A close-up photo showcasing a 16d nail lying beside a ruler, perfectly illustrating its length, sharpness, and texture, emphasizing its role in construction and carpentry.

How Long Is A 16D Nail? A Detailed Look

For any construction or home improvement project, having the right nails can make a big difference in getting the job done right. One of the most common nail sizes used is the 16d nail, but if you’re not familiar with nail sizing, you may be wondering – just how long is a 16d nail exactly?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: A 16d nail is 3 1/2 inches long.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about 16d nails. We’ll look at what the “16d” nail size means, the different lengths and diameters available, and the different uses for this versatile fastener.

We’ll also provide a comparison to other common nail sizes and tips for selecting the right 16d nails for your next project.

What Does “16d” Mean for Nails?

The “16d” nail size designation can seem cryptic if you’re not familiar with it. But it’s actually a handy shorthand that gives you key information about nail dimensions. Let’s break down what the “16d” label means.

The “d” Stands for Penny

The “d” in nail sizes like 16d refers to “penny.” This term dates back to 15th century England, when nail manufacturing began on a large scale. Nails were sold by the hundred, with their price per hundred referred to in pence (denoted by “d”).

So a 16d nail got its name because historically it cost 16 pence per hundred nails.

The Number Refers to Nail Length

While the “d” stands for penny, the number preceding it refers to nail length. For each increasing penny number, the nail length increases by 1/4 inch. So:

  • A 16d common nail is 4 inches long (16 quarters of an inch).
  • A 12d nail is 3 inches long (12 quarters).
  • An 8d nail is 2 inches long (8 quarters).

This penny system provides an easy way to identify the length of different nails just by their “d” designations.

Origins of the Penny System

The penny system for nails dates back about 600 years. Before mass production, nails were painstakingly hand-forged by blacksmiths. It’s believed the system evolved as an easy way for blacksmiths to size and price their nails consistently.

While machines now churn out billions of nails per year, the basic penny system endures as a quick reference for nail length and diameter. So next time you see a reference like “16d”, you’ll know exactly what size nail it indicates.

Standard Length and Diameter of a 16d Nail

Length of a 16d Nail

A 16d nail, sometimes written as 16d, is 3.5 inches long. This length has become the standard in the construction industry when referring to a 16 penny or 16d nail. The “d” stands for penny, referring to old English pennies used long ago to price nails.

Over time, the price per hundred nails became associated with the nail length.

So when you see 16d, you can expect a sturdy 3.5 inch nail commonly used for framing walls, attaching floor joists, building roof rafters, and other heavy duty framing jobs. The 16 penny designation tells builders and contractors precisely what size nail they are getting without having to constantly measure.

Diameter of a 16d Nail

In addition to the standard 3.5 inch length, a 16d nail has a diameter of 0.162 inches. This thickness allows it to hold well in dense lumber like 2x4s and 2x6s used for framing.

The thicker shaft combined with the sharpened tip gives the 16d excellent holding power while minimizing splitting in wood. Nail diameter tends to increase along with length – a 16d is thicker than a 15d nail and thinner than a 20d nail.

Different Types of 16d Nails

Common Nails

Common nails are the most widely used nails for general woodworking and construction projects. They have a smooth, round shank and a flat head. Common 16d nails are 3-1/2″ to 4″ long and 0.162″ in diameter, with the ‘d’ referring to pennies and indicating the nail’s length (16d = 16 penny = 4″ long).

Common nails are versatile and work for a variety of applications from framing walls and roofing to building furniture. Their design allows them to be easily driven into wood with a hammer, while the broad, flat head gives good holding power and grab.

When building with common nails, make sure to match the nail size and length appropriately to the thickness of the wood being fastened.

Box Nails

Box nails, sometimes called sinking nails, look similar to common nails but have a smaller, thinner head intended to sink into the wood when driven in. The head of a 16d box nail is approximately 50% smaller than a common nail head.

This allows the nail to be countersunk, giving a flusher final appearance and reducing the risk of the nail head splitting the wood fibers.

Box nails provide a more discreet appearance while still giving holding strength. They work well for lighter jobs like attaching trim or molding. The thinner head also makes box nails easier to drive into hardwoods compared to common nails. Just take care not to overdrive them and dimple the wood.

