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06/01/2021

Different Screw Head and Drive Types and What They Are Designed For

When you picture a screw, you might imagine a Phillips head or a slotted screw. Those are two common screw drive types, but there are so many other different screw drives in the world — and each offers unique value and benefits.

If you want to know more about all the kinds of screws, All Points Fasteners will explain your options. Here’s a look at different types of screw heads for you to consider as you search for the perfect fastener head type to quickly and effectively complete your work.

What Are the Different Types of Screw Heads?

Choose from various screws with diverse head shapes and drive recesses to meet your exact needs.

The two basic screw head types, countersunk and non-countersunk, include various unique designs. Your chosen head shape or style can either serve a functional or decorative purpose. The drive recess or style is ultimately based on the tool you use during installation.

Countersunk Screw Head Styles

Screws with an angular shape underneath the head will require countersinking to help prevent splitting wood when you drill or use force. Countersunk screw head styles sit flush against a surface with little or no protruding parts.

These designs mainly consist of:

  • Flat: Flat heads sit entirely flush with the material’s surface, preventing things from catching on them. Use a screw cover to hide the flat screw head completely — these plastic caps can match the color of most wood and plastic laminates.
  • Oval: Sometimes called raised screw heads, oval heads have a similar angle to flat heads and therefore require countersinking. This decorative dome-shaped head is often used for switch coverings.
  • Bugle: Bugle heads are used primarily on drywall, wood decking and plasterboard screws. This shape reduces damage by distributing stress over a wider surface than flat heads.

Flat and oval heads generally require a pilot hole before you can drive them. Bugle heads are self-drilling — automatically compressing drywall paper and gypsum to form a countersunk hole during installation.

Non-Countersunk Screw Head Styles

flat screws don't need countersinking

Screws that are flat under the head don’t need countersinking. While countersunk screws have little or no protruding parts, non-countersunk screw heads are fully exposed on the surface.

Non-countersunk heads have the widest variety:

  • Binding: This slightly domed screw head is designed with male and female sides that screw into one another. Binding heads are typically used to hold together swatches, large manuals and other bookbinding projects, though they can also have electrical applications.
  • Button: Button screws are a rounded design typically used in socket-driven screws that have recently grown in popularity with Torx drive recesses, too.
  • Domed: The flat inner part helps this dome-shaped head sit flush on the surface. Dome heads are a popular screw head type used to enhance various projects with an appealing aesthetic.
  • Pan: Used in many applications that require a flat-bottomed screw, pan heads are the most common type of rounded screws. You can successfully substitute pan heads for other round styles.
  • Round: Although this design is becoming less common, round screw heads offer another alternative for creating a rounded appearance.
  • Fillister: Fillister heads have a slightly rounded top and tall cylindrical sides. The smaller diameter and higher profile give fillister heads a deeper drive slot than round or pan head screws.
  • Truss: Typically used for sheet metal, truss heads have a wider and slightly rounded surface. They generally provide a lower profile and larger bearing surface than round or pan heads.
  • Flange: Whether the head is circular or hexed, this style’s main appeal is the circular flange directly underneath the head. For specific projects, this flange can even take the place of a washer.
  • Hex: Designed to allow for greater torque, hex heads typically require a wrench or socket to install the screw or bolt. Apply force against the screw head’s outside to drive this head shape.
  • Socket cap: These heads are unique to socket drive recesses and install flush against the surface. With easy access to the drive, socket cap heads provide a smooth appearance despite being a non-countersunk style.
  • Square: Square heads are used in bolts and screws. They typically require a wrench for installation and removal.

There are also certain head styles — including slotted hex, hex washer, slotted hex washer and round washer — which combine features to create new non-countersunk shapes.

Different Driving Recesses

Drive recess indicates the kind of tool needed to install or remove the screw. The different screw drive types include:

  • Slotted.
  • Phillips.
  • Phillips tamper-resistant.
  • Combination.
  • Hex external.
  • Hex internal.
  • Hex tamper-resistant.
  • Square recess.
  • Square recess tamper-resistant.
  • Quadrex.
  • Pozidriv.
  • Torx.
  • Torx tamper-resistant.
  • Torx Plus.
  • Torx Plus tamper-resistant.
  • Tri-wing.
  • Spanner.

What Are the Screw Drive Types Designed to Do?

Screw drive varieties are designed for various capabilities, including tampering prevention, stability during installation, reliability in application and strength for high-torque insertion. We’ll explain the features and benefits of all screw options, so you can decide which you need:

Slotted

Slotted drive screws are perhaps the simplest you’ll find. This common type of screw drive has a straight line through the middle. They are driven using flat head screwdrivers or drills with flat head bits. They are common for projects that use hand-driven tools or require little torque.

The challenge with slotted screws — common though they might be — is that it can sometimes be challenging to stabilize the screw during installation. That is, it’s easy for your screwdriver or drill to slip when driving a slotted screw. For that reason, slotted screws are still commonly used — but they’re generally on the decline, especially for contractors and others who need to drive many screws as quickly as possible.

