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Pro Tips For Easier Fastening

You can fasten almost anything with precision and confidence using these pro tips. Read on for a career's worth of expert tips.

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Trim head screws aren't just for trim| Construction Pro Tips
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Trim-Head Screws Aren’t Just for Trim

Trim-head screws are slender screws with very small heads. Originally they were designed to attach wood trim to walls built with steel studs. But now you can go to the fasteners department in any home center or full-service hardware store and find trim-head screws in several colors, long lengths, corrosion-resistant finishes or stainless steel, which make them perfect replacements for nails in many situations. When sunk slightly below the surface, the heads on these screws are small enough to be covered easily with wood filler or color putty.

Here we’re using trim-head screws to connect a fence rail to a post. But you can also use them in place of galvanized casing nails to install exterior doors and windows, or to attach exterior trim. Trim-head screws have several advantages over nails. They hold better and are easier to install in tight areas. Plus, if you’re not an experienced carpenter, they allow you to install trim without worrying about denting it with an errant hammer blow. Keep a supply of trim-head screws of various lengths on hand and you’ll be surprised how often you reach for them rather than nails.

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Tack First then drive screws | Construction Pro Tips
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Tack First, then Drive Screws

It can be frustrating and time consuming to try to hold parts in place while you drill pilot holes and drive screws. Here’s a trick that solves the problem and speeds up assembly too: tack the parts together first with a brad or finish nail gun. That enables you to align the parts with one hand while you tack with the other. Once everything is held in the right position, it’s simple to drill the pilot/countersink holes and drive the screws.

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Driving spikes with a hammer drill | Construction Pro Tips
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Drive Spikes With a Demo Hammer

Mauls and sledgehammers are the usual tools for driving huge nails. Here’s a tip: a demolition hammer is a lot easier on your arms. To make it work, you need a ground rod driver, which is designed to ram electrical ground rods deep into soil. With a smaller demo hammer like the one shown here, you’ll still have to drill holes before you drive. You can rent a demo hammer and some rental centers also have ground rod drivers, or you can buy one online. Be careful which one you buy; the driver and the demo hammer must use the same locking system. Next, check out our tips for choosing concrete fasteners and masonry screws.

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Cheap, quality pocket jig | Construction Pro Tips
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Wallet-Friendly, Pro-Grade Pocket Jig

Kreg’s Foreman DB210 is a pro-grade pocket-hole machine. It has all the features of previous Foreman models but sells for half the price. The beauty of this class of pocket jigs is that indexing, clamping and boring all happen just by pulling down the handle. It’s a very affordable version of the expensive dedicated pocket jigs found in cabinet shops.

The DB210 can bore three types of Kreg pocket holes: standard, micro and heavy duty, and it works on material 1/2 in. up to 1-1/2 in. thick. The vacuum attachment does a great job of collecting debris, which speeds up drilling and adds life to the bits. It’s built solid like a shop machine should be but weighs only about 20 pounds, so it’s a cinch to haul out to the job site. Woodworkers and cabinet makers are going to love this tool.

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The fastes stapler in the west | Construction Pro Tips
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Speedy Stapler

Hey, roofers, you all have a high-quality tacker-hammer-style stapler, but check this out. It’s a pneumatic staple gun from Spotnails that shoots the same Duo-Fast 50 series staples as your hammer tacker, and shoots them fast! It also holds more staples than your tacker (more than 2-1/2 full clips). But the best feature of this gun may be the absence of a staple retainer clip. (Who hasn’t rummaged around a bush looking for a dropped clip?) Since your compressor and hoses are out already, this gun might be worth a try. Buy a Spotnails staple gun on Amazon here.

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A pinner that creates very small nail holes | Construction Pro Tips
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Smaller Holes Are Better

A 23-gauge pinner works great at securing small components in place while the glue sets up, and it leaves behind an almost invisible hole. But with no real head, the pins don’t have a lot of holding power on their own. That’s why the 18-gauge brad nailer has been the workhorse in trim carpentry for the past few decades: The brads hold well and leave only a small (but noticeable) hole.

Senco decided to fill the gap between these two tools with the FinishPro 21LXP, a 21-gauge pinner. It shoots pins with a smaller head than an 18-gauge brad but large enough to keep things in their place. This is a nifty tool when you’re working with clear-grain wood where nail holes are more noticeable. You can buy one at a pro tool store or go to to find a retailer.

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Self-centering bit | Construction Pro Tips
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Center Starter Holes with a Self-Centering Bit

When you drill pilot holes for hardware mounting screws, it’s tough to keep the hole centered. That’s where self-centering pilot bits come in handy. Just choose the right size self-centering bit, press the nose into the hole in the hardware, and the cone-shape guide keeps the bit centered while you drill the hole. You can get a set of bits that work for screw sizes Nos. 6, 8 and 10.

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Adjust the clutch to avoid stripping out | Construction Pro Tips
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Adjust the Clutch to Avoid Stripped Screw Heads

Most cordless drills come equipped with a clutch. If your drill has a clutch, try it out the next time you use the drill to drive small brass or aluminum screws that are easily damaged. Start with the lightest clutch setting and increase it until the proper driving depth is reached. The clutch will prevent you from accidentally stripping the screw heads.

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Premier Pocket hole Jig | Construction Pro Tips
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Premier Pocket Hole Jig

Working with the new Kreg K5 pocket hole jig is a real treat. The spring clamp adjusts to any thickness of wood in seconds. The wings that support larger components also double as storage bins. The setting block makes adjusting the stop collar on the drill bit super easy.

At first you might think the dust collection port is a little hokey, but it really does save a lot of time since you don’t have to remove the bit and blow away wood shavings several times for every hole. It may even inspire you to take on projects that you wouldn’t have attempted with another pocket hole jig.

Check out all of these amazing deck screw options and accessories.

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Little Gun with Big Features
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Little Gun with Big Features

Bigger isn’t always better, especially when you’re talking framing nailers. Most framing nailers barely fit between two studs framed 16 in. on center. But now Bostitch has come out with the LPF33PT, a low-profile nailer that measures 12-1/2 in. from nose to top. That’s almost 2 in. smaller than many other models on the market. It’s also light, weighing in at 7.6 lbs., which is about 10 lbs. lighter than the dinosaurs many of us use.

This gun has all the bells and whistles, such as a tool-free adjustable-depth drive, a selectable trigger to switch from single-drive to bump mode, an adjustable rafter hook, and a nail retention magnet to reduce the chances that the last couple of nails will jam. The folks at Bostitch say that despite its diminutive size, this gun has plenty of power to drive 3-1/4-in. nails into engineered lumber all day long. You can get one at construction supply stores, lumberyards and online.

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Faster Toggle Bolt | Construction Pro Tips
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Faster Toggle Bolt

Old-fashioned “butterfly”-type toggle bolts are a pain to install. Toggler brand Snaptoggles is a vast improvement. Just drill a hole and slip in the metal toggle. Then slide the retainer along the plastic strips until it’s snug to the wall and snap off the strips. With the metal toggle mounted on the wall, it’s easy to attach whatever you want by simply screwing in the included bolt. And you can remove the bolt without losing the toggle in the wall. Look for Snaptoggles near drywall anchors in home centers and hardware stores.

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