Wood Screws vs. Deck Screws

Two of the most common screw types you’ll find in your local hardware store are wood screws and deck screws. If you’re working on a project that requires screws and you’re not sure which type to reach for, fear not – I’ll break down both of these screw types in detail.

Both of these fasteners share many of the same characteristics, and you might actually think they’re interchangeable without examining them closely. But pick them up and take a closer look and you’ll start to notice some significant differences.

Deck screws are designed to withstand tough outdoor conditions and are typically made from corrosion-resistant materials like stainless steel or polymer-coated steel. Wood screws are built for creating strong joints between pieces of wood and are typically made from steel.

I’ll break down the differences in wood screws vs deck screws, explain when you should use them, and provide some alternatives.

What are the Differences Between Wood Screws and Deck Screws?

When it comes to wood screws vs deck screws the primary difference is their intended application.

Deck screws are designed for outdoor applications where they’ll be exposed to humid summers as well as wet winter conditions.  Wood screws are specially designed for woodworking applications and are constructed to form strong and secure connections between wood boards.

Wood Screws

wood screw diagram

Wood screws come in a wide variety of different designs and are useful for building jigs, joining cabinetry and furniture, creating pocket hole joints, mounting hardware, and much more.

Traditional wood screws commonly feature semi-threaded shanks and Phillips drive tapered heads, although star and square drive heads are becoming increasingly popular.

Deck Screws

deck screw diagram

Deck screws are more specialized than wood screws being designed for outdoor usage where they’ll be constantly exposed to harsh elements. Many are designed to be used in pressure-treated wood, which can cause rapid corrosion in ordinary stainless steel screws.

Deck screws have some of the highest levels of corrosion and rust resistance of any fasteners and can be used in environments where other screws would quickly deteriorate. Think constructing decks, building rails, installing wood fencing, and securing posts.

The basic design features partial threads and flat tapered or bugle heads with either a square or a star drive.

Wood Screws vs Deck Screws Design Differences

Screw Heads

Deck screws typically feature flat tapered or bugle-shaped heads designed for the screw to drive all the flush into your material. If you think about building a deck, the last thing you want is small protruding screw heads to stub your toes on as you walk on it!

Contrast that with a standard wood screw, which can have a variety of different head types depending on their intended use. This includes bugle heads, trim heads, traditional round heads, washer heads, and more.

Drive Type

As far as drive types are concerned, deck screws tend to feature either a square (Roberts) drive or a star (TORX) drive. Both of these are designed to create a strong bond between the screw and the driver bit, allowing for a high level of torque and greatly reducing the odds of driver slippage and cam out.

While both of these drive types will perform well for deck and other outdoor construction, for my money star drive screws are the better option. They might be a little more expensive than other options, but they’re a joy to work with as they almost never slip or fail.

Traditional wood screws feature a Phillips drive, which is prone to cam out, especially towards the end of driving the screw into wood. Unfortunately, this type of wood screw is still one the most popular types in the US, despite the fact that there are superior alternatives.

Roberts head wood screws are popular with pocket hole screws and make a good option for most woodworking applications. Star or TORX drive screws are another excellent options for woodworking screws, although they tend to be more expensive than other screw types.

square roberts head pocket hole screw
Square (Roberts) head Kreg pocket hole screw.


The shank refers to the non-threaded portion of a screw between the head and the threads.

Both deck screws and wood screws normally feature a section of unthreaded shank beneath the head. There are some fully-threaded wood screws without shanks, which are typically made for applications where a very tight hold is necessary.

Unthreaded shanks serve a number of different purposes.

Firstly, they allow the threads to draw the screw’s head into the wood, forming a stronger bond than fully-threaded screws can. Secondly, the non-threaded shank section reduces the heat build-up created by the friction of the screw threads driving into wood and other materials.


Deck screws feature large aggressive threads designed for fast driving while reducing wood splitting.

Wood screws threads tend to be smaller, although there are some with more aggressive threads.

There is also a difference in wood screw threads for softwoods and hardwoods. Screws designed for use in softwoods (pine, cedar, plywood, and MDF) feature coarse threads, while those designed for hardwoods (oak, maple, ash, etc.) feature fine threads.

coarse and fine thread pocket hole wood screws
Coarse thread top screw and fine thread bottom screw.


As deck screws need to be highly corrosion and rust-resistant, they utilize durable materials like polymer or epoxy-coated steel and 305 or 316 grade corrosion-resistant stainless steel.

Standard wood screws are made from alloy or stainless steel and may feature some type of coating or plating depending on their intended use case. Wood screws designed for indoor use are often made from zinc-plated alloy steel.

Which Type of Screw Should You Use?

So, what type of screw should you use for your project?

If you’re working on an outdoor project that’s going to be exposed to harsh elements, then deck screws are an excellent choice. This is especially true if you’re going to be fastening screws into pressure-treated wood.

Deck screws feature some of the toughest coatings of all fasteners, so they can be used in applications where typical wood screws could quickly corrode. They’re far from the cheapest screws though, so if you don’t need that level of weather protection you’re better off reaching for a less expensive option.

Another thing to keep in mind about deck screws is that they’re not designed to resist shear, which is the strength of a material to resist forces that cause the material to slide against itself. Lag bolts and lag screws are a better option if this is what you’re looking for.

Some of my favorite deck screws are the GRK framing/decking screws. They work well for all sorts out of outdoor projects including pressure-treated lumber and come with the matching TORX driver bit.

Wood screws are the ideal choice for light-duty indoor work and woodworking projects. There are also wood screws rated for outdoor work, although they don’t have the same level of weather resistance as deck screws.

Standard work screws are also inexpensive, so you can use them without worrying about price.

Denis Gardner

I've loved tinkering and fixing things for as long as I can remember. So, naturally, I gravitated towards DIY and home improvement when I bought my first home. Nowadays you can find me writing about my passions or messing around with my newest tool!

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