Overall, box nails are a good choice when you want the holding power of nails with a more subtle, finished look.


Sinkers are another type of nail with a countersunk head designed to sit flush with or slightly below the wood surface. However, sinkers have an angled shank rather than the straight shank of common or box nails.

The angled shape causes the nail to “toe in” slightly and bite into the wood for extra gripping power.

The combination of a flush head and angled shank makes 16d sinker nails ideal for strength in flooring jobs, such as installing hardwood or laminate floors where holding power is critical but nail heads need to disappear into the flooring planks.

The angled design also reduces the risk of squeaky floors. For rooms with heavy foot traffic, sinkers provide superior resistance to floors working loose over time.

Duplex/Scaffold Nails

Duplex nails, sometimes called scaffold nails, have a unique design featuring two heads, one lower head that sits flush with the wood and an upper head protruding from the surface. The lower head allows the nail to countersink while the upper head serves as an anchor point or “scaffold” for easy bending of the nail shank.

This bendable design means duplex nails can be used to fasten wood both permanently and temporarily. For permanent nailing, the protruding head is driven flush into the wood, providing extra holding strength.

For temporary applications, such as scaffolding, the upper head remains exposed so it can be extracted later for disassembly.

Uses for 16d Nails

Framing and Structural Applications

The 16d common nail is most commonly used for framing and structural applications, where strong and long nails are needed. Framing carpenters rely on 16d nails when building house frames, roof rafters, floor joists, wall studs, and other critical structural components.

These nails are excellent for toe-nailing studs to the bottom plate and ensuring a strong connection between structural members. Their length allows them to penetrate deep into lumber to provide a sturdy framing system.

According to industry standards, 16d nails should be used when nailing 2x lumber that is 2 inches thick or greater. For example, they are ideal for nailing 2×4 studs to 2×6 bottom plates and 2×8, 2×10, or 2×12 headers.

The long shank and higher shear strength allows them to withstand tremendous loads without pulling loose or bending.

Deck Building

Constructing a quality deck requires using the proper fasteners, and 16d galvanized nails are commonly used for deck ledgers, joists, beams, and substructure. Ledger boards need lag bolts and structural screws, but 16d nails are excellent for toenailing joists to beams and joining deck boards to joist hangers.

Their enhanced holding power is essential for structural integrity to handle live loads and prevent future issues like squeaky floors.

For best results, use 16d nails in pairs at critical connections, like attaching joists to ledger boards. Staggering the nails vertically distributes the load. It’s also smart to use specialized decking screws, either coated or stainless steel, for optimal corrosion resistance when fastening deck boards.


When building wood fences, 16d nails provide unsurpassed holding strength for posts, rails, and pickets. Their length allows nailing deeply into 4×4 or 6×6 posts while also providing enough clearance for the hammer head.

This makes them one of the most popular nail sizes for assembling fence frameworks. They are commonly used for attaching 2×4 rails and pickets to posts.

For best performance, choose galvanized or stainless steel 16d nails. Their corrosion resistance will keep the nails from loosening or deteriorating as they are exposed to outdoor weathering. This may require pre-drilling denser woods to prevent splitting.

Proper nailing technique and spacing also helps maximize the fence’s strength and lifespan.


While not all sheathing applications require 16d nails, they are well-suited for fastening plywood and OSB to floor and wall framing. Where larger studs and joists are used, or if the sheathing requires extra holding power, a 16d common or sinker nail provides that strength.

The long, thin shank reduces the risk of splitting compared to shorter, thicker nails.

However, for standard wall sheathing over 2×4 studs, a smaller 8d nail is usually sufficient and recommended by building codes. Roof sheathing is typically installed with 8d common nails also. The thinner shank allows driving the nail flush with siding materials.

Ultimately, a 16d nail gives sheathing exceptional resistance to uplift and shear forces for critical needs.

16d Nail Size Comparison Chart

16d vs 16d Sinker

The 16d common nail has a shank diameter of 0.162 inches and is 3.5 inches long. The 16d sinker nail has the same shank diameter but is shorter at 3 inches long. Both are designed for framing applications, but the sinker nail gets its name because the shortened length allows it to “sink” deeper into the wood without poking through.

