18 APR HAND NAILING VS NAIL GUN: WHICH ROOFING INSTALLATION METHOD IS BETTER
WHICH IS BEST FOR ROOF SHINGLE INSTALLATION – HAND NAILING OR NAIL GUN?
This question can be argued both ways and both can be correct. The simple answer is. It all depends on the man or woman holding the hammer or air gun and how they use it. Since asphalt shingled roofs are the most popular residential roofing materials used in the USA, lets use them as an example for this blog.
Do-It-Yourself Roofing (DIY)
Most do-it-yourselfers will purchase their shingles and never think about how to fasten them to the roof. Most think that nailing the composition shingle with a hammer is the only way. Did you know there are tool rental stores the will rent air compressors and nail guns for your roofing project? Is it worth the money to rent?
Most professionals use pneumatic nail guns and air compressors. There must be a reason why. It is speed. A nail gun is a tool that has a magazine or tray that stores the fasteners. One by one these fasteners are driven through the asphalt shingle and into the roof deck by a supply of air.
A compressor needs to have a continuous supply of air pressure to do this, which is about 90 – 120 PSI depending on the nail gun in use, roofing products used, thickness of roof deck, and the temperature of the time of day. The fasteners should have enough power to drive a nail into the roof deck 3/4 of an inch or through it to meet manufactures specifications and local codes.
It is not the tool but the one using it, that makes a good roof.
Most people doing a roof once in their life choose just to hand nail because of the cost of rental and the amount of days needed to have it available. If you time things right . . . . like getting the tear off and cleaned up done, repairing all dry rot, have the roof felted and loaded with all the flashings painted and ready to go, then the roofing process using a rented compressor and nail gun shouldn’t take but a few days depending on your skill level.
PROS AND CONS OF HAND NAILING AND NAIL GUN ROOFING
Speed without experience is not good thing. Using a fast nail gun can be dangerous and does not insure a good roof installation. I see it all the time. Nails not places correctly WILL cause roof failures and this is very common with nail guns.
Hand nailing can be fast but the same man, at the same skill level, doing the same job will perform faster using a gun and compressor. There just are not many shinglers that have the skill level to keep up with a man with a gun.
Under-pressured tools leave the nails high causing the shingle above to be lifted and suspect to wind blow offs. Some shingles after roof traffic will cut through the upper shingle leaving an exposed nail head. A hand nailer can tell better if a nail is high and will give it another hit.
Over-pressured tools drive nails to deep cutting the mat and loose holding down power needed to withstand high winds, or in some cases becoming dislodged and slide down the roof. The hammer head is larger than the driver in a nail gun so an overdriven nail is rare for the hand nailer because the hammer stops at the surface of the roof.
Proper Nail Placement
This is critical for performance and for a manufacturers warranty. Improper nailing WILL void your warranty and cause problem later. I have seen failures by both types of fastening.
These are just a few problems with nailing too fast with a gun. By slowing down and placing the nails in the proper nail zone and having the proper air pressure, nail guns can be very helpful with getting the job done faster and without the fatigue of hand nailing.
Now I know there are a few old school roofers that sell ” hand nailing is the best” and that’s fine. Using a nail stripper and a roofing hammer is a great way to install a roof. Having made a living doing both . . . I know from experience the value of each – and a flaws of both.
In my opinion, most roof failures are because of poor nail placement using nail guns but as a contractor the value of being competitive with labor cost, the production with a nail gun is needed. The key is having well trained and skilled craftsmen using nail guns that can produce very good roofs that meet and exceed requirements of building officials and manufactures specifications. Again, it is not the tool but the one using it, that makes a good roof.
So which is better a hand nailed roof or using a nail gun?
So what’s the answer? Both are approved ways to install shingles. It is all about timing, skill level and money. A DIY’er cannot produce like a skilled hand nail roofer but also cannot afford to rent the tools for a week. For the DIY’er hand nailing a roof with proper instruction is probably the best way to go.
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