Modern Decking Techniques for Creating Multi-Purpose Space

New deck fastening methods are increasing safety and ease of installation for more intricate outdoor living spaces
By Chip Manger

As the desire for outdoor living spaces continue to thrive among homeowners, creating a cohesive look and feel is as important as ever for a builder to appeal to the modern buyer.

Decking has become more intricate to achieve the seamless indoor-outdoor flow, and today’s decks are often equipped with indoor amenities for ultimate comfort including kitchens, theaters, electronics and built-in furniture. With an array of new product introductions such as beautiful composite and PVC decking in natural finishes, colors and textures, key advancements in deck fastening have greatly enhanced long-term use, safety and beauty without complex installation times and often without the use of typical face-nails or screws. As decks become more elaborate and multi-leveled, there is a renewed focus on safety and proper installation.

According to the North American Decking and Rail Association (NADRA), deck failures most often result from a combination of faulty work, poor maintenance and aging decks that were improperly built, as well as poor selections of fastening materials, such as using nails or the wrong type of screws. Here is a look at the commonly accepted fastening techniques and some next generation solutions:

Face fastening is a still the most commonly used method for ensuring the structural integrity of decks. This includes the installation of stainless steel screws that resist corrosion in nearly any climate or environment. ACQ compatible, these screws also offer effective and affordable fastening solutions for all aspects of a deck from the substructure to the deck boards, as well as materials ranging from treated lumber, hardwood and cedar to composite, capstock and PVC. Another benefit is the Limited Warranty offered by leading manufacturers.

Hidden fastening systems utilize clips that are fastened to the joist beneath the surface of deck boards enabling a fastener-free deck surface. These clips attach to most grooved deck boards to ensure quick and easy installations with automatic 1/4 gapping. Made with stainless steel, hidden clip systems offer maximum durability and security.

Edge fastening, a newer system to create a fastener-free surface, while reducing cracking and moisture absorption. Relatively new but extensively field tested with all popular wood species, composites and PVC decking, this system, developed by CAMO® from National Nail, is comprised of a proprietary guide (both hand-held and stand up versions), proprietary deck screws and driver bits, driven with a power drill into the side of each board and into the joist. This approach prevents racking and adds stability. Other benefits include guides designed to fit standard and narrow boards, and a variety of spacing choices such as a no-gap option for treated wood decks that can also be used with secondary spacers when wider gaps are desired.

Chris Warren, President of Warren Builders, LLC in State College, Pa., prefers edge fastening over other systems because in his experience, it is more forgiving, less expensive, and its use ensures a quick, easy installation in addition to providing a safe, fastener-free look for virtually all the decks his company builds.

“With the new wave of composites and PVCs, no one screws deck boards the old-fashioned way anymore,” said Warren. “Expectations for aesthetics are very high now—no one wants to see dated deck screws on the surface.” Warren no longer uses redwood, cedar or treated wood because of what he’s seen in his 30 years of experience. “We tell customers on a budget to go with a lower cost composite, anything but wood. It’s all about avoiding callbacks and lowering homeowner maintenance.”

Whether capped polymer, composite or wood, Kirk Aikey, owner of Aikey’s Home Improvements, LLC in Richmond, Va. also uses finds edge fastening works best for him compared to any other method because it simplifies the deck building process overall. From a safety perspective, CAMO Edge Fastening systems eliminate protruding and unsightly screws, which can loosen over time to create tripping or hazards for bare feet,” he said. It also reduces splinters on wood decks and extends their life by eliminating moisture absorption around the screw heads for improved longevity.

“These new fastening systems cut way down on the installation time for a composite or PVC deck,” said Aikey. “As soon as an installer gets his hands on the guides and screws, he immediately falls in love with it. It’s the easiest system on the market.”

For some deck builders, face-fastening and hidden clips work just fine, but it’s always good to investigate new methods such as edge fastening, especially when time and labor are factors.  Finding a supplier that meets all of a contractor’s fastening needs—traditional and next gen—can keep their deck business moving ahead and give them an edge over the competition.


Chip Manger is Vice President of Business Development at National Nail. He may be reached at


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