Phillips

What is the best type of screw drive? Many would say the Phillips drive screw, characterized by a pointed tip, tapered flanks and rounded corners. The Phillips screw is more commonly used than a slotted screw because it’s more stable with four contact points. The Phillips drive design was made to perform better with screwdrivers.

Most anyone has a Phillips-head screwdriver sitting around they can use to drive Phillips screws, and the sizing of Phillips drill bits and screwdrivers is relatively straightforward. You’ll come across #1, #2 and #3 Phillips drives, though #2 is the most common size.

Phillips Tamper-Resistant

A Phillips tamper-resistant screw is just like a Phillips drive screw with one big exception. It includes a small pin in the center of the screw drive that prevents — you guessed it — tampering.

Phillips tamper-resistant drives are a little more obscure because you have to have the right tools to install and remove them. Also, tamper-resistant screws aren’t nearly as strong as regular Phillips drives. They are challenging to use in high-torque applications and cannot be made to meet high strength standards.

Combination

You can use both slotted and Phillips screwdrivers to drive a combination recess. This function can be highly convenient, though it lacks the same tamper-resistant quality as other, more secure designs.

Hex External

An external hex screw requires a wrench or socket to install the hexagonal drive shape. Some have built-in flanges, which can act as a washer for specific projects. You can get good leverage on external hex screws since you must turn the entire drive from the outside.

Hex Internal

You must use an Allen wrench to drive internal hex screws. When used in furniture installation, the internal hex screws typically come with a matching-sized Allen wrench.

Hex Tamper-Resistant

Similar to other tamper-resistant designs, these hex screws prevent tampering with a small pin in the center of the drive.

Square Recess

Square recess screw drives have a square-shaped socket and protrusion with a slightly tapered tool and socket. This style is becoming increasingly popular for a good reason — the tools used to drive them very rarely slip out of place and are easier to insert.

If you’re interested in working as quickly as possible at woodworking and construction sites, square recess screw drives might be your best bet. They come in two standard sizes — #2 and #3.

Square Recess Tamper-Resistant

This square recess screw drive is similar to regular square recess screw drives with one essential addition — a small pin in the center that prevents tampering, just like the tamper-resistant Phillips drive screws have.

Quadrex

Quadrex screw drives are a unique blend of Phillips drives and square recess drives. They are relatively rare, though they provide a great deal of stability, allowing those using them to work quickly. You can use either a standard Robertson or Phillips tool with a quadrex screw or a quadrex tool that increases the surface area between the fastener and the tool for better torque handling.

Pozidriv

These screw drives are like Phillips drives, though they have four additional contact points that provide greater stabilization. The Pozidriv screw drive has eight contact points altogether formed from two intersected crosses. It’s also unique from Phillips drives because of its 45-degree radical indentations.

It’s rare to find Pozidriv screwdrives in the United States, as they are much more commonly used in Europe.

Torx

Torx screw drives have a six-pointed star shape and are unique and recognizable among screw drive types. This entirely new design is gaining in popularity due to its ability to prevent cam-out. Torx screw drives are often used in the construction and manufacturing of electronic products.

Torx Tamper-Resistant

Like the other tamper-resistant screw drive styles, this means the screw drive design includes a small pin to prevent tampering.

Torx designs generally offer a greater degree of security since they have a unique removal method. A Torx driver is required to install or remove standard Torx screws, meaning an even more special driver is needed for tamper-resistant varieties.

Torx Plus

Torx Plus screws are much like Torx screws, but their design creates a larger contact area between the screw drive  and the tool used to drive it. This recess produces greater torque and greater ease in driving the screw, even at high speeds. Though this design is new, it’s becoming more popular.

Torx Plus Tamper-Resistant

With a Torx Plus tamper-resistant, you get the greater contact area for greater torque, plus the small pin in the center of the drive that prevents tampering. It differs from the standard Torx Plus design because it is a five-pointed star. They are common in high-security applications, like correctional facilities.

Tri-Wing

Tri-Wing screw types are somewhere between a slotted and Phillips drive. They have three grooves that are slightly curved and come in #1, #2 and #3 sizes. Though this screw drive type is exceedingly rare, its deep grooves allow you to apply more force than other screws.

Spanner

Spanner screws feature two holes or two slots used to lock into a screwdriver or drill bit for installation. They are used to avoid tampering without sacrificing the finished look of flat head screws.

Learn More About Screw Head Types at All Points Fasteners

At All Points Fasteners, we offer a vast selection of different screw heads with varying shapes, dimensions and specifications — you enjoy fast, easy access to the fasteners you need for the project at hand. We even specialize in helping our customers track down unusual and hard-to-find fasteners. If you can’t find what you’re looking for in our selection, get in touch with our customer service team for assistance.

Browse our selection of different types of screw head shapes to find your perfect fastening solution today. For more information, contact us or call 800-483-6354.