Wood Screws vs. Drywall Screws – Not the Same

No, No They Aren’t

 In Shop Blog, Woodworking Blogs

wood screws vs drywall screws

I was recently at a home center in desperate search of wood screws in large quantities (our local woodworking stores close far too early…or I work too late). All the home center had available in wood screws was two boxes of 50. That is not a large quantity when one is screwing kitchen cabinets together, adding drawer slides, etc. So I grabbed a hardware-area customer service person and asked if he had wood screws available in bulk, or any more boxes of 50 in stock.

No, he said, followed by: “Here’s a box of drywall screws; they’re exactly the same.”

Now I know how much people like to be lectured about their mistakes…so I tried to restrain myself. I tried, but out slipped, “No, no they aren’t.” He gave me a “look,” shrugged and said, “whatever,” then walked away.

It reminded me of two things:

This Nick Offerman clip and this article on wood screws vs. drywall screws that Glen D. Huey wrote some years back for Woodworking Magazine. So today, I posted the article free for you…and for the guy at the home center. Whatever.

— Megan Fitzpatrick


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Showing 13 comments
  • woodbridge

    This evening I happened to watched an early episode (season 2?) of the New Yankee Workshop. Norm is building a rocking horse and using a whole bunch of drywall screws to assemble the rocking horse. I remembered reading this blog a few days earlier had a little chuckle. I wondered home many of us started learning about woodworking from the New Yankee Workshop. I know I did. I guess the guy at the home centre figured if its good enough for Norm it good enough ….

  • scrgeek

    Megan, I was wondering… is there a list of U.S. manufacturers that heat treat their screws as was mentioned in the article, or are limited to Spax and McFeely’s?

    • Megan Fitzpatrick
      Megan Fitzpatrick

      Not that I know of off the top of my head, but I’ll nose around.

  • Shaun Harper

    Ok I will play the role of the contrarian. Yes dry wall screws in hard maple is a bad idea. So is any screw in hard maple without a pilot hole.
    But for securing drawer slides and kitchen cabinets? I’m going to say dry wall screws will be plenty good enough.
    But I do agree, Megan knows more than the “it’s in aisle 24” person.

  • bobbollin

    Not really touting any retailer in particular, but there’s some useful info for NLightNMe at McFeely’s website…


    Click on “Guide to wood screws”. I’ve also bought and had good success with their products.

    Just sayin’.

    The big box employees generally don’t know a heck of a lot, as is obvious from Megan’s article. I tried to get a 2’X4′ sheet of plywood from my BORG one day and found that the display “slots” had collapsed (lousy construction) to the point where it was impossible to extract anything. I grabbed an employee and took him to the area and pointed and explained that he won’t sell things that the customer cannot get out of the shelves and I got the same response…a shrug. Three weeks later my wife was buying potting soil and I looked at the area again out of curiosity and nothing had changed.

  • David Randall
    David Randall

    Thanks for the link to the article Megan. I’m running out of the utility screws I brought with me from England and the drywall ones I’ve bought here are too flimsy. Kreg pocket hole screws work well for some applications in addition to pocket holes, but countersunk-headed screws are different.

  • scrathke

    I like Spax screws, they are very nice wood screws and are sold in larger boxes. The nice thing with spax is they are toothed like a saw on the tip. They start better even in some hardwoods. Look for the green boxes.

    • gumpbelly

      I’m with you on the Spax. I’m evidently the only caveman who hasn’t bought from McFeelys. I had gotten Spax for some time online from another source, before I found that locally Menards carries quite a selection of them. I think Menards has them at lower prices than McFeelys too. I like that the tips are PH2, or square drive, so no matter what driver is at hand, you are good to go. I can say that these screws are of high quality, and in using them for close to 10 years I’ve not had one fail. That said I’ve also not had any cheap drywall screws fail either, with the exception of cam out. On cheap screws I blame cheap driver tips as much, or more than the cheap screws for the cam out. Using Wera, or wiha brand tips I’ve had no more cam out with drywall screws, or with good screws. I believe both are German manufacture. I know one thing for sure, if you use the cheap Chinese tips you can EASILY buy anywhere, and especially if you pair them with cheap screws you will have frustration. Life is too short, use good stuff.

  • 7-Thumbs

    Unfortunately, I think the answer you got from the store employee is all too common. Not only that, walking away and saying “whatever”, made me feel like I wanted to slap him silly. With that in mind, I also think you should have named the big box store in question. Unless they are held up in a public forum they are not going to correct this type of negligent behavior which could also be very dangerous advice depending on what it is for. I know your lawyers would have a bird, let them, I also don’t think anything could be done since you were just restating an experience that happened to you. I hope you at least reported the interchange with the store manager.

  • NLightNMe

    I’d give anything for a comprehensive, real-world usable guide to screwing things together. Seems like it should be a straight forward thing, but I never seem to get good results.

    • robert

      Is the Kama Sutra what you are looking for?

  • robert

    To quote Mycroft Holmes from the BBC “Sherlock” series season 3 “If you seem slow to me, Sherlock, can you imagine what real people are like? I’m living in a world of goldfish.”

  • paint_acrylic

    I hate going to Low Depot.

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