Deck boards are the finishing touch to most decks. It’s the surface everyone sees and admires. Nails and screws through the surface can mar or detract, especially on cedar, mahogany, composite, PVC, and most other surfaces. Hidden deck fasteners provide an alternative to traditional fastening methods.
The best hidden deck fasteners secure deck boards with a clip that slides into a groove in the side of the board. The clip has wings or edges that notch into the board and is then screwed into the joist. The fasteners not only hold the plank but ensure uniform spacing between boards.
Hidden fasteners can save time and require less screwing and measuring, which also saves money if you’re paying for labor. The deck surface is free of screw or nail heads, unmatched screw lines, slivers, and uneven gaps. In this guide, we explain what hidden deck fasteners are, how they work, pros and cons, review 10 hidden fastener systems, and much more.
At a Glance: My Choices for Best Hidden Deck Fasteners
- Top Pick: CAMO Pro Guide Marksman Pro
- Simpson Strong-Tie EB-TY Hidden Deck Fastener System
- Tiger Claw Hidden Fasteners
- TimberTech CONCEALoc Fastener
- Cortex Hidden Fastening System
Other Good Choices:
- Trex Hideaway Fastener Clips
- Mantis Deck Clips
- DeckWise Ipe Hidden Deck Fasteners Kit
- Kreg Deck Kit
- Deckmaster Hidden Deck Bracket Kit
- Best Hidden Deck Fasteners Reviews
- 1. Camo Hidden Fasteners
- 2. EB-TY Premium Hidden Deck-Fastening System
- 3. Tiger Claw Hidden Fastener
- 4. TimberTech ConceaLoc Hidden Fastener
- 5. Cortex Hidden Fastening System
- 6. Trex Hideaway Hidden Fastening System
- 7. Mantis Deck Clip System
- 8. DeckWise Ipe Clip Hidden Deck Fasteners
- 9. Kreg KJDECKSYS Deck Jig
- 10. Deckmaster Hidden Deck Bracket Kit
- Hidden Fasteners on Deck Stairs
- What Are Hidden Deck Fasteners?
- How Do Hidden Deck Fasteners Work?
- Pros and Cons of Hidden Deck Fasteners
- Types of Hidden Deck Fasteners
- What to Consider When Buying Hidden Deck Fasteners
Best Hidden Deck Fasteners Reviews
There are a plethora of hidden deck fasteners on the market today making it difficult to know which is best for the decking you’re installing. Some are better for wood planks, others for grooved composite, PVC, plastic, or fiberglass decking.
Here are our reviews of the best hidden fastener systems from 10 top manufacturers. We also review some jigs and tools and provide pros and cons to help you pick the system best for you.
1. Camo Hidden Fasteners
CAMO has developed several affordable deck fastening systems complete with contractor-grade tools to make installation quicker and easier. The hidden fasteners work on most composite, PVC, pressure treated, hardwood, and cedar decking.
Their jigs, guides, and tools are well thought out and useful, often work with other brand clips, and have found other uses beyond installing deck boards.
CAMO Pro GuideThe Pro Guide Marksman Pro speeds up screw placement, ensures the correct drive angle, and prevents over driving. The double edge screwing guide works on 5-1/4” to 5-3/4” grooved or ungrooved composite, PVC, and soft or hardwood planks.
The Guide is a jig for fastening decking perfectly every time, making it ideal for DIYer or pros. The jig holds and angles two CAMO Edge Deck Screws while keeping the board positioned for a 3/16” gap between decking. The Guide is great for all types of decking and fencing too.
Place the Guide on the board and clamp down with the trigger handle to hold in place, load in the screws, push for spacing, and drill. The screws go through the sides of the plank using a standard drill with supplied T-15 bit without splitting or slipping. The angle of the screw pulls and holds the board in place.
CAMO Edge Deck Screws 2-3/8″ ProTech
CAMO EDGE™ deck screws edge-fasten decking to joists, firmly securing the boards, and prevent ‘walking’ or lateral movement. They work with or without CAMO Guides to fasten 5/4” or 2” thick composite, PVC, pressure-treated, cedar, or hardwood decking.
The T-15 drive head provides a greater grip and torque without slipping, and the chisel tip reduces splitting or cracking.
The initial threads pull the screw in quickly and the upper reverse or positive threads draw the board tight to the joist. The ‘V’ shouldered head sinks in slightly to finish the grip on the decking. The screws are ProTech coated and 1500-hour salt spray tested.
