Hand Nailing Roof Installation v/s Air Nailing Roof Installation

Hand Nailing Roof Installation vs. Air Nailing Roof Installation

This article provides information about the aspects of each nailing method that will contribute to the final product, the goal of which is a long-lasting substantial roof for your home.


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When you get a new roof installed, one of the main steps in the process is nailing the asphalt shingles onto the wood deck. The roofing contractor will either use hand nailing (with a normal hammer) or air nailing (with a pneumatic air gun) to secure the shingles. There is a debate about which is better–hand nailing or using a pneumatic air gun. Each method has pros and cons.

Your New Jersey roofer, Allied Roofing Solutions, is experienced in roof replacements and roof repairs. We know the different types of nailing that work in securing an asphalt shingle roof in the best way. We have a long track record of successful roof installations with satisfied customers. Understanding the details of your roofing project helps you not only determine the best method but also the best roofing contractor for the work. Read our Homeowner’s Guide to the Roof Replacement Process for more information.

Nail Placement

The placement of the nail on the shingle can’t be emphasized enough as a contributing factor to the durability of the shingles on the roof. Shingles are designed to be nailed in specific locations and the nail must be driven to a certain depth. Deviating from the location or the depth, even a small amount, puts the shingle at risk of allowing water to penetrate it or wind to blow it off the roof. Additionally, the roof warranty can be voided if the inspection determines the reason for the damage was due to incorrect nail placement. Read our certifications that include being an Owen Corning Platinum Preferred Roofing Contractor offering a 50-year warranty.

The sheathing and condition of the wood deck are important factors in deciding how a new roof system should be fastened. After an old roof system is removed, the contractor will inspect the roof deck to see if the sheathing is in good condition or if any of it should be replaced. Damaged wood can’t accept a nail driven into it either with a hammer or a nail gun; therefore, all the damaged wood needs to be replaced.

If a nail gun is used on a roof that has gaps in the sheathing, there can be problems. A nail gun can shoot a nail between the planks in the wood deck and cause the shingle to be improperly fastened. It is difficult to visibly see if the nail hits solid wood because the roof deck is covered by felt paper. A good hand-nail installer can “feel” a nail miss the wood sheathing while nail gun operators have to hear it miss and use their intuition. A high-quality roof installer will inspect the roof sheathing after it is removed to assess whether nail misses are likely to occur. When this is the case, hand nailing is the preferred method.

Pros and Cons of Hand Nailing Shingles

Hand nailing is the most traditional method of installing shingles. The biggest benefit of using the hand-nailing method occurs when the contractor is experienced and able to feel where each nail is placed and how firmly it is secured. An experienced roofing contractor knows when there is an error and how to fix it. Hand nailing often allows the roofer to be more accurate in the placement of the nails. When you have a seasoned roofing contractor, they can move quickly through the fastening process.

You need a roofing contractor who has a lot of experience to do a proper hand-nailing job. If the roofer doesn’t have the depth of experience needed, they may not be knowledgeable of the nail placement or the depth the nail should go, resulting in an inexperienced roofer being more likely to make mistakes that cause serious issues in the future. Hand nailing may be more expensive than using air guns due to the roofer needing to be more experienced and possibly taking a bit longer.

Pros and Cons of Air Nailing Shingles

Air nailing is when the roofer uses a pressurized, pneumatic nail gun to shoot nails through the shingles and sheathing. The primary benefit of using a nail gun is to secure shingles with speed and consistency. Pneumatic air guns operate at a faster rate than human nailing. When the trigger is pulled, a blast of air propels the nail into the roof, then another nail is immediately loaded into the chamber and is ready to fire. This reduces the risk of nails dropping onto the roof and ground below during the process. It also reduces the risk of the worker hitting their fingers when nailing the shingle.

The nail gun isn’t without its challenges. Theoretically, the nail gun may be easier to use than manual nailing. There are two things the roofer needs to know to fasten shingles effectively. 1) The roofer needs to know how to adjust the gun to use the right amount of air pressure so that the nails are driven in at the correct depth on the first try. 2) The roofer also needs to know how much the gun will kick. This is important so that the nail doesn’t miss the mark on where it should be nailed down.

Both methods are accurate as long as it is done right. As stated earlier, nail placement is limited to a very small area on the shingle. When nails are placed outside this area, you can have problems down the road that can affect the manufacturer’s warranty and premature roof failure. The key to each method is accuracy.

A contractor who is experienced with hand nailing will be very accurate, whereas an inexperienced roofer will be less likely to have the same accuracy. By the same token, an inexperienced contractor using an air gun will also be vulnerable to incorrect nail placement. All things taken into account, a seasoned contractor with either method will have the accuracy required for a good roof replacement or roof repair.

A roof replacement can usually be done in a day, depending on the size and complexity of your roof. Read our article on how long it takes to replace a roof for more information. Can it take less time by using an air gun? Yes, the air gun seems like it should be faster and, it is because of the ability to pull the trigger and move quickly to the next shingle. However, an experienced, well-trained hand nailer can do it almost as fast. The hand nailing offers the chance to be more accurate.

pressure when nailing

Using the Right Pressure During Roof Installation

Using the correct amount of pressure when nailing the shingles is extremely important so the nails aren’t too high, causing a hump in the shingle above it. This situation can let wind get under the shingles so that they lift and blow off. Over a period of time, the nails can rub through the top shingle creating a “nail pop.” This is when the nail pops through the shingle, which leads to a leak. Adversely, when too much pressure is used, the nails can be over-driven. This means the nails have been nailed too deep, which can cause the shingles to potentially slide down the roof and blow off.

An experienced hand nailer can feel the pressure while nailing and is less likely to apply too little or too much pressure. An air gun’s pressure is regulated by a compressor that is on the ground during roof installation. The air pressure should be adjusted periodically during the project to maintain the correct level of pressure for the existing conditions such as weather, wood variations, shingle type, and so forth. This requires the roofer to get off the roof to adjust the pressure on the compressor as conditions change. A great roofing contractor uses the correct installation methods with air gun nailing.

Talk to Your Roofing Contractor About Which Installation Method They Use

It’s important to talk to the roofing contractor about which installation method they use and prefer–hand nailing or air gun nailing. More than the tools and method they use, it’s the experience level that is what matters the most. An inexperienced and ill-trained contractor is more likely to place their nails incorrectly regardless of whether using a hammer or a nail gun. You need a roofer that has produced years of quality results for many customers! Read our article with tips to find a great roofing contractor.

Contact Allied Roofing Solutions for a Quality Roof Replacement

If you are getting your roof replaced and want the best quality possible in both materials and workmanship, call the knowledgeable team at Allied Roofing Solutions! You can look to us for expert advice and guidance. We will explain the details of all aspects of the installation process. We serve New Jersey residents in Bergen County, Essex County, Hudson County, Middlesex County, Morris County, Passaic County, and Somerset County. Call us at  (201) 773-0633 or complete our easy-to-use contact form to schedule a free estimate.