I live in the North East.

Architectural asphalt shingles (whatever those are) need replacement or might last 4 more years depending on who I talk to.

One roofer tells me hand nailing is what he does. He says nail-gun is how other roofers cheap out.

Is hand nailing a roof the sign of quality work?

  • I agree with Ed Beal. The guy is a relic who simply doesn't want to change his ways and is dishonest about it (possibly to himself first). There's no practical difference as gun nails will tear through the shingle before they pull out, just like hand-driven nails. The head size is virtually identical. Now the wide-crown staples that were in use for a while in the 90s are another story. – isherwood Oct 2 '18 at 19:09

I believe with a properly adjusted gun better results or at least more consistent results are possible. I always carry a hammer to set nails that hit a knot but I don't think it is cheaping out. In 20 years watch him starting to have have to wear a band on his elbow and possibly surgery from swinging a hammer. Full head nails available today are the same just in a rack or tape to fit the gun. I use my coil nailer and have not had any problems.

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  • The key is" properly adjusted" ; What i have seen is usually pressure set too high to make sure the nails are not high. The home owner can not see the deep heads because they are under the shingles. I pick a contractor that uses hammers; The results have been excellent- unfortunately I have have needed two replacement roofs because of hail damage. – blacksmith37 Oct 2 '18 at 19:47
  • Blacksmith37, I only know a couple guys still hammering, most use coil nailers like I do and set the gun on the light side (and carry a hammer for the occasional tall one) of the butcher's out there some destroy quite a large area of the shingles but you can't see that either. – Ed Beal Oct 2 '18 at 20:10
  • Nails driven too deep expressly void the shingle warranty. Roofers are very keen to avoid doing so. It's a fairly rare problem. – isherwood Oct 2 '18 at 20:32
  • My son in Austin TX had his new house reroofed twice because it did not pass inspection ( about 10 years ago). – blacksmith37 Oct 2 '18 at 22:42

I’ll take the other side of Ed’s argument and say hand nailing is best.

Nail guns will either drive the nail too deep (when the air compressor is set too high, hits a “soft” area of the lumber, or driven at a slight angle) or not drive the nail flush (when the air compressor is set too low, the nail hits a knot, or is at the end of a series of nails being driven and the compressor has not “caught up”).

I live in a “high wind” area and nailing is critical. If the nail is driven too deep, the shingle can be sucked off the roof because the nail does not have the proper holding power. If the nail is left slightly too high, the shingle will not lay flat and allow the self-sealing strip to seal.

Air compressors cannot be set perfect for every condition and roofers cannot (will not) check the depth of every nail. Roofers are often paid by the amount of roofing they install per day, not by their quality of nailing.

Hand nailing is better because each nail is carefully looked at because the roofer has to hit it... when nail guns are used, they are looking “forward” to where the next nail is to be installed.

We lay a ruler down to see that nails are driven flush so the self-sealing strip will adhere. We always find many many nails left too high. (As you can imagine, roofers love us...but they don’t argue because they know we’re right.)

Yes, manufacturers allow nail guns and roofers like them. But the argument that you’ll get a sore wrist or they’re a thing of the past isn’t a reason why they’re good or bad.

However, a bigger problem is the nailing not being EXACTLY where they are suppose to nail. Almost all roofers nail too high. This does not allow sufficient strength against blow off. Regardless which you choose, read the wrapper and remind the installer of proper lap, required number of nails and alignment from bottom of EACH shingle.

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  • I agree that a power nailer can produce the same results with a good roofer under the right circumstances. However, we always ran into 2 problems. 1- We spent way too much time adjusting and fixing the nailers & 2- the roofer would get going too fast and miss the nailing strips. Though the heads of hand nails & power nails are similar, the surface that strikes them is different. The strike pin of a power nailer is about the size of the nail head. The face of a roofing hammer is 3-4 times the size of the nail head which distributes the force of the blow over a much larger surface area. – WoodAirGrille Oct 3 '18 at 13:41

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