Images

    Best for: Attaching wood or metal to concrete or similar masonry materials.

    Masonry screws are designed for use with masonry materials, like brick, mortar joints, or concrete. They are commonly used outdoors to secure objects, like rain gutters, to the brick exterior or you can use masonry screws to attach wooden floor plates to the concrete foundation.

    These screws require a pilot hole to be drilled with a hammer drill and masonry bit before the screw can be inserted. They are best recognized by the two different thread patterns on one screw. The first is small and tight to the shaft, while the second is much larger, protruding from the shaft of the screw. Choose between a flat head to countersink the screw or a hex washer head that will sit on top of the material.

  • 02 of 13

    Wood Screws

    A screw being drilled into wood

    Raisa Liashok / EyeEm / Getty Images

    Best for: Joining two or more pieces of wood together, like wall studs, molding, or furniture.

    Easily the most well-known screw for DIYers, wood screws are used to join multiple pieces of wood together. They can have a fully threaded or semi-threaded shaft and typically have a sharp, piercing tip that penetrates wooden surfaces with little issue. For this reason, wood screws do not generally require a pilot hole.

    These screws are easy to find in a local home improvement store for your DIY projects. They come in a wide variety of sizes and drives to suit your needs, but make sure that you are only using these screws with wood. The threads are too widely spaced to properly grip concrete or other non-fibrous materials.

  • 03 of 13

    Drywall Screws

    Drywall screws

    The Spruce / Margot Cavin

    Best for: Attaching drywall panels to wall studs.

    Drywall screws have coarse threads that are suitable for securing the drywall to wooden studs or beams. These screws are commonly used by DIYers to finish basements or build new rooms within the existing space. While they are best suited for joining drywall to wood studs, fine-thread drywall screws can also be used to connect drywall to metal studs.

    The length of these screws varies, but most drywall screws have flat heads that are made to countersink just below the surface of the drywall. This makes it easier to conceal the screws with joint compound and a coat of paint.

  • 04 of 13

    Decking Screws

    Decking screws

    EasyBuy4u / Getty Images

    Best for: Attaching deck boards to deck joists.

    Designed to make building and repairing decks easier, decking screws are intended to secure deck boards to deck joists. They have a flat head that is ideal for countersinking just below the surface of the deck boards, making it easy to paint, stain, and walk on the deck without worrying about protruding screws.

    These screws are made of stainless steel or other, often coated, non-corrosive material in order to resist rusting and corrosion. The screws come in several sizes and with various drive types, so you can choose the right option for your decking project.

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  • 05 of 13

    MDF Screws

    Self-drilling screws

    Iryna Bidovska / Getty Images

    Best for: Self-drilling insertion in medium-density fiberboard (MDF).

    MDF screws, as the name implies, are made for use with medium-density fiberboard, which is more commonly known as MDF. The reason why these screws are better suited to MDF than standard wood screws is that MDF tends to be tougher to penetrate than solid wood. You can drill pilot holes in the MDF to use standard wood screws, but you don't need to drill pilot holes if you are using self-drilling MDF screws.

    The special thread and tip on these screws act like a drill bit to cut through the tough MDF wood. Use these screws for interior trim, furniture, and other construction projects that use MDF wood as the primary material.

  • 06 of 13

    Sheet Metal Screws

    Closeup of a sheet metal screw

    SuwanPhoto / Getty Images

    Best for: Securing various types of material to sheet metal.

    Use sheet metal screws to attach wood, plastic, or even other pieces of metal to a piece of sheet metal. The sharp tips on these screws are made to penetrate tough metal surfaces, while the fine threads provide superior grip. Sheet metal screws come in a range of sizes and have several different head styles, including flat, rounded, and hex heads.

    Sheet metal screws made from rust-resistant stainless steel can be used outdoors or indoors, while carbon-steel versions are for indoor use only.

  • 07 of 13

    Self-Tapping Screws

    Closeup of a self-tapping screw

    artas / Getty Images

    Best for: Creating internal threads while being installed.

    DIYers and professionals can use self-tapping screws to cut or tap internal threads when the screw is driven into the target material. However, self-tapping screws don't always reduce the risk of splitting some soft materials, therefore they may still require a pilot hole.

    Self-drilling screws are a type of self-tapping screw that features a drill bit tip so that they do not need a pilot hole for installation. These screws are used in a wide variety of applications and can overlap with other types of screws based on the thread design. For instance, you can find sheet metal self-tapping screws or invest in self-drilling MDF screws for DIY MDF construction projects.