CAMO Pro Series Guides for Edge FasteningThe Pro Series Guide is ideal for tight places and first board installs where the Marksman Pro won’t fit. It attaches to any drill to edge drive CAMO EDGE deck screws into hard and softwood.
The tool aligns the screw at the perfect angle, has a grip for holding the tool and plank in place, and drives the screw to the perfect depth each time. The Guide can also be used with manufacturers’ hidden clips.
CAMO Edge Clip Hidden Deck Fasteners
CAMO EDGE™ Clips are a perfect solution for setting whole deck spacing before fastening or just two planks at a time. Position the first plank, insert the clips, slide the second board into place, and drive the screw in, locking both pieces firmly in place – a unique feature as most other brand clips grip only one edge, not both.
The clips have springy arms or wings that pinch the joist, hold the screw upright between boards, and have an ‘n’ shaped metal clip that inserts into the groove on composite or PVC decking. The clip sets a uniform 3/16” spacing between planks and the metal ‘n’ bites into grip boards on both sides and prevents lateral movement of the board.
The 2-1/4” T-15 coated screws drive easy and grip to hold. The clips come with a NEVER-MISS™ guide for easy driving and can be driven with the stand-up CAMO DRIVE™.
Camo Edge Pro Collated SystemThe CAMO EDGE™ collated system is a fast and easy way to secure decking and is easy on the knees. It includes 1000 grey ProTech stainless steel 2-3/8” screws, enough to do 500sqft at 16” centers.
The T-15 bit grips for greater torque and the chisel tip decreases splitting. The plastic collated screws work exclusively in the stand-up CAMO DRIVE™ to edge fasten 5/4” thick composite, PVC, and wood decking, or face fastening 5/4” and 2” boards.
CAMO DRIVE ToolThe innovative CAMO DRIVE™ tool is heavy-duty and contractor-grade for use with manufactured and wood decking. Winner of the 2019 Pro Tool Innovation Award, it works with any 3/8” and 1/2″ chucks and comes with three interchangeable guide attachments and color-matched bits.
The orange Edge Guide is for edge fastening and the black attachment for straight down and face fastening; both attachments work with the collated screws. The third attachment is the yellow-banded NEVER-MISS™ Guide for use with CAMO clips or other manufacturer’s clips.
Easy to use, just position the tool, push down to engage the bit – it clunks – and then trigger the drill until it disengages.
The tool can also be used for roofing, sub-flooring, and other applications.
Camo 1750-Pro Pack – Screws and Marksman Pro Fastening ToolThe CAMO 1750 Pro Pack is a complete decking package. It includes 1750 2-3/8” CAMO EDGE™ ProTech coated deck screws, two T-15 drive bits, plus the CAMO Marksman Pro Fastener Guide.
There are enough screws to edge-fasten 500sqft of composite, PVC, and wood decking.
The Pro Guide sets a uniform 3/8” gap between boards and angles the screws into the edge so they’re all but invisible.
- Easy to use
- Works on most decking
- No pre drilling
- Unmarred deck surface with uniform spacing
- CAMO DRIVE™ Easy on the body and knees and works with most brands of clips
- Tools, screws, and clips are high-quality
- Screw head slightly visible at the side of the board
- Tools only use manufacturer’s screws
- CAMO DRIVE™ needs to be longer for taller users
2. EB-TY Premium Hidden Deck-Fastening System
The Simpson Strong-Tie EB-TY hidden deck-fastener system is a complete starter system for securing the perimeter and laying the first rows. It works with grooved or ungrooved hard and softwood decking. The package includes clips, screws, EB-Guide drill guide, 6-point driving bit, drill bit, and Ipe plugs.The plugs are for top-screwing the edge against the building. The Type 300 series clips have a stainless steel plate that reinforces the biscuit shaped black plastic and holds the board in place.
The plate also prevents overdriving the screw. The black coated trim-head screws blend and disappear against the clip after being driven through the edge of the board.
The system is easy to use, just slide the plank into place, use the EB-Guide to pre-drill the angled hole through the plank edge, insert the biscuit clip, place, and drive in the screw. The angle snugs the board in and the clip maintains the gap at 3/16” or 1/4″ depending on the product selected.
Use the plugs to hide screws that fasten the decking nearest the building, or other hard to reach spots. Pre-drill, countersink, drive in the screw, and then glue and tap the plug into the hole.
