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Plastic Composite Nails

High-strength plastic composite does not corrode, rust, or stain wood surfaces

Photo shows a cross-section of a composite nail through a block of wood.

In our technical age, many standard construction products have been improved, updated, and enhanced, and the nail is no exception. Manufacturers have developed plastic composite nails that can be substituted for traditional metal nails for non-structural uses. They are made from an ultra high-strength plastic composite that does not corrode, rust, or stain wood surfaces when exposed to the weather or harsh environments. The manufacturer claims the fasteners have greater withdrawal resistance than metal nails and are compatible with some existing pneumatic fastening tools. The polymer products are ideal for softwood, most plastic, and some aluminum and hardwood applications. They were designed for specialty markets including boat building, casket manufacturing, containers, construction, lumber mills, patio and garden, and woodworking.

The withdrawal resistance of the plastic composite nail is about double that of cement-coated metal nails of the same size and type. As the plastic nail is driven, heat developed by friction softens the shank and causes it to fuse to the wood fibers. Because its shear strength (resistance force perpendicular to the nail) is about half that of an equivalent metal nail, it is not used in structural walls and floors where shear strength is key to a fastener's performance. However, laboratory results have shown the plastic composite nail's tensile strength, or ability to resist stress in the direction of the nail, is twice that of a metal nail.

Plastic nails do not need to be removed when cutting or shaping wood because they will not damage the cutting tool. Their resistance to corrosion makes them useful for cedar, redwood, and other wood exterior finishes where stainless or copper nails are specified. The plastic composite nails are available in colors to match wood tones, and are paintable and stainable. These fasteners are available as finish nails, staples, and brads in various diameters and in lengths ranging from ¼ to 2¼ inches.


Affordability

For non-structural applications, composite nails cost about half that of stainless steel nails.

Quality and Durability

The nails do not corrode.

Safety and Disaster Mitigation

Because they do not rust, plastic composite nails can improve safety. They can be sanded or sawed without damaging woodworking tools.


Easy

The manufacturer clearly states that these nails are not meant for structural use. Shear strength is only about half that of an equivalent metal nail. The fasteners can only be used with certain pneumatic nailing tools, and require users to carefully follow tool operation directions.


Individually, the nails sell for about 1 cent each retail, while the staples sell for ¾ of a cent. These prices are roughly double that of standard steel nails, but about half the cost of stainless steel.


Not Applicable


The plastic composite nails do not meet any building code requirements and are used only for non-structural applications.


Not Applicable


The list of recommended tools for composite nails are provided in the manufacturer's catalog, and the manufacturer also provides detailed instructions from proper loading of the magazine to tool operation. Because composite fasteners cannot be driven with a hammer, compatible nailing guns must be used, and a special nail gun is required for hardwoods. A compressed air system capable of producing air pressure of 90-100 pounds per square inch (psi) is required for the nails. Although pneumatics work for the staples as well, compression tackers and hammertackers can also be used.

The tool must be held firmly and steadily on the fastening surface before pulling the trigger. It is important that the user not let the nailer bounce off the surface or move laterally during firing. Composite nails are less forgiving of operator error than their metal nail counterparts. They are also much sharper than metal nails -- do not run your finger along the tips of these nails!


Not Applicable


Plastic composite nails and staples do not rust, corrode, or cause staining or streaking, and are virtually unaffected by chlorine, acids, and solvents such as gasoline and oil. The most popular advantage of plastic composite nails is their ability to be sanded or sawed without damaging woodworking tools. The plastic nails can also be put into microwave drying ovens without fear of arcing. Because composite nails actually bond to the wood surface, connections are stronger than with metal nails. They are ideal for softwoods, most plastic, and some aluminum and hardwood applications.

Disclaimer: The information on the system, product or material presented herein is provided for informational purposes only. The technical descriptions, details, requirements, and limitations expressed do not constitute an endorsement, approval, or acceptance of the subject matter by the NAHB Research Center. There are no warranties, either expressed or implied, regarding the accuracy or completeness of this information. Full reproduction, without modification, is permissible.