The two basic types of screw heads, 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.
There are two basic designs: countersunk and non-countersunk.
Non-countersunk heads – where the head is completely exposed comprise the widest variety. This style includes binding, button, cheese, fillister, flange, hex, pan, round, socket, and low socket, square, and truss heads (binding head is sometimes referred to as binder head).
Sometimes features are combined, as in the case of slotted hex, hex washer, slotted hex washer, and round washer head designs.
Countersunk designs consist primarily of flat, oval, and bugle heads. Unless the material is very soft, flat and oval heads require a countersunk hole. The advantage is that little or no part of the head protrudes above the surface of the material.
If you use flat head screws in finishing, consider using a flat head screw cover (aka “beauty cap”) to hide the head (not all drive types accept screw covers). Manufactured from plastic, these caps are available in standard colors to match commonly used plastic laminates and wood.
Bugle heads are commonly found in drywall screws, and the head design automatically compresses the drywall paper and plaster as it is installed, creating its own countersunk hole.
The drive style — or what is known as the drive recess — refers to the type of tool you use to install (or remove) the screw. Of the many that exist, the most common are: slotted, Phillips, combination (both slotted and Phillips), hex, socket, square, Torx®, and wrenches.
Types of Screw Heads
Here is the list of different types of Screw heads:
- Flat Heads
- Oval Heads
- Bugle Heads
- Binding Heads
- Button Heads
- Domed Heads
- Pan Heads
- Round Heads
- Fillister Heads
- Truss Heads
- Flange Heads
- Hex Heads
- Socket Cap Heads
- Slotted Heads
- Phillips Heads
- Phillips Tamper Resistant
- Combination Heads
- Hex External Heads
- Hex Internal Heads
- Hex Tamper-Resistant
- Square Recess Heads
- Square Tamper-Resistant
- Quadrex Heads
- Pozidriv Heads
- Torx Heads
- Torx Tamper-Resistant
- Torx Plus Heads
- Torx Plus Tamper-Resistant Heads
- Tri-Wing Heads
- Spanner Heads
1. Flat Head Screw
Flat screw heads sit entirely flush with a surface, leaving none of the heads exposed. These types of screws require you to countersink them.
The benefit of flat screws is that you won’t have to worry about your screw sticking out from the surface and causing other things to catch on it, which is essential if you’re creating your own sofa or building a bookshelf that people will walk by often.
You also won’t see the screw head if you use a screw cover.
- Flat Head Degrees. Flathead screws have varying degrees. The degree of a flat head refers to its head angle or the angle from the top of the head to the surface where the threaded part meets the head. An 82-degree flat head is the standard angle, but there are also 90-degrees, 100-degrees, and more. A higher degree requires a shorter, but more spread-out, countersink hole.
- Flat Undercut 82-degree. A flat undercut 82-degree head has the same angle as a standard 82-degree head, but the head is much shorter. This head shape helps give the screw a longer thread on the same screw length because of its shorter head size.
2. Raised Heads (Oval Head)
Raised heads, sometimes known as oval-shaped heads, have an angle much like flat screws but have more of a dome-shaped head. You’ll also need to countersink these screws to accommodate the angle.
Unlike a flat screw, the head of a raised screw will come out of the surface slightly. This shape doesn’t necessarily help the screw’s drive performance, but it, instead, is more for decoration.
3. Bugle Heads
Bugle heads are used mainly on screws made for plasterboard and drywall. This shape is much like a flat screw head, except that, instead of an angle underneath the surface of the head, you’ll see a curved shape that can reduce damage to a surface.
Bugle screws are self-drilling, so you won’t need to drill any pilot holes before using them, and their unique shape allows them to distribute stress over a wider surface than flat screws.
4. Binding Heads
Binding screws are a unique type of screw that you can use for a range of projects. These screws have a slightly domed head and screw into each other with a male and female side.
Often, short binding screws can hold together large manuals and other bookbinding projects, but you can also use them to hold together swatches, leather, and more.