- Easy to use
- Screwing through the edge prevents the board sliding or ‘walking’
- The clip protects the joist from moisture damage
- Leaves a smooth unmarred deck surface
- Uniform spacing
- Time-consuming multi-stepped process
- Changing from drill to driver, or need two drills or more hands
- No countersink tool provided
3. Tiger Claw Hidden Fastener
FastenMaster offers the Tiger Claw line, a full hidden fastener system compatible with most types of decking products. They’re the TC-G clips for grooved composite, PVC, and wood decking, TC-120 for grooved hardwood, TC-2S and 3S for ungrooved planks, and the TC-G butt seam clip.
To make installation faster, use the Tiger Claw pneumatic gun with Tiger Claw’s collated scrails. Just to prove they’ve thought of everything, there’s the Tiger Claw Slot Cutter for ungrooved boards. Tiger Claw hidden fasteners are also warrantied for use on more than a dozen different brands of decking, all listed on the bag or pail.
Tiger Claw TC-G Hidden Deck Fasteners, 900 Piece Bulk PailThe TC-G stainless steel fasteners are specially designed to secure 5/4” decking to joists. The clips secure the decking without marring the surface or risk of splitting the edge. Made of 304 stainless-steel to prevent corrosion and given a black oxide coating for better invisibility.
They won’t corrode from airborne sea salt or chemical preservatives in joists or decking and are warrantied for 25 years. The fasteners have opposing wings for fastening boards side-by-side.
The initial wingtip has two upward angled prongs that grip into the plank to prevent lateral ‘walking’. The other wing tip is smooth for easier insertion into the next piece. The clips fasten to the joist with a screw, nail, or scrail driven on an angle.
Installation is easy, push the board into place, insert the clip, and drive in a screw, scrail, or nail. As the fastener sets into the joist, it tips the clip’s wing upward, forcing the two prongs into the wood. The clips automatically set a 3/16” gap between boards for a uniformed finish.
For easier installation, use the Tiger Claw gun and collated scrails. Although ideal for 5/4 thick grooved decking, the clips also work with ungrooved 5/4 and 2” lumber – just use the TC-150 slot cutting bit where needed. The 900 count pail has enough fasteners to complete 500sqft at 16” centers.
Tiger Claw TC-G Hidden Deck Fasteners for Grooved Boards, 90-PackThe TC-G 90-pack is a great starter or finishing pack. Use it to check out the product without a big cash layout, or to finish off a deck without a lot of leftovers. The package includes 90 clips and 90 screws which is enough to do 50sqft at 16” centers.
The clips and screws are black oxide coated stainless steel the same as those in the 900 bulk pail, and installation is the same too.
Tiger Claw TC-3S Hidden Deck FastenersThe TC-3S fasteners are specifically designed for non-grooved 5/4” and 2” thick hardwoods (like mahogany & Ipe), composite, and PVC decking. The 90-pack includes 92 black oxide coated stainless steel screws and 90 heavy gauge clips which will complete 50sqft at 16” centers. The clips have two pointed rectangular prongs per side that bite into the board and a hole for the screw in the bottom of the curved flange.
Place the plank to be installed into position, hammer the wider-set two prongs into the wood where it crosses the joist using the mounting block, and then drive the screw in at a 45° angle screw to hold it in place. Use a mallet to set the next board into the two narrower-set teeth, and repeat the process.
The clips maintain a uniform 3/16” gap between the decking and prevent any lateral ‘walking’. Use a straightener to straighten and hold warped boards before using the clips to fasten them into place.
Tiger Claw TC-2S Hidden Deck Fastener for SoftwoodsThe TC-2S fasteners are designed for non-grooved softwoods, such as cedar, redwood, and pressure-treated SPF. The clips have a sharp-pointed prong that bites into and grips the wood. The box includes 92 1-5/8” stainless steel black oxide coated screws and 90 heavy gauge clips, enough to complete 50sqft of decking at 16” centers with a uniform 3/16” gap.
Use the 90-pack to check out the product or to finish off a deck. There is also a mounting block that makes handling and installing the clips easier.
The installation is a three-step process. Set the decking in place, use the mounting block, and hammer the clip into the edge of the board. Use an adjustable torque driver to drive the screw into the center of the joist at a 45° angle.
Once the plank is fastened at each joist, align the next piece, and use an 8-pound sledge with a 2×4 block to drive the decking onto the prongs protruding from the previously installed board. The gap is near flush, allowing for some shrinkage.
For the best alignment, use a straightener to hold warped boards before driving in the clips and screwing them into place.
Tiger Claw Pneumatic Installation GunThe Tiger Claw pneumatic gun speeds up TC-G clip installation 100+ percent! It has a proprietary nose piece to hold clips for a perfect 35° angle installation, and with practice, installers can average 400sqft an hour.