16d vs 8d

An 8d common nail has a smaller 0.131 inch shank diameter compared to the 0.162 inch of a 16d nail. The 8d is also much shorter at 2.5 inches long. The lighter gauge and length of the 8d nail make it suitable for lighter duty nailing, such as nailing siding or trim boards, while the beefier 16d nail is used for structural framing.

16d vs 10d

The 10d common nail is 0.148 inches in diameter, slightly smaller than a 16d nail. It’s most noticeable difference is its shorter 3 inch length compared to the 3.5 inch 16d. The 10d nail provides a compromise between the 16d framing nail and the lighter 8d nail, with enough holding strength for many light framing jobs where the 16d would be overkill.

16d vs 20d

Nail Type Diameter Length
16d Common 0.162″ 3.5″
20d Common 0.192″ 4″

As this comparison shows, the main difference is the 20d nail has a thicker 0.192 inch shank compared to the 16d’s 0.162 inch shank, along with a greater 4 inch length. The extra thickness and length gives the 20d significantly greater holding strength for heavy duty structural framing applications.

16d vs 60d

A 60d common nail is much thicker and longer than a 16d framing nail. The 60d diameter measures 0.230 inches, quite a bit heftier than the 16d’s 0.162 inch thickness. The 60d nail is also 5 inches long, a full 1.5 inches longer than a 16d’s 3.5 inch length.

With its beefy diameter and extra length, the 60d nail is used for special heavy duty structural framing jobs.

Choosing the Right 16d Nails

Match Nail Type to Use

When selecting 16d nails for a project, it’s important to consider the type of nail that will work best for your specific application. Here are some tips for choosing the right type of 16d nail:

  • For general framing and securing timber to wood, a smooth shank 16d common nail is a good choice. The smooth shank allows the nail to be driven easily without splitting the wood.
  • For strength and holding power, consider 16d box nails or sinkers. The smaller shank and special head design provides extra holding strength compared to common nails.
  • For framing and building outdoor projects, choose a 16d galvanized nail. The zinc coating provides corrosion resistance when exposed to moisture.
  • For maximum strength fastening into end grain or hardwoods, use a 16d ring shank nail. The spiral shank pattern grips the wood for superior resistance to pull out.
  • Consult building codes and project plans to determine the correct fastener specifications. Using the proper 16d nail type for the job will ensure your finished work is strong and secure.

    Consider Coating/Finishes

    Nail coatings and finishes should also factor into your 16d nail selection. The coating or finish helps provide properties like corrosion resistance, improved drive-ability, and enhanced grip. Here are some common 16d nail coating options:

  • Hot-dipped galvanized – The most affordable and commonly used coating that provides corrosion protection. The zinc coating allows use in pressure treated lumber.
  • Stainless steel – For maximum corrosion resistance near the ocean or other wet environments. More expensive but lasts much longer than galvanized.
  • Bright – No coating, providing a shiny bare steel finish. Only for use in dry, interior applications.
  • In highly corrosive environments, choose a stainless steel 16d nail. For deck building projects, hot-dipped galvanized is ideal. And an uncoated bright finish works for framing walls indoors. Selecting the right finish ensures the 16d nails have adequate protection.

    Look at Nail Quality

    With something as important as structural fasteners, nail quality matters. Here are signs of a quality 16d nail:

  • Reputable manufacturer – Opt for well-known national brands like Grip-Rite, Hitachi, or Stanley.
  • Proper nail specifications – Dimensions like shank diameter and head size should meet the official 16d nail standard.
  • No surface imperfections – The nail shank and head should be relatively smooth without burrs or pits.
  • Straightness – A quality 16d nail maintains straightness without bending or warping.
  • Checking certifications like ANSI standards can also help confirm nail quality. Using top grade, professional contractor-quality 16d nails ensures your important projects have reliable fastening strength.


    When it comes to picking out the right fasteners, nails may seem like simple components, but knowing specifics like 16d nail length can ensure your projects turn out right. Now that you know that a 16d nail is 3 1/2 inches long and some of the main uses and types available, you’ll be able to select the best 16d nails for your upcoming construction and home improvement jobs.

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