Screw Buying Guide | Screw Types Explained | Toolstation

Screws Buying Guide

Screws Buying Guide

Whether you’re a professional or a keen DIYer, chances are you’ll need a selection of screws for that next big job. But with so many types of screw available, each one designed for a different material and surface, making the right choice for your project can be a nightmare!

When you’re considering which type of screw you need, there are a few main things to consider. Firstly, you need to choose the right type of screw. Choosing the wrong screw type for the job can damage your surfaces, your tools, and the screw itself.

Secondly, make sure to choose the right size screw. A screw that’s too short won’t hold the materials together, while a screw that’s too long could go right the way through the material or damage wiring or pipework in walls or floors. Similarly, a thick screw may damage brittle surfaces, while a thin screw might not be strong enough for the job.

Finally, consider the screw features. This includes the drive type, the head type, the material, thread, and even the colour of the screw.

The Parts of a Screw

A screw is made up of four parts. The tip is the part of the screw that penetrates the material when driven in – and is either pointed or flat depending on the screw’s primary use and whether there is a pre-drilled hole. Self-tapping screws have a split point that cuts into the surface like a drill bit.

The screw thread wraps around the shank. These parts of the screw drive into the material and secure it. There are different types of shanks and threads, including twinthread screws which have two threads running along the shank and can be driven and removed faster, and hold materials more securely.

The head of the screw differs across screws and determines the drive type, meaning the type of screwdriver you’ll need to turn it. Each drive type has its own pros and cons, such as higher or lower torque – also known as the force required to rotate the screw.

Types of Screws

Wood Screw
Stainless Steel Screw
Decking Screw
Speciality Screw
Stainless Steel Screw
Masonry Screws
Self Drilling Roofing Screw
Machine Screw
Flooring Screw
Wood Screw
Brass Screw
Electrical Screw

Screw Drive Types

The drive type of a screw refers to the tool you need to install it. Every screw is designed with a different shaped recess in the head which aligns to a different tool – for example, a Phillips drive type needs a Phillips screwdriver.

Slotted Drive Type
Phillips Drive Type
Pozidriv Drive Type
Torx Screw
Hex Drive Type
PoziSquare Drive Type

Screw Head Types

The head type of a screw generally refers to how it looks against the surface when it’s installed. Sometimes there are technical reasons for a certain head type – such as bugle heads being better for soft materials like drywall – and other times it is more decorative, like a countersunk head to camouflage the fixing.

Countersunk Head Type
Bugle Head Type
Pan Head Type
Button Head Type

Key Screw Features

Thread Type

A screw can either be fully or partially threaded. A fully threaded screw has threads running from the tip to the head – meaning every part of the screw is secured in the material.

A partially threaded screw, as the name suggests, only has threading on part of the screw. This type of screw has its benefits – such as when the materials will be put under more stress and could get damaged, such as wood splitting.


The screw you’re using needs to be the right size for the surface and the project, or you could damage the surface, the driver, or the fixing itself.

Screws that are too long could pass all the way through the material, whilst screws that are too short are unlikely to be strong enough to hold the materials together.


The diameter of the screws is also important, as thicker screws may split more delicate materials such as wood – where narrower screws should be used instead.

However, thinner screws could be bent out of shape if used in heavy-duty projects.

On twinthread screws, you may see diameter referred to as gauge.


One of the main disadvantages of screws is that they’re visible on the surface of the material. For this reason, you may want to find a colour screw that matches the surface to blend in.

At Toolstation, you’ll find a range of colour screws including black, tan, green, yellow, silver, blue, red, and white.

Finish and Material

The finish and material of a screw determines both the colour, and the properties it has. For example, the best type of screw for outdoor use is stainless steel because it is resistant to rust and corrosion.

There are other screws resistant to rust and corrosion, such as zinc and chrome-plated screws, black phosphate, and brass screws. However brass screws, for example, are softer so less suited to a lot of outdoor heavy-duty projects.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What screws do you use for brick?

    Masonry screws, also known as concrete screws, are best for brick. They are fully threaded meaning they can achieve a more secure fixing, and are strong enough to get through brick – softer screws such as brass would not be hardy enough.

  • What are self-tapping screws?

    Self-tapping screws are designed for soft materials, and create a thread in the material on the way in. They’re not to be confused with self-drilling screws, which create their own pilot hole, as self-tapping screws work best when driven into a pre-drilled hole.

  • How do you measure screws?

    To measure the diameter of a screw, measure the distance between the outer sides of the threads.

    To measure the length of the screw, start from just underneath the head to the tip of the screw. If you want to measure the thread length, simply measure the start and end point of the threads – this will be different to the screw length if the screw isn’t fully threaded.

  • What does M4 mean regarding screws?

    M4 is a type of machine screw.

  • What size screws should you use for sleepers?

    You should use large stainless steel screws to cope with the weight of sleepers.

  • What are self-tapping screws used for?

    Self-tapping screws are used for soft materials such as plastic and softwood, and they’re designed to create their own thread on the way in for a secure fit.

  • What size screws are needed for floorboards?

    Narrow screws around 50mm in length will suit floorboards, to make sure they don’t interfere with any cables that may run under the floorboards.

  • How do you hide screws in wood?

    The best way to hide screws in wood is by driving them in where they’re not likely to be seen – but this isn’t always an option. You can also choose a screw that is the colour of the wood, or use a wooden plug or button to cover the screw head.

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