The light-weight gun comes with a contractor’s case, adjustment wrenches, oil, manual, and operation DVD. Plus, the gun has a full lifetime warranty. It not only works with TC-G clips but other brands, such as CONCEALoc, HideAway, KleerKlip, and ConnectClip.
Operation is easy. Load the chamber with collated scrails (screw-nails), slide the TC-G clip onto the nose, ensure the board is in place, rest the gun on the center of the joist, push the clip into the groove at the joist, hold the gun secure on the joist, and pull the trigger.
Don’t forget to connect the air-hose! Slide the gun to the right to disengage from the fastened clip, load another clip, and move on to the next joist. Reload the scrails before they get empty as the last few in the chamber may fall out of alignment and cause a misfire.
Tiger Claw Pneumatic ScrailsThe TC-SG collated scrails make fast work of fastening decking to joists. Designed to work in the Tiger Claw pneumatic installation gun with TC-G clips, they are also compatible with numerous other clips. The #6 carbon steel 1-1/2” scrails are black oxide coated to resist ACQ and other corrosion.
Scrails are fired like a nail but can be backed out like a screw using a #1 or #2 Phillips bit. A 930 piece box of metal collated scrails will do approximately 500sqft of decking at 16” centers. The scrails are also available in stainless steel for applications near saltwater.
Tiger Claw TC-G R-5206-RB3W Slot CutterWhat every deck builder needs. The TC-G R-5206-RB3W Slot Cutter provides a slot where needed for TC-G clip installation by hand or Tiger Claw pneumatic gun. Use it to cut slots into 5/4” or 2” thick non-grooved pressure treated planks, hard or softwood decking, and composite boards.
Ideal for non-grooved edge-face boards so they’ll lock in with the hidden fasteners in grooved decking. The sealed bearing, 1/4” shaft, 3-wing carbide tip cutter fits most routers, has a cut depth of 3/8” at a height of 5/32”. A full-sized router is more stable and easier to control than a palm router, but both work.
- Clips and screws are stainless steel
- Approved for saltwater locations
- Corrosion-resistant to chemically or ACQ treated wood
- No splitting or splintering
- No marring of deck surface or edge
- Gun is proprietary to Tiger Claw scrails and doesn’t work well with some brands of collated fasteners or clips
4. TimberTech ConceaLoc Hidden Fastener
CONCEALoc hidden fastener system by TimberTech is engineered to secure grooved composite decking without damaging the top or sides of the planks. Clips and screws are manufactured from 304 stainless-steel for the best corrosion protection from moisture or chemical preservatives in the wood. The system works in a variety of different brands of decking and installation tools.
TimberTech CONCEALoc FastenerCONCEALoc fasteners are designed for TimberTech composite decking but work in Azek and other brands of grooved planking. The clips maintain a 1/16” to 3/16” gap between boards for a uniform finish. The package will do 100sqft of decking at 16” centers and is perfect for a small deck, finishing off a project, or to check out the product. The box contains 175 stainless steel light brown finished clips, 184 carbon-coated square-drive #7×1-5/8” screws, and a drive bit.
Installation is quick and easy using a drill or Tiger Claw pneumatic gun. The winged clips slide into the groove and fasten to the center of the joist. The screw is driven in at a 45° angle and pulls the clip in tight. Plus, it pushes the edge of the wing into the board, preventing it from ‘walking’ laterally. Once the plank is secure at all joists, angle the next plank to insert the open wing, push it in, and then down onto the joist, locking it into place. Insert and screw in the next set of clips and repeat the process. There’s also the CONCEALoc router bit so you can make non-grooved boards compatible with the fasteners too.
Timbertech Azek CONCEALoc Hidden Fastener Gun Pail with Screws 500sfThe CONCEALoc gun pail contains 900 fasteners, 930 collated pneumatic scrails for use in the Tiger Claw gun, and a square drive bit. Clips are brown coated stainless steel to prevent corrosion by wood preservatives or moisture, and the #7×1-5/8” scrails are black oxide coated steel.
There are enough clips and scrails to finish 500sqft of decking at 16” centers. The thickness of the clip ensures a 1/8” to 3/16” gap between boards for a uniform finish.
- Easy to use
- Stainless steel clips
- Products work with other brands
- Prevents lateral movement of deck boards
- Clips make it difficult to install long (16’+) composite boards
- The drive angle for screws must be perfect or it binds or strips out
5. Cortex Hidden Fastening System
The Cortex fastening system by FastenMaster is a top-down screw and plug hidden fastener line for a dozen or more composite, PVC, and capstock decking brands. The system provides the strongest hidden connection and is available in three different packages. The 100 linear foot packages are ideal for perimeter use, first and last plank, and stairs.
