Nail Gun for Roofing Ask the Builder

Nail Gun for Roofing Ask the Builder

DEAR TIM: I’ve decided to re-roof my house because I simply can’t afford to pay a roofer. I’ll be stripping off all the shingles down to the bare wood. Do you feel it’s worth it to purchase a nail gun to install the roofing nails? What can you tell me about these tools? I’m seriously thinking of starting my own small roofing business so I feel I might get lots of use from the tool. Have you ever used these guns? Do they really work well? — Sam P. Lexington, KY

DEAR SAM: Your next job brought a smile to my face. I clearly remember the first house I bought. I was 23 years old, and it was a vacant home that needed work. It had a hole in the roof big enough to put a basketball through. Needless to say I was up on that roof stripping off the shingles, repairing the bad wood and then installing shingles to make the house weathertight.

When I did that roof back in the mid 1970’s, roofing nail guns were just a glimmer in the eye of modern tool company engineers. Twenty years earlier, the first powered nail gun was invented, but it drove nails meant to secure subflooring to floor joists. I had to install those shingles on my house nailing each nail by hand — thousands and thousands of nails.

Here’s a dandy cordless roofing nailer that takes most of the work out of nailing shingles. Photo Credit: Tim Carter

In the 1980’s, I started to use pneumatic staple guns that were made to install wide staples into roof shingles. It was an approved method at the time, but there were issues with staples that were driven too deeply that tore into the shingles. If this happens, the holding power of the staple is not transferred completely to the body of the roofing shingle.

Years later, the first powered nail guns that drove traditional roofing nails made their debut. These early models were not perfect by any means, but they did drive roofing nails far faster than an average roofer could do it by hand. The tool never tires, but humans do. Don’t forget that.

As you might expect, there have been vast improvements in roofing nail guns. This past summer, I had the pleasure of working with a Paslode impulse roofing nailer that drove thousands of nails into my shed roof with not one misfire. Each nail was driven perfectly so the underside of the nail head was snug against the top surface of the shingle.

The particular gun I used did not require an air hose or a noisy air compressor on the ground. My tool had a small lithium-ion rechargeable battery and a tiny canister of propane gas that powered the tool. Inside the tool was a small internal combustion engine that produced the instant burst of power to drive each nail.

As fast as you could move the tool, safely position it, and pull the trigger, another nail shot into the roof. The tool allowed me to install shingles far faster than I could ever imagine doing it by driving nails with a traditional hammer. What’s more, I was less fatigued. That’s important, as fatigue leads to accidents while up on roofs.

Depending on how much you value your time and the urgency with which you need to finish the roof so water doesn’t get into your home, I would wager that it can make financial sense to invest in one of these tools for just one roofing job. If you care for the tool, you can sell it online at one of the free classified websites in just a matter of days. Contractors are always looking for great deals on tools like this, especially tools that have all the original paperwork in the tool case.

If you do decide to start your own small business, you’ll have a great competitive edge with this tool. You’ll be far more productive which leads to higher profits.

My biggest suggestion is to read the owner’s manual that comes with the tool. Read it cover to cover. The safety warnings are the most important, and then you need to know how to care and clean the tool.

The roofing nailers require more frequent cleaning and care than a regular nail gun that just fires nails into wood, oriented strand board and plywood. The asphalt shingles, dirt, shingle granular material, etc. are all hard on the roofing nail guns. It’s really important to clean the tool regularly.

Don’t underestimate the danger of these tools. You can get seriously injured with any nail gun. They shoot out the fasteners at extremely fast speeds. Don’t point the guns at people or yourself. Don’t allow the tip of the gun to ever point at your body or come into contact with a body part.

NEVER carry the tool around with your finger on the trigger. A common accident is a worker coming down a ladder with the tool in his hand and finger on the trigger. The tool can come into contact with a person’s head standing next to the ladder. As you might suspect, the gun fires the instant the tip of the gun touches the person’s skull. Ouch!

You can watch a video about replacing a roof shingle. Simply click here — "replace roof shingle video ".

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