With the trend in outdoor living still going strong and homeowners continuing to put money into well-designed outdoor spaces, deck building is booming. Particularly at the high-end, homeowners are willing to spend the money required to achieve the luxury aesthetic they want, and that not only includes springing for exotic woods or low-maintenance composites, but also increasingly involves eliminating screw heads from those surfaces.
Hidden deck fasteners allow for a smooth, fastener-free surface. They also eliminate the possibility of wood splintering or composite mushrooming around screw heads on the deck surface, as well as popped screws, improving barefoot safety. Moisture infiltration problems, such as cracking and rot caused by surface penetrations, are also reduced, manufacturers say. One drawback is that while it may be easy to learn how to use hidden fasteners, they are more time-consuming to install and are more expensive than standard screw-down installation.
At the heart of the growing interest in hidden deck fasteners is a desire for improved deck aesthetics, driven by the burgeoning composite deck market, according to Ted Gething, national sales manager for Ty-Lan Enterprises. “Contractors are starting to buy into this idea because their customers are starting to tell them they don't want to see the fasteners,” he says. In fact, several composite deck manufacturers have developed proprietary hidden fastening systems for their products.
Most hidden fasteners are a clip-, biscuit-, or bracket-type design that attaches to adjacent deck boards and screws into the joist below. Products include Blue Heron Enterprises' EB-TY, KK Mfg.'s Lumber Loc, The Ipe Clip Co.'s Ipe Clip, Screw Products' The Deck Clip, FastenMaster's IQ, DLH Nordisk's I-Clip, and MM Products' Invisifast. To accept clip- or biscuit-style hidden fasteners, deck boards need a groove or channel along their sides, either created on the jobsite or routed by the deck manufacturer or dealer.
Some hidden fasteners are connectors with prongs that are hammered or pressed into the sides of boards and then screwed into joists, such as the Tiger Claw system, the Stealth system from Deck One, the Invisagrip system from Southland Deck & Supply, and the Dec-Klip from BEN Mfg.
The Tebo fastener from Spotnails resembles a three-headed staple and installs with a special tool. And two track-type products—Grabber Construction Products' Deckmaster and Ty-Lan's Shadoe Track —run under the deck, attaching to the joists and undersides of the boards.
Because different decking materials have different installation requirements and performance characteristics, most fastener manufacturers offer a range of products that accommodate various materials and thicknesses, allow for expansion and contraction, and automatically set board spacing. But a few companies have designed their systems for more universal application, reducing the number of SKUs dealers must stock.
Dealers interested in selling hidden fastener systems must be able to help the contractor determine which fasteners are compatible with their choice of decking materials.
But the biggest thing the dealer has to do, Gething says, is “decide to commit to the market. [They need to] recognize that it's not a big market, but a viable one, and that it'll increase their deck sales.”