For a full deck fastening, use the 100 and 300sqft containers. Each of the three package sizes contains enough TORX® self-tapping black oxide #8×2-1/2” screws and UV and weather tested color-matched plugs to complete the surface listed at 16” centers. Each container also includes the 6-point TORX® TTAP® driver.
FastenMaster Cortex 2-1/2″ Fastening System for Trex DeckingUse the 100 linear foot package of Cortex fastening system to secure perimeter decking, first and last board, stairs, and borders. The system may be used where other brands of hidden fasteners can’t reach, or as part of whole deck installation. The box contains 224 Cortex #8×2-1/2” gray epoxy coated stainless steel TREX drive self-tapping screws, 300 color-matched plugs, and two TTAP® drive setting tools.
Installation is 3-step – set the board in place, drive the Cortex #8×2-1/2” screw in using the TTAP® drive tool, and then tap in the color match plug. Whether it’s to fasten the board against a building before switching to clips or to secure a perimeter, there should be screws driven through the plank into each joist. The screws provide a solid grip into the joist for the strongest hidden fastener connection.
- Installs easily
- Customize set spacing between boards
- Great for wherever top fastening is required
- Plugs match perfectly for near-invisible finish
- Creates an ultra-strong connection between decking and joists
- Multiple steps add time and labor to the project
- Small plugs are hard to handle
- The felt countersink ‘guide’ on the TTAP® deteriorates with use
6. Trex Hideaway Hidden Fastening System
Trex offers a complete easy to install hidden fastener system for their decking line and other brands. The 1/4” self-gapping square-wing fasteners have pre-set stainless steel square-drive black-topped screws. They also sell starter clips for fastening the initial board, and connector clips too. Plus, Trex has a groove cutter for use with ungrooved planks. We suggest using a drill for better torque control, as an impact driver may strip out or snap the screws.
Trex Hideaway Universal Hidden Deck Fastener ClipThe bucket of 900 Trex Hideaway Fastener Clips will do 500sqft at 16” centers. The system is easy to use. Set the first plank, insert the clips and drive the screw halfway into the joist. Once the board has clips at all joists, slide the next board on to the clips.
Insert the next set of clips and half drive in the screws. As you finish off half setting a new screw, reach across and finish driving the one between planks. The half driving makes it easier to align and insert the next plank and results in less frustration.
Trex Hideaway Start ClipsThe 36 piece starter clips are used with the initial starter board or perimeter boards.
The clips are screwed in place, and then the starter board tipped and slipped into place.
- Easy to use
- Smooth, unmarred deck surface
- Larger gap for better ventilation and drainage
- Uniform gap
- Larger more visible gaps
7. Mantis Deck Clip System
Mantis has designed a hidden fastener system for grooved composites, PVC, and wood decking. It includes coated steel clips, starter clips, under-mount clips for perimeter boards, black-coated square-drive screws, and collated screws.
Clips are available in five heights for groove compatibility with different brands. The clips maintain a 3/16” gap and elevate the plank lightly to improve airflow between the plank and joist, plus it reduces ‘walking’ by the plank. Mantis is so sure of their system they offer a 30-year limited warranty.
Mantis HDL385450 Hidden Deck Clip SystemThe 450-piece pail contains 450 Mantis Deck Clips and 500 screws, enough to complete 250sqft at 16” centers.
Select the correct product for the decking; 385 clips fit groove heights of 0.38 of an inch.
Insert the clip and drive the screw through the clip into the joist at 45°.
Fasten one per joist, and slide the next board into place, and repeat.
- Uniform 3/16” gap
- Clear unblemished finish
- Improved airflow
- ACQ and corrosion-resistant finish
- Must drive at 45° to avoid stripping or snapping the screw
8. DeckWise Ipe Clip Hidden Deck Fasteners
DeckWise Ipe clip system fastens 5/4” or 1” thick Ipe, other hardwood, composite, and thermal decking. The system includes brown Ipe clips, color-match #8×2” T-15 screws, DeckWise spacer tools, hardwood wrench for straightening planks, and the drill-and-drive tool to speed up installation.
The clips have a stainless steel insert core and maintain a uniform 5/32” gap between planks. Edge driving also prevents planks from ‘walking’ with seasonal changes. DeckWise also has 3/32” and 1/4″ spacers to use with other hardwood, softwoods, and composite decking.
