What is Toenailing?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2019
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Toenailing is a common practice in carpentry projects that calls for driving a nail into a surface at an angle. This particular approach has several benefits, including the creation of a secure joining between two sections of wood that is less likely to splinter either section. A carpenter may use toenailing when replacing a section of wood flooring, or utilize this approach with completely new construction.

There are a number of applications in which toenailing is a suitable strategy for engaging in what is known in carpentry circles as joinery. The technique makes it possible to create a secure union between two pieces of wood, such as two planks. By driving a nail through one board and into the other at an angle, it is possible make sure both boards are secured in place. Since the nail goes in at an angle, the chances of the nail following the grain of the wood is enhanced, which only adds to the stability of the joining.


One of the more common applications of toenailing is in the creation of what is known as a butt joint. This essentially is a process that involves placing the ends of two pieces of wood together, then driving a nail in at an angle to create a sturdy connection between the two. This approach is often used when replacing a segment of wood that has deteriorated for some reason. For example, a carpenter who is replacing worn sections of planks in a wood floor will extract the deteriorated sections, fill in the empty space with new planking cut to size, then use a couple of toenails to secure the new section into place. When the right nails are used, the toenail is very difficult to see, especially once the new wood is painted or stained to match the rest of the surrounding floor.

Depending on the complexity of the project, carpenters may drive several nails into the two sections of wood as part of the toenailing. This is particularly true when the sections are larger, such as with floor joists. The idea is to position the nails along the surfaces so that the strength and durability of the two joined pieces is similar to the support that would be achieved if a single piece were in use. This makes toenailing ideal for making repairs to existing structures, but also has the benefit of reducing waste of raw materials when the toenailed sections are capable of providing an adequate amount of weight bearing within a given carpentry project.


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