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How To Properly Nail Roofing Shingles (Tips + Steps)

how to nail roofing shingles

For roofing shingles, roof nailing is an art form. You can’t just use any nail and expect it to hold up like it’s supposed to. But, with these step-by-step instructions from the pros, you’ll know just how to nail shingles down on your roof.

How Are Roof Shingles Installed?

Roof shingles are adhered to the roof using long, sturdy roofing nails. Getting the proper steps down ensures years of durability ahead. However, if roofing shingles are not nailed down properly, it negatively affects the integrity of your roof. And can even void warranties that are meant to protect your roof. This is especially true for DIY roofing.

So, in brief, roof shingles are installed by laying shingles row by row and getting nailed down via roofing nails. But first, there are three critical layers installed beneath shingles that those nails must be able to penetrate as well.

  • First, the roof sheathing, aka decking, is laid down, which is essentially plywood that builds a solid, flat base to install the roof over.
  • Then, the underlayment is installed over the sheathing. The underlayment is the roof’s first layer of waterproofing. It seals the sheathing and protects it from leaks via rain, snow, and ice.
  • An ice and water shield gets installed over the underlayment in areas that are more susceptible to water seepage, like the valleys, eaves, chimneys, or vents. This additional layer gives even more protection against leaks.
  • Lastly, the shingles get laid on top. They go layer by layer, working from the bottom to the top. Then the roof peak, valleys, flashing, and all appropriate areas are covered, using proper roof nailing techniques and nails to seal appropriately.

rool installation graphic

How to Nail Shingles Down + Considerations

There is definitely a right way and a wrong way to nail your shingles down. From getting them lined up properly to spacing them out to ensure a tight shingle, it’s essential to know how to correctly nail them depending on the material and manufacturer. We are sharing the best way to nail your shingles down, whether you’re a DIYer or a professional roofer.

  • Roofing nails can be made of aluminum, copper, stainless steel, or galvanized steel.
  • Nail size and length can vary by roofing material—always use the proper nail specifications as laid out by the manufacturer.
  • Roofing nails should be able to penetrate 3/4 inch of the roof deck (the bottom-most layer)
  • Roofing nails should be between 1 1/4 and 2 inches long to penetrate the deck, as stated above.
  • The International Building Code requires nails to have a 3/8 inch head and a minimum 12-gauge shank of the nail.
  • They shouldn’t be over-driven or under-driven, and if the nail goes crooked, remove it and place a new one.
  • Most shingles require either a 4 or 6 nail pattern per shingle to ensure a tight seal.
  • Roofing nails should be placed in the roof shingle’s cut-out area. This ensures they stay in place and don’t risk being exposed, which can cause corrosion and leaks.
  • Any underdriven nails can be appropriately tapped in with a hammer. Overdriven nails should be removed, and the holes filled in with roofing asphalt cement.

The Best Roof Nailer Tools

how to nail shingles nailgun on roof

It’s one thing to get the right nails and quite another to drive them quickly and efficiently to get the roof nailed down in no time. So we’ve curated a list of the best roofing nailers that can help DIY homeowners and novice contractors alike. But first, here are the different types of roofing nailers used today.

Types of Roof Nailers

There is not just one type of roofing nailer—in fact, many are powered in very different ways, each with a specific use and need requiring different power.

  • Air spring-driven nail guns, fire the nails from a chamber
  • Combustion-powered nailers work similarly to a car’s engine
  • Cordless nailers are powered by battery packs that can be recharged when needed
  • Electric-powered nail guns require a standard 120v outlet and are a little cumbersome for most roofing jobs
  • Pneumatic nailers are the most popular and are powered via air compressors

Here is a list of the most popular roofing nailers (and their power source) so that you can adequately nail your roofing shingles without the back-breaking work of hammers and manual tools.

how to nail shingles worker nailing shingles down

Bostitch 15-Degree Roofing Nailer (pneumatic nailer)

Maximum PSI: 120

Magazine Capacity: 120

Max. Nail Diameter: 0.12 in.

The Hitachi RN46-1 has a long-lasting aluminum housing and a one-door reloading mechanism for rapid reloading. In addition, it features a dry-fire lock out to prevent dry firing and advises the user to replace the magazine. For optimum performance, rely on this coil roofer.

Metabo 21-Degree Roofing Nailer (pneumatic)

Maximum PSI: 120

Magazine Capacity: 70

Max. Nail Diameter: 0.148 in.

The Metabo roofing nailer works great for flooring, framing, trusses, windows, and roof decking. At just 7.5 lbs., it’s easy to use all day while still providing the power of the heavier nailers out there. In addition, with the 21-degree feature, it is even more flexible and agile than the Bostitch roofing nailer.

Dewalt 15-Degree Roofing Nailer (cordless)

Maximum PSI: 120

Magazine Capacity: 120

The Dewalt 15-degree Roofing Nailer is a great option for anyone who wants to get a roof installed quickly and easily. The cordless design allows for flexibility when making quick repairs or installing on a hard-to-reach area of the roof. It can install up to 500 nails or 100 sq. ft of shingles on one charge. Its lightweight design makes it easy for DIYers.

Ridgid Roofing Nailer (pneumatic)

Maximum PSI: 300

The Ridgid 15-Degree Roofing Nailer is super user-friendly and has many features that make it easy to use. This nailer possesses industry-leading Fasten Edge technology that allows it to handle any size roofing job. It has an EZ load magazine, a magnetic nail holder, anti-skid plates, and an exhaust diffuser.

All of these roofing nailers cost around $200, and all get the job done right. For more information regarding which nailer to buy, check out your local hardware store.

How to Get the Best Results on Your Roof Replacement

But in the end, to properly nail roofing shingles, you should leave the job to the professionals. At Dreamworx, we have over 30 years of experience as roofing contractors and can ensure your roofing shingles get installed correctly, so you get a roof that lasts.

To get started on your new roof, just reach out to us, and we’ll take care of the rest!

Experience the Dreamworx Difference!

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