DeckWise Ipe Clip Extreme 4 Hidden Deck Fasteners, 5/32″ GapThe 100sqft DeckWise Ipe Hidden Deck Fasteners kit includes 175 brown Ipe clips, 190 stainless steel black-top #8×2” trim-head screws, six-point drive bit, 3 spacer tools, and 12 3/8” Ipe tapered plugs for top driving the starter board. Installation is easy.
Drill and countersink the starter board, drive in the screws, and then glue and tap in the plugs. Insert the Ipe clip in the outside groove or slot, edge drive through the clip hole into the side of the board at the groove, insert the T-15 driver and drive the screw home at a 45° angle.
Fasten at each joist. Slide the next plank onto the exposed clip edge and repeat the outside groove installation.
DeckWise Ipe Clip Extreme Hidden Deck Fasteners, 3/32″ SpacingThe 525-bucket contains 1050 Ipe clips, 1140 #8×2” screws, five 1/8” drill bits, and five T-15 drive bits.
There are enough clips to fasten 300sqft of decking at 16” centers.
Make sure you select the correct clip height and gap spacing you want for the decking you are using.
Ipe Clip Hidden Fastener
The Ipe Clip is available in 3 colors to match Ipe, hardwood, PVC, and composite decking selections. They are available in short or tall seat configurations, and offer three gap spacing options: EXTREME® 3/32”, EXTREME4® 5/32”, STANDARD 3/16”, and EXTREMEKD® 1/4″.
- Uniform spacing
- Unmarred deck surface
- Maximum holding power
- Full system with multiple spacing options
- No costly tools to buy
- Multi-step and time-consuming
9. Kreg KJDECKSYS Deck Jig
Kreg manufactures the perfect jig for edge drilling composite, PVC, hardwood, or softwood decking. The jig has an easy-grip handle and triple directional steel drill guides for easy reach into tight spaces, including butt-seams.
It’s simple and quick to use and makes perfect 45° holes every time. It also guides the screw to the perfect countersunk depth making for an invisible connection to the joist. The jig even has a slot for setting the stop-collar at the correct placement.
Kreg KJDECKSYS Deck JigThe Kreg Deck kit comes complete with the jig, three 1/4″ spacer tools, three 5/16 spacers tools, a 6” jig drill bit, two drill stop-collars with an Allen-key, a 6” square drive bit which prevents over driving, plus 100 2-5/8” deck screws.
The kit is packaged in a hard-sided contractor’s case with a manual and DVD.
Kreg 2-5/8-Inch Protec-Kote Deck ScrewThe Kreg screws are designed exclusively to work in the Kreg deck jig to edge fasten decking so the top is smooth and spotless.
The 2-5/8” screws are stainless steel or Protec-Kote to resist corrosion by moisture, chemicals, or ACQ treated decking.
The 525 screw package will fasten a 150sqft at 16” centers and includes a spare drive bit.
- Drill perfectly angled holes every time without splitting
- Easy to use
- Maximum grip
- Works for any edge fastening project, including fencing
- No over drilling
- Need 2 drills: one to drill, the other to drive
10. Deckmaster Hidden Deck Bracket Kit
Deckmaster’s hidden deck brackets are 22-1/2” long powder-coated wood-colored galvanized steel to prevent corrosion by moisture, chemicals, and ACQ treated wood. All fastening is done under the decking, further protecting screws from the elements, which is why they have a 50-year warranty. The deck surface is free of disfiguring screws, showcasing a perfect deck finish.
Cut with tin snips if needed and screw the strips to the side of all joist, so the reverse angled flange rests on the top of the joist. Place and space the board, reach under from the edge, and screw upward into the deck plank. The decking rests on the galvanized flange, not directly on the wooden joist, improving airflow and decreasing rot potential.
The brackets are available in color-coded boxes for different decking thicknesses. The Consumer packs of 10 brackets include 120 coated deck screws (length varies by box color), 110 #8×1” coarse thread pan-head coated joist screws, and one square-drive pro drive bit. It’s enough to complete 25sqft of decking at 16” or 24” centers. Contractor packages include 10x each Consumer pack component.
Deckmaster Hidden Fastener SystemThe different colored boxes are for securing composite or wood decking of different thicknesses.
The Blue Box has brackets for fastening solid boards 1” to 1-1/2” actual thickness using #10×1-1/4” coated deck screws.
The Green Box is for solid decking with an actual thickness of 1-1/2” or more using #10×1-3/4” coated screws.For solid or hollow core decking with actual thicknesses less than 1”, use the Red Box with #10×1” screws.
