Magic Screws

6-in. screws with a tiny drill? No way!

About two years ago, this guy at the lumberyard hands me a 6-in.-long screw and a 12-volt cordless drill. “Try this,” he says, pointing at a block of Douglas fir. I think, “No pilot hole? No way.” But the screw spun right into the wood—without much groaning from the drill. Just like magic.

I haven’t used a lag screw since that day, for deck ledgers or anything else. Although structural screws are thinner than lag screws, they have just as much strength as lags because they’re made from better steel. My only complaint about them is the price—they cost about four times as much as lag screws.

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Structural screws are available at most home centers, although the brand I like best (GRK) is sold only at lumberyards and online. For retail sources and details, go to

–Gary Wentz, senior editor