Join wood with this simple technique

Published: May 25, 2017 · Updated: June 18, 2020

How to toenail

Screws, lags, and other threaded fasteners carry much of the load when it comes to joining wood to wood. But what of the humble nail? Nailing is fast, inexpensive, and often required by code. Plus, it requires no electricity—just a hammer and some elbow grease.

Toenailing is the standard technique any time you’re not just facenailing through one piece of lumber into another. The nail is angled diagonally through the side of a member into the one being fastened to—typically in framing and decking.

In joining a stud to a plate, the proper angle for a toenail is around 55 degrees. To get good holding power, keep the tip of the nail in the plate so that it doesn’t go past the plane of the stud you’re nailing. When hand-nailing, start your nail perpendicular to the member you’re nailing through with a tap, and then pull it to the correct angle before pounding away.

Driving a nail at an angle will cause the wood to shift. To avoid misalignment, you can back up a stud with your foot—but put it in a steel-toe boot, unless you want to redefine the meaning of toenailing. This technique is tricky when you’re nailing to a top plate or blocking between joists. In awkward spots, use a quick clamp in place of a foot. When toenailing a series of pieces—studs, joists, or trusses—to a top plate, make a support block out of scrap that you can fit between the members at the proper spacing.