5. Domed Heads
Domed heads are one of the most common types you’ll find. These are ideal for projects that don’t require you to hide the head of the screw like you would with a flat head, such as with an ottoman using decorative screws that protrude from the fabric.
The dome shape creates a visually appealing design on the surface, while the flat inner part of the dome helps the screw stop where it needs to just at the surface.
6. Flange Heads
Flange screws are sometimes referred to as frame screws. The head of these screws can vary from circular to hexed, and it juts out from a circular flange directly underneath the head.
The flange helps the screw to remain in its position, taking the place of a washer for some projects.
7. Truss Heads
Truss heads are typically wider than the heads on other screws and have a slightly rounded surface. You’ll usually need truss heads when working with sheet metal and other projects that require large holes because the wide head prevents the truss screw from going through the hole.
8. Button Heads
Button screw heads come in a variety of sizes and lengths, and their common characteristic is a small, round, button-shaped head, hence the name. They can be flat or slightly rounded, but they always have heads that look like small buttons.
Button screws are a rounded design typically used in socket-driven screws that have recently grown in popularity with Torx drive recesses, too.
9. Pan Heads
A pan screw is a machine screw with sides that are rounded and flat tops. They are similar to overhead machine screws, but the difference is that with oval screws, the top is rounded as well. Oval screws also have tapered bases, as opposed to the pan screws, which are not tapered at all.
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.
10. Round Heads
Naturally, round screw heads are those that have very round tops. They can be made of various materials and come in different designs and lengths, but they always have a round head.
Although this design is becoming less common, round screw heads offer another alternative for creating a rounded appearance.
11. Fillister Heads
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.
12. Hex Heads
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.
13. Socket cap Heads
Usually shaped like a hexagon or round-shaped, these screws look like they have a little cap or hat on top of the head. Cap screws come in various lengths and materials, but each of them has heads that look like they’re wearing a 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.
14. Slotted Heads
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.
15. Phillips Heads
What is the best type of screw drive? Many would say the Phillips drive screw, is 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.
16. 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’s 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.
17. Combination Heads
You can use both slotted and Phillips’s 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.
18. Hex External Heads
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.
19. Hex Internal Heads
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.
20. Hex Tamper-Resistant Heads
Similar to other tamper-resistant designs, these hex screws prevent tampering with a small pin in the center of the drive.
21. Square Recess Heads
Square recess screwdrivers 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.
22. 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 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.
These screw drives are like Phillips drives, though they have four additional contact points that provide greater stabilization. The Pozidriv screwdriver 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 screwdrivers in the United States, as they are much more commonly used in Europe.
25. Star-shaped heads
Star-shaped heads encompass several different styles that form shapes that resemble stars. The double-square drive has two Robertson’s squares that form an 8-point star in the middle. You can use a Robertson’s bit to drive it or use a special one for the double-square for higher torque application.
There’s also a triple square with three Robertson’s squares, creating a 12-point star. Triple squares are most commonly used when you need a high level of force without stripping the screw. You’ll see them mostly on internal car parts, like drivetrain components.
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.
27. 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.
28. 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.
29. 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 screw types are somewhere between a slotted and Phillips’s 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 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.
32. Pin Screws
The most common type of tamper-resistant screw, the pin screw will have the same design as what their regular versions have, such as a cross-shape for a Phillips screw, but with an additional layer of security to prevent easy removal.
Each head will have an additional pin in the design that requires a special tool to install and remove. A Phillips screwdriver will not work to install or remove a tamper-resistant Phillips screw.
33. Sentinel Screws
Sentinel screws offer high-level protection because you can only drive them one way. They’re challenging to remove, so they’re best for permanent fixtures.
34. 2-Hole Screws
2-hole screws, also known as spanners, offer security without sacrificing the finished look. They have a flat head with two small holes that require a special tool to install and remove.
How do you identify screw heads?
A screw will usually have a head on one end that allows it to be turned with a tool. Common tools for driving screws include screwdrivers and wrenches. The head is usually larger than the body of the screw, which keeps the screw from being driven deeper than the length of the screw and to provide a bearing surface.