How to choose composite decking fasteners

Composite deck fasteners do more than secure boards. They play an important role in your deck’s design aesthetic as well.

Today's homeowners want outdoor spaces that reflect their indoor rooms -- from comfy furniture and curated accessories to smooth decking surfaces the rival the look and feel of beautiful hardwood flooring. And while choosing chairs and pillows is simple, many consumers aren’t quite as confident when it comes to selecting materials to achieve their desired look. Selecting a high-quality composite deck board with rich color and natural grain patterns is the first step. Choosing the right fasteners, however, is what seals the deal.

Hidden fasteners, such as the Phantom Universal Hidden Fastener shown above, slide into the channel on a grooved edge board and are secured directly into the joist.

Board profiles determine your fastener options

There are two profiles for composite deck boards: grooved and square edge.
While all Fiberon deck boards can be surface-fastened (also referred to as face-fastened), grooved boards are designed to accommodate hidden fasteners: metal or plastic clips that fit into the channels/grooves that run the length of each side of the board and are then secured to the joists. The boards are secured from the side rather than by drilling a screw straight down from the top. As a result, the fasteners are hidden and the deck surface is smooth and more like interior flooring. Fiberon offers several hidden fasteners, all branded Fiberon Phantom fasteners.

Fast facts on Fiberon Phantom Fasteners

Fiberon Phantom Universal Fasteners

  • These are constructed from high-quality HDPE material with a carbon steel-coated screw that has been pre-inserted to make installations quicker and easier.
  • Hidden fasteners ensure consistent gapping between boards; specifically, 3/16”. Gapping is very important to allow for normal thermal movement (expansion and contraction) that can be experienced throughout the changing seasons. If a deck is installed without appropriate gapping or spacing, the boards can buckle or twist. Gapping also ensures proper draining of moisture and debris from the deck surface.
  • Plastic fasteners are also less expensive to manufacture. And while the cost savings may not add up to a significant sum, it can make a difference on a tight budget.
  • Plus, these universal fasteners are wide enough that they may be used both for in-application installations as well as end-to-end seams (“butt joints”). Conversely, traditional metal fasteners are specific to the application; that’s why you will see Phantom GT for in-line use and Phantom EC (end clips) for butt joints.

Fiberon Phantom Universal Hidden Fasteners (left) have a pre-inserted carbon steel-coated screw for quick, easy installation. Fiberon Phantom GT Hidden Fasteners (center) offer strong holding power, thanks to a dual tab design. Fiberon Phantom EC (End Clip) Fasteners (right) work specifically on butt joints (end-to-end seams).

Fiberon Phantom GT Fasteners

  • A traditional metal fastener, the Phantom GT is made from stainless steel and has a corrosion-resistant coating.
  • It’s a dual-tab fastener, which means it has more “teeth” to eliminate the twisting that can occur with single-tab fasteners, and it ensures consistent board spacing, which is critical for the reasons we outlined previously.
  • Phantom GT Fasteners work on interior boards. Phantom EC (End Clip) Fasteners work with perimeter boards. These clips eliminate the need to use surface fasteners to secure either the beginning or end boards on the deck – provided, of course, that you are able to get under the deck to secure the fasteners.
  • If you opt to use grooved on the perimeter, you’ll want to install fascia to cover the exposed outward-facing channel. Conversely, you could use square edge boards along the perimeter. Often people will use a contrasting board color, lighter or darker, to create a “picture frame” effect.
  • Phantom 20 EC fasteners work only with Paramount PVC Decking perimeter boards. For interior Paramount boards, we recommend Tiger Claw TC-G Fasteners. For more information, consult our website.
  •  If you are installing a ramp using grooved edge boards, you can still use Phantom hidden fasteners.

Using Fiberon Phantom hidden fasteners creates an indoor flooring appearance for your outdoor space. Shown here: Fiberon Symmetry Decking in Warm Sienna.

Face-fastening is another option for securing deck boards

Of course, some contractors and homeowners prefer traditional surface fasteners. These fasteners work with square edge boards. These boards, as the name implies, do not have any channels or grooves. In addition, square edge boards are often installed around the perimeter of decks constructed from grooved boards to create a solid outward-facing edge.

Fiberon square edge decking works with two types of face fasteners: Cortex hidden face fasteners or composite deck screws.

Cortex hidden face fasteners

This is actually a system consisting of a Cortex screw and a color-matched plug made from Fiberon decking material. Because the plug minimizes the appearance of hardware on the decking, this approach is known as “hidden face-fastening.”

Cortex hidden face fasteners work as follows:

  • First, use the special driving tip included with the system to automatically put the Cortex screw at a precise depth.
  • Next, tap the included color-matched plug over the screw with a hammer.
  • Finally, repeat the process as appropriate and voila, the board is secure.

Cortex hidden face fasteners install easily. Once the screw has been properly seated (left image), a Fiberon decking color-matched plug is tapped in for a secure yet subtle result (right image).

Cortex fasteners may be used on stairs. They are not suitable for fascia, risers, or for use with Good Life Decking. In these situations we recommend composite deck screws (#8 x 2.5 in. minimum).
Why the difference with Good Life Decking? It has to do with the board’s design. Good Life Decking has a scalloped bottom while other Fiberon boards have a flat bottom. The scalloped design has advantages; however, it does not provide sufficient material for the Cortex screw to grab. This could result in a less secure installation and raise the risk of cracking due to pressure/vibrations over time. Grooved Good Life boards will work with Phantom hidden fasteners, however. You’ll find more information on our website or in our product guide.

Composite decking screws

If you opt for composite deck screws, be sure to use stainless steel screws that will not rust or corrode. Select a minimum size of #8 x 2.5 in.

A few final words about decking fasteners
  • If you are installing fascia or risers, always use composite decking screws -- regardless of the particular decking product line you’ve chosen.
  • If the fasteners will be exposed to continual salt air, near large bodies of water or swimming pools, or used in any other areas where corrosion is more likely to occur, always use 305-grade or 316-grade stainless steel decking screws.
  • While it is important to consider the finished look you want, you should always choose your fasteners based on the material being installed as well as the prevailing environmental conditions of the project’s location.

Dreaming of a new deck? Try our Deck Design Tool and bring your dreams to life.


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