The best French nails are strong and flexible, making them a great choice for hanging pictures or adding decorative trim to your home.

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What to Consider When Choosing the Best French Nails

French nails arent as durable as U.S.-style round-head or square-head nails, but they can be quite decorative. The following sections contain some of the most important characteristics to consider when shopping for these nails.

Length and Width

The length and width of a nail determine its holding power, which is crucial for any type of fix. In the case of French nails, this is especially true because of their unique heads.

  • Length: While it might seem that longer nails would provide more support, in fact, the opposite is often true. As it turns out, long nails have less holding power than shorter ones, so they tend to bend more easily.
  • Width: A round-head French nail is wider than an American nail, which makes them stronger and more capable of supporting extreme loads. Square-head French nails are narrower and slightly slimmer, making them better suited for smaller jobs.

Head Design

The heads of French nails come in two main styles: round or square.

  • Round: These nails all have round heads, and they’re available in both lengths and widths. Round French nails are easier to drive into wood than square nails, and they also have a larger surface area, which helps prevent splitting.
  • Square: Square French nails have either a right-angle or flat head, which makes them difficult to drive completely through a piece of framing. They also have less surface area than round nails, which means they can split more easily.

Tip Design

French nails come with one of two designs at the tip: blunted or pointed.

  • Blunted tips are slightly curved toward the body of the nail, which gives them a bit of a scooping action, helping to lift dirt from the surface of the wood while driving the nail in. This design has been around since the days of hand-driven nails, and it works quite well.
  • Pointed tips, on the other hand, are very sharp, which was originally designed to help cut through rope. These nails are very aggressive, and theyll embed deeply into wood.

Color

While French nails are primarily available in black, some manufacturers also offer red, blue, and yellow options. Keep in mind that while color may add a bit of extra strength, it wont make much difference in terms of support.

Finish

Manufacturers produce three different types of finish for French nails: chrome plating, black oxide, and paint.

  • Chrome plating is a reflective coating that usually covers the entire nail, except for the tip. This finish looks great and helps protect the nail from exposure to moisture and ultra-violet rays.
  • Black oxide is a powder coating that produces a dark color that is harder than chrome plating. It isnt affected by UV radiation and can withstand direct exposure to moisture.
  • Paint finishes are typically intended to match the color of the siding or trim on a house, although theyll also match the color of the decking if the decking is painted.

Additional Features

Some French nails come predrilled, which means the manufacturer has already drilled the hole for you. Others require drilling, which is usually pretty straightforward.

Many French nails feature one or more of the following additional features:

  • A groove: Some nails come with a small groove down the middle, which can make a big difference in a wall panel thats stacked against another wall. Its not only helpful for keeping the nails in place, but it also prevents the head of the nail from digging into the wood when the user applies pressure to drive the nail home.
  • Holes: Some French nails come pre-drilled with holes, which is a handy feature for adding support where needed. However, if the nail comes without holes, the user will need to drill them before using the nail.
  • Larger heads: While the heads of standard round-head and square-head nails range from inch to inch in diameter, French nails can come with heads up to inch across.
  • Flat sides: Rather than having a rounded head like a normal nail, some French nails have a flat side that sits against the workpiece and a rounded tip that gets driven into the material. This style offers a very strong grip, but they can be hard to drive completely through the target depth of penetration.
  • Rounded edges: Along with larger heads and flat sides, some French nails also come with edges that are either beveled or flat.