Whatever decking species you choose, you’ll have another important choice to make: fastening method. The two basic methods from which you must choose are hidden fasteners or face screwing. Each has its pros and cons, so let’s take a look and help you figure out which method will be ideal for your next decking project.
Fast and secure, face screwing has some pretty obvious points in its favor. However, it also allows screw holes to be visible, a feature many dislike. Another benefit of face screwing is that it more securely holds boards to the joists, mitigating seasonal movement. While hidden fastener systems may leave boards free to create open, uneven gaps or even twist or warp, face screwed decking boards can still expand and contract without risking such movement-related issues.
Some builders prefer to use only one screw across the width of each decking board, offering it greater freedom of movement; at the same time, screws do allow for some flexibility, so using two screws will still allow for some movement. Using a second screw can offer added insurance against extreme movement; along with seasoned exterior-grade lumber, either method should lead to a stable, well-secured deck.
The unblemished face of a deck using hidden fasteners definitely appeals to the majority of our customers; however, this method requires more time for installation and may leave the decking freer to move, possibly leading to an uneven surface. When you’re dealing with especially hard tropical decking species such as Cumaru and Ipe, hidden fastening systems become especially attractive. Face screwing these species requires extra care and can result in burning out drill motors. Instead of drilling into these exceptionally hard decking boards, use of hidden fastening systems allow you to drill into softer wood used for your deck’s sub-structure. (Of course there are exceptions, such as decks comprised entirely of Ipe or clip systems installed with angled drilling through the bottom half of decking boards.) However you approach these systems, though, the result is one edge of each board free to expand and contract while still firmly held to the joists.
At the end of the day, neither method is overall superior to the other. Your deck may be subjected to certain environmental conditions that make one method clearly preferable, but aside from any special circumstances, the issue basically boils down to your personal preference. More significant than your choice of face screwing or hidden fastener system is your choice of premium tropical hardwood decking and spacing that allows for inevitable movement. As long as you select high-quality decking boards and “mind the gap” during installation, your result will be a gorgeous, long-lasting deck that brings you pride and delight.