Different Types of Screws and When to Use Each

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There are hundreds of different types of screws. Each screw does a certain job and is appropriate for different materials. When you’re doing a project, it’s difficult to be able know what type of screw you need. You wouldn’t want your project falling apart because the screws you used weren’t right for your materials. In this article there will be a detailed guide of the different types of screws and when to use each. Although there are a lot more screws than we will go over, the screws listed are the most common and will generally satisfy your needs.

Types of Screws

types of screws

Image Source: Mike Senese

The type of screw you decide to use will depend a lot on the material you’re using. Let’s go over the most common types of screws and when you’ll need to use it. Again, there are a lot more screws available than what will be described here, but this guide will really help beginners.

Wood Screws

The name of this screw will really help you. This screw is used for wood! You can’t just use any old screw for wood projects. These kinds of screws are especially designed to drill into wood without splitting it. A different kind of screw might break apart your entire project. So yes, it does matter what kind of screw you use.

Hex Bolts

Hex bolts are typically used for heavier duty projects. This is for projects that really need to stay together. A lot of times, these kinds of bolts are included when you’re putting together a piece of furniture. Bookcases, cribs, or dressers will often have them to hold together the big pieces of wood. The holes in a piece of furniture you’re putting together are most often already drilled for you. This means you can use a hex bolt without fear of splitting any wood because the hole is already there.

Machine Screw

A machine screw is very similar to a hex bolt. The main difference is the head. Hex bolts need to be tightened with a ratchet, while machine screws need to be tightened with a screwdriver. Either of these types of screws will get the job done, it just depends on your preference.

Sheet Metal Screw

Sheet metal screws are used to fasten down things made out of metal. These screws are threaded entirely. A lot of other screws are only threaded partially. The threads on a sheet metal screw will give it more grip on metal projects.

Thread Cutting Screws

Thread cutting screws create new threads in an existing hole. You can use these types of screws in metal, plastic, or wood. Most of the time these screws are used as fasteners on projects that need maintenance from time to time.

Head Style

types of screws

Image Source: Mike Senese

The head style is something that can be overlooked if you’re a beginner at using screws. The head style refers to the shape of the head of the screw, not the drive type. We’ll go over what the drive type is later in the article. Let’s go over the main head styles for common screws.


Flat headed screws work best for projects where the screw needs to be more out of sight. This is usually for projects where the screw needs to be flush against the surface of the material. Think about the inside of a drawer, you wouldn’t want a big screw poking out at you. Instead, you’d want to barely notice it. Bookcases typically have flat heads on the outside because you don’t want someone to get snagged on a screw that is jutting out.

Oval and Pan 

Oval and pan shaped heads are for places where you don’t care if the screw is seen. It can work just as well as a flat head screw, the only different is the top. This is usually just for decorative differences.


A truss head is much wider than other heads. Truss head screws are good for materials that require a larger hole to be secure. The wider head on a truss screw will make it easy for you to screw it in to a variety of surfaces. The shape of a truss head can also make removing the head difficult so be sure a truss head is the type of screw you want.


Round screws are frequently used for smaller projects. Drilling a toilet paper holder or towel rack to the wall often requires a round screw. You’ll also find small round screws holding outlet covers up.

Drive Types

types of screws

Image Source: Mike Senese

The drive type refers to the tool you can use to fasten the screw. Different drive types require different tools for tightening. Be sure that you have the right tools to be able to fasten the screw into place before you choose the type of screw you want.

Phillips Head

This drive type is shaped like a plus sign or an “x”. You will need a phillips head screwdriver to fasten these types of screws. These types of screws prevent slipping with the screwdriver because it has a better grip with the screwdriver.

Flathead (Slotted)

A flathead screwdriver will be needed for this kind of screw. Screwing in this kind of screw is still fairly easy, but you’ll find that your screwdriver will slip and slide a lot more than with a phillips head.


Combination screws can be fastened by either a phillips or a flat head screwdriver. This is a great screw to have because you don’t need one specific tool to get the job done. There are two different tools that can do the trick.

Hex (Allen)

If you’ve ever gotten a piece of furniture from Ikea you’ve probably seen a hex screw. Most of the time they’re called allen screws because you need an allen wrench to fasten them. Most projects will have an allen wrench included in the hardware package.

Summing Up

It can be very difficult to choose the right screw when you’re completing a project. Especially if you’re a beginner to the DIY world. There are hundreds of different kinds of screws in the world but the types of screws listed here are the most common and will typically get any job done. Hopefully this guide helped you understand when to use each type of screw and which materials they can be used for. If you’re still having trouble finding the right screw, home improvement stores have an entire section of screws to choose from. Employees can give you a better idea of what you might need. It also might help to go to a home improvement store just to look at the different kinds of screws to familiarize yourself with them. It might be overwhelming at first, but before you know it you’ll be an expert.

Related Article: Finding the Best Cordless Screwdriver: Top 10 Reviewed and our Pick

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