Nailing Patterns and Why You Need Them

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Nailing PlywoodIf you’ve ever installed shingles, plywood, headers or drywall, you probably already know all about nailing patterns. And if you’ve ever had to deal with a home inspector checking your nailing schedule, then you probably know all about how big of a pain in the a$$ it can be to make them happy. While nailing patterns are used for just about everything nailed or screwed down, they aren’t there just so your building inspector can harass you for fun (well maybe a little).

What the Heck is a Nailing Pattern?

For those who are uninitiated in the world of fasteners, a nailing pattern or fastener schedule is the national, state or regional building code allowances for fastening specific materials. There are hundreds of different nailing patterns for tons of building materials ranging from drywall to trusses and everything in between. Basically, if you can screw, nail or staple it, then there’s a building code that tells you how to do it.

Why Do I Need a Nailing Pattern Anyway?

Most of us already know how to nail a 2×4 to make a wall, so nailing patterns like these are already common knowledge. So why do we need the government to tell us how to nail crap together? Because in many areas of the country wind uplift, snow loads and other forms of Mother Nature can cause these materials to fail if they are not fastened properly. And if everybody fastened everything the same, it might be overkill in one area while in another; it wouldn’t be enough. I know this all too well living on the coast of Florida where hurricanes and high winds are a constant threat. Some nailing patterns here can be ridiculous.

Nailing roofing sheathing

How Do I find out the Nailing Schedules in My Area?

Most of the time, you’ll need to contact a local building inspector directly to get a definite answer — if it’s not already written out for you on the blueprints or manufacturers specifications. I like to give them a call about any new nailing schedules that I’m uncertain about. This way, I don’t get chewed out by the building inspector when they show up to inspect that particular phase of construction.

There are a ton of books, online forums and websites that have nailing patterns for all sorts of materials. While a lot of these have remained the same since their inception, many have changed. It’s best to make the call to your local building department, especially if you’re in a high wind, heavy snow or earthquake prone region of the country.

Common Nailing Patterns and Schedules

Nailing a door jackThe Uniform Building Code (UBC) and the International Building Code (IBC) often differ greatly from regional building codes like Miami-Dade and California Building Codes. However, there are a few similarities when fastening some building materials together and these specs are listed below.

  • Top and bottom plates to studs- End nail two 12-16d per stud
  • Ceiling joists to top plate– Toenail three 8-12d: two on one side
  • Joists to sills or girders– Toenail three 10-12d: two on one side
  • Bridging between joists- Toenail each end with two 8d
  • Sole plate to joist or blocking at braced wall panels– 12-16d every 16″ on center
  • Ceiling joist laps– Face nail three 12-16d
  • Ceiling joists to parallel rafters- Face nail three 12-16d
  • Rafter to plate- Toenail three 8-12d
  • Doubled up studs- Face nail 16d staggered every 24″
  • Double top plates- Lap each splice a minimum of 16” and face nail 12-16d staggered every 16”
  • Joist and rafter blocking- Toenail three 8d: face nail two on one side
  • Rim joist to top plate- Toenail 8d every 6″ on center
  • Continuous header– Two pieces nailed with 12-16d every 16″ on the top and bottom of the header staggered. Each end and splice also needs three 12-16d
  • Continuous header to stud- Toenail four 8-12d: two on each side
  • Built-up corner studs- 12-16d every 24″ on center
  • Built-up girder and beams– 12-16d every 12” on center, staggered at the top and bottom. Each end and splice also needs three 12-16d
  • Roof and wall sheathing- 8-10d every 4-6” on the seams and 8-12” in the field
  • Shingles- Six roofing nails or staples per shingle. Tab shingles need two nails on each side of the tab
  • Drywall- Ceiling boards require 1 ¼”drywall screws every 6-8” while wall boards require drywall screws every 6-8” on the seams and 10-12” in the field.

Remember, these are just approximations and shouldn’t be used as a definite guide. Many areas have different codes, so be sure to call your local building department if you’re unsure of your area’s nailing schedules. Happy nailing!

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About Eric

Since Eric built his first skateboard ramp in his parents driveway; he’s breathed, slept and eaten DIY construction. As a second generation master carpenter who runs two Florida-based construction firms, Eric’s had the chance to work on everything from Mcmansions to your local mall to the cat lady’s bathroom. So when it comes to dealing with construction s@#t; he’s the man—literally. There isn’t a tool or construction material that Eric hasn’t used and abused, and if there is; it’s rocking in a dark corner nervously waiting for him to show up for work.

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8 thoughts on “Nailing Patterns and Why You Need Them”

  1. I live in Nashville. House being built across the street all studs interior can twist. As if they used 1 nail in each end. Is that normal?

    • Why would you want to over nail anything? First there’s the cost. Over nailing is wasting nails. Wasting nails cost money – why do it. Second, what ever board/stud you over nail is probably going to crack over time because it loaded with wedges (nails) – as the board dries or absorbs moisture(shrinkage and swelling). If it’s stud bearing wall you just compromise the structure above (i.e. roof) by spiting and cracking the supporting studs. Just do it right and follow the nailing schedule – smart people with letters have spent hours putting these nailing schedule together. What you have to do? well if I was the inspector, I’d tell the framer, “it failed inspection” and that it’s probably a good idea to rip it out and do it over to get a passing inspections – most framers would automatically know and fix it.

  2. Eric!! Floor sheathing!! the one i was looking for at this particular time… i’ve been doing screws 6″ on seams and 12″ in the field on joists.
    and please explain this one…
    Shingles- Six roofing nails or staples per shingle. Tab shingles need two nails on each side of the tab
    Tab shingles, 2 nails on EACH side? is this hurricane nailing? i’ve never nailed a tab shingle more than 4 nails across – each end and above each tab cutout. but i’ve never lived in Florida either.

    • Yeah Florida has some pretty strict building codes Bill–It gets pretty windy here from time to time. A lot of people don’t realize that Florida got hit with hurricane Katrina too. But six nails per shingle is the recommended nailing pattern for GAF 3-tab shingles. Here’s the link

      Floor sheathing update: Here is the link for AdvanTech’s floor sheathing nailing pattern.
      6″ on the seams and 12″ in the field is a pretty common nailing pattern. (It’s almost exclusively what I use)
      When in doubt, check the print or call your local building department (they love to tell you what to do)


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