When I started construction years ago, one of the first projects that I undertook was a deck. That was the first of many over the years and in the beginning we always fastened the deck boards to the framing members with nails.
The procedure was much like is shown above. A nail was used as the spacer between boards and then a spiral nail would be driven in about 3/4- 1″ from each edge. The spiral nails helped to lessen the chance that the boards would pull up, and they were always galvanized nails. Yet depending on the wood and where the deck was located, some of the nails would pop up or the deck boards would pop up pulling the nails with them.
It was and is a more common occurrence with plain or smooth nails but it would sometimes happen with the spiral nails too and in fact is to be expected as wood changes with the seasons and conditions that it is in.
As time went on we decided to switch to screws for their better ability to hold down things. Since there really wasn’t a structural issue to contend with screws would probably be a better choice. Fastening deck boards was evolving a new attachement method.
The use of screws virtually eliminated all of the issues that happened with the nails as the threads of the screw provided the needed continual grip to not pop. Yet there was only one issue with the screws and that was they needed to be installed almost perfectly flush to the top of the deck boards.
Now we, of course, didn’t manual screw each one in but used drills and later cordless drill and that was part of the problem. If you pushed it too hard, you would sink the screwand you’d have a little divot of sorts and rough wood all around the screw hole. The potential for splinters wasn’t a great prospect and on the opposite end if you under drove the screw it would be too high and catch people feet or shoes and once again not a great option.
At one point we even switched to using drill bits that had a depth gauge and counter sink with height adjustment feature such as below.
This method gave us a clean edge and the depth could be controlled. One person would go around with this piece and another would follow putting in the screws. Both people still had to be carefully as the driller could over sink the hole by applying too much pressure when drilling and the person installing the screw could sink it too deep or not deep enough. It was a better looking outcome but it took a lot of time and effort to accomplish. There had to be a better way but at the time there really wasn’t. Later a smaller finish head screw came out and we used those. They really did a nice job as the hole was smaller and less visible yet still had the hold down power of a screw. These didn’t have to be drilled or counter sunk and were relatively easy to install. You still had to be careful not to sink them too deep or leave them too high but what an improvement it was.
It wasn’t until later that someone figured out how make a hidden deck board fastener.
Now there a various models that you can use and they all are fastened so that the deck boards have no holes, screws or nails showing which gives the deck a smooth clean look. These new fasteners are relatively easy to install but if you use solid wood decking there is an additional step of routing a groove in the edge. On composite decking the groove is usually already done at the factory. The below video gives you the basic idea of how this procedure works from solid wood boards or composite ones.