An alternate kit is available with 1-5/8” screws for thicker planks.
It should be noted that screws into the underside of the decking go through the metal flange twice, so they are longer than the board thickness for maximum grip.
- Fastens decking at all angles
- Ideal for uniquely shaped decks
- Improves air circulation and reduces the potential for rot
- Reach under screwing
Hidden Fasteners on Deck StairsStairs pose a problem for most hidden fasteners. The screw and plug hidden fasteners work well, as do Deckmaster strips. Invisi-Fast hidden fasteners are ideal too. They’re made of clear poly-carbonate Lexan and screw to the inside of the string at the runner.
The runner is then under-screwed to the fastener, which also has a 1/8” spacer tab for the second board of the runner. Kits are available with ACQ or stainless steel screws.
What Are Hidden Deck Fasteners?
Many hidden deck fasteners are metal or plastic clips with wings or flanges that slide into slots or grooves decking manufacturers provide in their products. Wood planks or manufactured boards without grooves can have a groove or slot routered or biscuit-cut in on-site to accommodate the fasteners.
The fasteners hold the decking by gripping the board side while a nail or screw secures the clip to the joist. There are also fasteners with pointed teeth for use with wood or ungrooved decking. The teeth are driven into the side of the plank and a screw secures the clip and board to the joist.
Some hidden fasteners are specially designed screw and plug systems that fasten through the board. The hole is countersunk and a matching plug glued and hammered into place after the screw is driven in. The plug hides the fastener and provides a smooth clean deck surface.
How Do Hidden Deck Fasteners Work?
Hidden fasteners, whether clips or plug and screw, are corrosion-free methods for attaching deck boards to joists that eliminate the visibility of ugly nail or screw heads. The result is a smooth and stable deck surface that is blemish and splinter-free.
The hidden clips systems have a wing or flange that inserts into the manufactured groove in the side of composite boards. A screw, nail, or scrail secures the clip to the joist either under the plank or beside it, leaving the decking clear. Many deck board manufacturers also make a fastening system or recommend products that work well with their boards.
Several clip designs have teeth or barbs for use with wood decking. The teeth bite into the side of the board instead of into a groove, and the clip is then nailed or screwed to the joist. The clips are a secure and invisible method for fastening timber decking that leaves the deck surface free of nail or screw lines.
Screw and plug hidden fastener systems are commonly used to fasten edge boards, the perimeter, and stairs. They can also be used for the whole deck too. The holes are pre drilled and countersunk, the screw driven in, and then the plug glued and hammered home. The result is a clear, smooth, and secure deck.
Pros and Cons of Hidden Deck Fasteners
There are pros and cons to all fasteners. We all know that nails can work their way out of deck boards which can lead to injury. They can rust and discolor the wood, and the hammer can dent the board. Wood screws have their positives and negatives too, as do hidden deck fasteners.
- Hidden fasteners leave decking free of marks or blemishes. The clips in the manufactured groove allow the board to adjust to temperature change, which helps prevent unsightly warping or buckling that can occur with screws or nails through the surface.
- Some products help angle nails or screws through the edge of the decking at 45°, pinning it securely to the joist and preventing it from moving. There is less splitting or splintering of boards, which are held tighter to the joists. Fastening at an angle is quicker and keeps the surface clear and free of unsightly nail or screw heads.
- Deck surfaces are safer since there are no ‘nail-pops’ or screw-head bulges. Nails and screws can work loose or sit up as the wood shrinks around them, making for a potentially painful toe-stubbing, foot scuffing, or trip hazard.
- Edge fastening or clips decrease the potential water damage. They are less visible and thus better protected from the elements. This makes them less susceptible to corrosion than surface fasteners, providing for a longer life span for your deck and fastener.
- Groove fasteners are fabricated from plastic, galvanized steel, stainless steel, powder-coated steel, and even reinforced fiberglass. The clips are designed to resist rust for longer life.
- Screw and plug fasteners provide an invisible method for fastening boards to the joists from the top. The screws prevent board movement due to swelling and provide a seemingly screwless finish.
- Hidden fasteners are more expensive than nails or deck screws and often take more time and care to install.
- Some clips are easier to install than others, and clips can fall out before they can be fastened.
- Clips commonly fit into a groove, allowing boards to move, which can result in uneven ends. The looser grip may also squeak or chirp as boards flex or move with the weight and movement of people.
- Screw and plug fasteners take more steps than other methods of fastening decking – predrilling, countersinking, driving the screw, gluing, and setting the plug flush. Additionally, plugs may still be visible which means the holes need to align too.
