So you’ve figured out your pocket hole settings, but now you’re wondering…what pocket hole screw should I use?
There are several types of pocket hole screws available. They differ in terms of length, thread type, and material, so it’s no wonder why you might find yourself confused on which one you need for your project!
In this post, we’ll walk through the different types of Kreg pocket hole screws and when to use each one.
At the end of this post, we’ll also include a free download for a pocket hole screw flow chart. Answer questions as you go through the flow chart and it will tell you what specific pocket hole screw is right for your particular project.
- Do I have to use pocket hole screws?
- Pocket Hole Screw Length
- Pocket Hole Screw Thread Type
- Pocket Hole Screw Material
- Pocket Hole Screw Pop Quiz
- What size pocket hole screw for ½” plywood?
- Pocket Hole Screw Size Flowchart
- Pocket Hole Screw Selection Summary
Do I have to use pocket hole screws?
Before we dive into the different types of pocket hole screws, you might be wondering if you can just use normal wood screws instead. Pocket hole screws were specifically designed for pocket hole joinery, so using them is going to give you a better joint.
Here are the key differences between pocket hole screws and regular ol wood screws:
- A square head: minimizes the likelihood of the drill bit slipping out of the screw drive and the screw stripping
- Flat bottom head: the screw fits firmly in the pocket hole and doesn’t drive through the hole
- Clamping shank: draws the wood together for a tight joint
- Self-tapping tip: no pre-drilling required, even in hardwoods!
Though there are multiple brands of pocket hole screws, in this post, we’re going to focus on the Kreg Tool brand as that’s the most popular and what we have experience with.
Pocket Hole Screw Length
This is the most important thing you need to get right when choosing what pocket hole screw to use.
When working with ¾” wood, you’ll use 1.25” screws. When working with 1.5” wood, you’ll use 2.5” screws. If you’re working with ½” wood, you can still use pocket holes! You’ll use the 1” screws for that.
Those are by far the 3 most common pocket hole screw lengths, but if you’re using something a little different, you can find the answer in the chart below:
|Wood Thickness||Pocket Hole Settings||Screw Length|
|⅞” – 1 ¼”||¾”||1 ½” (if using the Kreg 720, use 2” screws instead)|
|1 ⅜”||1 ½”||1 ½” (if using the Kreg 720, use 2” screws instead)|
|1 ½”||1 ½”||2 ½”|
Kreg Tool also has an XL line of screws that are thicker and come in lengths up to 4”, which can be used to attach 4x4s together. You need a Kreg XL pocket hole jig to use any XL screws.
What if you are joining two boards of different thicknesses?
When joining boards of two different thickness using pocket holes, you’ll always attach the thinner board to the thicker material, using the settings of the thinner board.
When it comes to screw size, you can always just use the screw size that corresponds with the thinner wood on the chart above.
If you want the strongest joint possible, you may be able to get away with using a longer screw depending on how the pocket holes and boards are positioned. To see if you can, mock up the joint and place a screw on the side of the board to show the placement.
Pocket Hole Screw Thread Type
Kreg pocket hole screws come in two different thread types: coarse and fine. The one you use will depend on what type of wood you’re using.
Softwoods will require coarse thread screws. Hardwoods use fine thread pocket hole screws.
Softwoods include pine, spruce, fir, cedar, common board, and poplar. Poplar is technically a hardwood, but because it’s such a soft hardwood, it gets lumped into the softwood category when it comes to which Kreg screw to use.
When using MDF or plywood of any kind (oak, maple, primed, pine, etc), you will also use the coarse thread screws.
You’ll use fine thread pocket hole screws on things like oak, maple, walnut, cherry, or ash.
So what happens if you’re working on a project that is using oak plywood and oak. What screw do you use then? It all depends on what the screw is going into.
For example, if you are securing an oak plywood base to a solid oak face frame, the screw is going to go through the plywood and into the solid oak. Since it’s going into the solid oak, you’ll use the fine thread screws.
What if I use the wrong thread type?
Whenever possible, you want to stick with the correct thread type. If you try to drive a coarse thread pocket hole screw into a hardwood, it might cause that hardwood to split.
If for example you are working on a project and need a 2.5” fine thread screw–Kreg Tool doesn’t make that. You have two options. First, you could use the ¾” settings to drill your hole and then use a 1.5” fine thread screw.
Or you can use the normal settings and screw length and very carefully use a coarse thread screw. This option will take much longer to do. What you’ll need to do is slowly start driving the screw into the wood and then back it out. Drive it in slightly more bad back it out. Repeat this until the screw is all the way in.
Pocket Hole Screw Material
Pocket hole screws come in three main materials: zinc, stainless steel, and Blue-Kote.
Zinc is the most economical option and can be used on any interior project.
Blue-Kote is great for outdoor projects. They are more rust-resistant than the zinc screws thanks to the 3 anti-corrosion layers. They can even be used in pressure-treated lumber.
The stainless steel screws are the most expensive and are designed for projects that will have excessive exposure to water. They are even more rust resistant than the Blue-Kote screws. Personally, we’ve never used these.
We stick with zinc for indoor projects and blue-kote for exterior projects.
Pocket Hole Screw Pop Quiz
I know, I know. Nobody likes a pop quiz, but there’s no better way to put your knowledge to the test. Let’s see what pocket holes you should use on the following projects:
What size pocket hole screw for ½” plywood?
You have ½” maple plywood being used for indoor cabinet drawers. What pocket hole screw should you use?
Answer: 1” zinc coarse-thread pocket hole screws
What size pocket hole screw for ¾” plywood?
You’re making a TV console using ¾” oak plywood. What pocket hole screw should you use?
Answer: 1 1/4” zinc coarse-thread pocket hole screws
What size pocket hole screw for 1×2 red oak boards?
You’re making a face frame for a kitchen cabinet using 1×2 oak. What pocket hole screw should you use?
Answer: 1 1/4” zinc fine-thread pocket hole screws
What size pocket hole screw for 2x4s?
You’re building an outdoor porch swing using 2x4s and 2x6s. What pocket hole screw should you use?
Answer: 2 1/2” Blue-Kote coarse-thread pocket hole screws
How’d you do on the quiz? A perfect score? You’re ready to start picking pocket hole screws for your next project!
Pocket Hole Screw Size Flowchart
We put together a handy-dandy flowchart to help you decide which pocket hole screw is right for your project. It focuses on the three most popular wood thicknesses: ½, ¾”, and 1 ½”.
It’s plucked right out of our Pocket Holes: Explained mini-course that teaches you all the ins and outs of working with pocket holes.
It’s our free gift to you today! Print it out and keep it in your workshop to reference during your next DIY project. Grab it here.
Pocket Hole Screw Selection Summary
When it comes to pocket hole joinery, you want to use pocket hole screws which were specifically designed with pocket holes in mind. The most important factor to consider is the length of your pocket hole screw. For ¾” wood, you’ll use 1.25” Kreg screws. For 1.5” wood, you’ll use 2.5” Kreg screws.
Your wood type also affects what screw to use. Hardwoods like oak require fine thread pocket hole screws while softwoods like pine and plywood require coarse thread screws.
If you’re working on outdoor projects, Blue-Kote is the screw material you’ll want to use. Zinc pocket hole screws are cheaper and are fine for interior projects.
Don’t forget to grab your free pocket hole screw flowchart.
If you’re interested in learning more about the ins and outs of pocket holes, check out our mini-course Pocket Holes: Explained.