How to Use a Roofing Nailer Like a Pro

With the rare exceptions of Spanish tile or metal, asphalt shingles decorate most residential buildings. These shingles are held in place with short, wired, flat head roofing nails driven in by a roofing nail. Nailers are available in two versions – coil and stick – which can be used in different applications.


There’s no shortage of discussion about which type works best, so preference really seems to matter. However, coil roofing nailers are predominantly used for roofing for several reasons. These include cheaper nails, full head nails, more nail selection (smooth, ardox, galvanized), longer working hours before reloading, and the ability to carry the nails in the gun instead of in a pocket. So when you need to install shingles there are a few important things you need to know as the use of nailers results in tens of thousands of injuries every year. How to use a roofer like a pro.

How to Use a Roofing Nailer Safely

We say it all the time, but it has to be repeated: wear eye protection. You will eventually shoot nails. And of course there is an inherent danger in using a roofer’s nail in it you are on a roof. The first roof rule: don’t fall off. As you will read in number 7 below, it is also very important that you know the dangers associated with the shock / contact mode.

You also want to be mindful of fall and ladder safety and comply with OSHA guidelines. This is especially true if you are working on a larger construction site and not for yourself.

Use the correct air compressor

Roofers can shoot up to ten nails per second in some cases. That takes a lot of air. You might not need the best air compressor, but these smaller pancake models probably won’t keep up. Make sure you have a compressor that at least meets the manufacturer’s air consumption specifications.

If you plan on running two guns at the same time, a large enough compressor will ensure that you will not misfire when two guns are firing at the same time. When leading a crew it works twice.

Ridgid MobilAir 8 Gallon Air CompressorYou need more than one pancake compressor to use a roofing nailer effectively – especially if the crew is using more than one at a time.

Loading a roofer nailer

To load the canister onto a roofer, open the feed door and the magazine door. They typically open in opposite directions to expose the entire nail advance path. Remove any rubber bands or brackets that might surround the coil of nails.

Next, place the coil in the canister with the nails facing down. Unwind only the very end of the coil so that the first nail is positioned in the barrel.

Duo-Fast DFCR175C cordless roof coil nailer - nailsCoil nailers charge immediately, whether pneumatic, gas or battery operated.

When switching from longer nails to shorter nails (like nailing eaves that the nails might be showing), check the plastic “floor” underneath where the nails sit. This round platform should raise and lower (often by rotating) to get the nails in the correct position for shooting. Finally, close both doors.

DeWalt DWF83PT 30 degree frame nailerTest a few shots before getting into a rhythm to make sure the depth setting is correct.

To ensure a perfect result, you can also adjust the shot power by adjusting the depth near the tip of the tool. If you make any of these settings, make sure that the air supply to the tool is cut twice. When using gas or battery operated roof nails, this means the battery. Finally, give him a test shot before trying to quickly shoot nails into your shingles.

Adjust the exhaust deflector

Roofers emit a puff of air after driving in each nail. Usually this is not a problem. However, some roofing nailers have a dual function as siding nailers from the ground or up a ladder. If your nailer has an adjustable deflector in this case, you may want to move it away from your face to avoid the explosion.

Hitachi NV65AH2

Set the shot mode

Nailers usually have two modes of shooting: single action and a bump / contact mode. Single action drives a nail every time you pull the trigger. In push / contact mode, you can use the roofer to drive. Nail every time the head comes into contact with the work surface.

This firing mode is more dangerous as you could fire unintentionally. The rapid puff of air that drives each nail also causes recoil. This recoil can shift the gun shortly after a nail is fired. This can cause you to fire a nail where you might not want it to be. These double shots happen to everyone from time to time, but they are an especially annoying problem for new users.

Butt / contact allows work to be done quickly and is used by most professional roofers. You just need to understand the danger it poses until you fully understand the tool and build some muscle memory.

DeWalt DWF83PT 30 degree frame nailerMany nailers let you switch between bump and sequential fire modes.

Pro tip: Before firing a new nailer, test it on some scrap to get an idea of ​​how much recoil to expect before you climb onto the roof!

Fire up and find your rhythm

Professional roofers are laying shingles at seemingly superhuman speed. In the end, it’s really about finding a rhythm. Building muscle memory as you repeat the same cycle over and over again does wonders for increasing speed naturally and safely. Don’t go faster than you can, find a pace at which you have both control and efficiency in learning your craft.

Bonus: using a clapboard guide

The clapboard guide is like a template for the clapboard to ensure that the nails are all the same distance from the edge of the previous clapboard. Most professionals throw this away, but it can be helpful for those who are just starting out.

Summary of our guide to using a roofing nailer

If you use a roofer a lot, you will find that the drivers are among the most expensive parts on a roofer because they don’t sit flat on worn nail heads. The good news is that you can grind a driver two or three times before it becomes too short and needs to be replaced.

We hope you’ve picked up some tips on how to use a roofing nail like a pro. If you’re a pro and have roofing tips, add them in the comments below – or share them with everyone on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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