- Screw and plug systems make it difficult to remove and replace a board should the need arise.
- Warranties may require the use of a manufacturer specified fastener which may limit the selection to a more expensive product.
Types of Hidden Deck Fasteners
There are four different styles of hidden deck fasteners on the market. Some work well for soft or hardwood decking including Ipe (Brazilian Walnut), others for grooved or ungrooved composite boards, and still others for PVC, plastic, and fiberglass planks.
It is important to select the best system for the type of decking. Additionally, there are fasteners specific to individual manufacturers too.
Edge systems work on hard and softwood decking, and grooved and ungrooved composite or PVC planks. Different jigs are available that set the angle the nail, screw, or scrail is driven through the edge into the joist. The head is slightly visible on the side of the board, leaving the surface unmarred. The jig also sets the gap between boards for a uniform look.
Another edge system is similar to the groove clip, but for decking without grooves. It has teeth and is hammered into the side of the board at the joist, and then fastened to the joist. The next plank is hammered into the teeth on the backside of the affixed clip, and the process repeats.
Groove clips are designed for composite, PVC, plastic, and fiberglass decking. Clips may be plastic, corrosion-resistant metal, or fiberglass. The edges or wings fit into the grooves along the plank sides, and a screw or nail fixes the clip to the joist. The next board is tapped onto the other side of the clip and the process repeated. Clips not only fasten the decking to the joists, but they also set the spacing between boards.
Some clips have screws affixed, and others don’t. There are clips where the screw is driven perpendicular, and some are driven on an angle. Some systems can also be pneumatically driven using special attachments or guns to speed up the install.
If you don’t want screws in the top of the joists, there are clips that fasten to the side of the joist. Clip systems can be used with wood boards but require a notch or groove to be routered or biscuit-cut into the side where needed.
Screw and Plug
The screw and plug system for composite or PVC decking and commonly include screws, plugs, and driver-countersinking combo bit. The screw is driven and countersunk to 1/4″ into the composite board.
A plug that matches the color tone of the material is glued and tapped into the hole using a smooth-faced hammer or mallet, resulting in a near-invisible finish. The screw and plug system can be used for the whole deck or just for perimeter fastening, and to secure stair treads.
Hidden Beneath the Deck Boards
There are several different systems of brackets or strips that fasten to the joist and the grooved planks slide or snap into place. One style sets the spacing and all screws are protected from the elements under the decking.
The other style fastens to the side of the joist and the underside of the decking, which means it must be accessible from below or you have to reach under. The system can also be used to fasten the perimeter board ends without top-screwing.
What to Consider When Buying Hidden Deck Fasteners
When planning your decking purchase it is important to consider how it will be fastened. Composite or PVC decking and high-grade lumber are a premium price point when building a deck, so hidden fasteners are a great way to showcase it.
If you’re doing the install yourself, do the research; if hiring a pro, hopefully, they do it. Here are some points to consider:
- Cost is the first and final consideration. Who will do the work, type of decking, fasteners, and warranty are all about cost, and what fits the budget?
- There are manufacturers that offer proprietary fasteners and often tie the warranty to their product use, so be cautious and read the fine print.
- Some fasteners claim to be universal and others list those they are compatible with, and often have been tested and are warranty acceptable.
- The joist spacing and any design elements may require different types of fasteners, which can affect the number, type, and length of screws required. Consider how many screws required and potential costs, including partial boxes.
- Check out the different fasteners and their ease of installation. The number of steps in the install affects time and potential cost.
- If you need to remove a board, how easy is it to do? Dismantling the whole deck isn’t the answer you want.
- The cost of special tools, extra types of clips, or screws to finish the project all affect the cost and your decision.
- Corrosion and environmental compatibility of the fastener material are important too, especially if you’re near saltwater.
The best hidden fastener system isn’t always the most expensive. It’s often one that is easier to install and offers more options, which means it’s usually well thought out and user friendly. With that in mind, our money is on the CAMO Hidden Fastener system.
Their selection of hidden fasteners for composite, PVC, hardwood, softwood, grooved or ungrooved decking makes them a versatile choice. Added to that is their collection of jigs, guides, and tools making them an easy and inexpensive selection.
Hopefully, our guide has helped you understand the differences between hidden fastener products and helps with your choice. If you found the guide helpful, please share it with others. As always, your comments and suggestions are appreciated.
Eugene has been a DIY enthusiast for most of his life and loves being creative while inspiring creativity in others. He is passionately interested in home improvement, renovation and woodworking.