  • 08 of 13

    Double-Ended Screws

    Double-ended screw

    Oleksa Paniv / Unsplash

    Best for: Joining together two pieces of wood with pre-drilled holes.

    Easily recognizable because they don't have a head, double-ended screws are designed to be inserted into two pre-drilled pilot holes to fasten pieces of wood together. They are very common in furniture making and are often included in pre-fabricated furniture packages for you to quickly put together your new desk, table, or bookshelf.

    The screws have lag threads on both ends which taper to a midpoint. Use a driving tool or locking pliers to insert the screws into the pre-drilled holes. Just keep in mind that these screws are not intended to be removed after they are installed. Removal can damage the pre-drilled holes, making it difficult to rebuild the furniture or object.

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  • 09 of 13

    Mirror Screws

    Mirror Screws

    Heron2 / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0

    Best for: Mounting mirrors without using additional brackets.

    Designed for securing mirrors to the wall, these screws feature tapered rubber grommets to prevent the metal screws from pressing directly into the mirror. This specialized type of screw has a slotted, countersunk head with a threaded hole so that the cover cap can be threaded into the hole, providing you with a sleek, finished fastener to support the mirror.

    These screws can be used anywhere around the home, including the bathroom. The stainless steel construction and zinc coating keep them safe from rust and corrosion, so the extra moisture and humidity in the bathroom or kitchen aren't concerns.

  • 10 of 13

    Security Screws

    Closeup of security screw

    Spinteractive / Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY-SA 4.0

    Best for: Providing a mild deterrent to screw removal and tampering.

    Security screws are essentially standard screws with a unique head that makes them more difficult to remove without the appropriate tools. These fasteners are a good option for public locations that are prone to vandalism, theft, and tampering, though they can also be used to help protect private property.

    However, it should be mentioned that with the right screwdriver or even the right driver bit, you can remove these screws, so the additional security is really only effective against those that are unwilling to source the right tools.

  • 11 of 13

    Hammer-Drive Screws

    Type U Hammer Drive Screws

    Fastener's Web

    Best for: Securing signs, nameplates, or similar objects.

    A hammer-drive screw needs to be driven in with a hammer, mallet, or a hammer-drive tool designed to strike the screw head, like a nail. These screws have thick, rounded heads and tough, durable shafts with multiple start threads and large helical angles intended to keep the screw in position once it is installed.

    Use hammer drive screws to attach items, like signs or nameplates, to walls with a quick strike of the hammer. Just keep in mind that the screws are made for permanent installation, so they are not the best option if you will need to change the sign or replace the nameplate bracket at some point.

  • 12 of 13

    Machine Screws

    Hex head machine screws

    Guadalupe Rojas / Getty Images

    Best for: Fastening various parts of a machine or device together.

    These screws are used in many different items to join various machinery or electronic parts together. You can find machine screws in electronic devices, appliances, manufacturing equipment, and more. They can have flat or rounded heads but typically do not have pointed tips.

    Machine screws range widely in size and drive type, from tiny machine screws used in laptops and other compact tech to large machine screws seen in the automotive and manufacturing industries.

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  • 13 of 13

    Pocket Hole Screws

    Pocket hole screws joining wood

    KaraGrubis / Getty Images

    Best for: Drawing two boards together or securing parts of wooden furniture together.

    Pocket screws are specifically designed for use in wooden furniture. They have special heads and shanks used to draw pieces of wood together. This is accomplished with the self-drilling tip, self-tapping threads, and broad washer heads that help to prevent you from overdriving the screws through softer wood.

    The screw heads are strong, durable, and typically have a square recess that improves the grip of the screwdriver in the drive recess. This combination of factors makes them uniquely suitable for pocket hole joinery.

Choosing Screws

Given the wide variety of screws to choose from, it can be overwhelming to try to find the right type of screw for your project. To help narrow down the options, first consider the material you are working with. For instance, masonry screws are designed for fastening into concrete and other masonry materials, while drywall screws are best used to secure drywall to wooden studs.

The right type of screw should also protect the materials it is joining, so the screw should have the appropriate head size, length, and threads to avoid splitting wood, piercing through drywall, or causing metal to slip. Screws are made to grip the target material, so a secure hold and durable construction are necessary. If the screw cannot penetrate the target material or doesn't grip the material properly, then it isn't a safe option, like trying to use a wood screw in concrete. Eliminate risks and safety concerns by selecting the right screw for the job.