How to Choose the Right Roofing Nails (Based on the Types, Size and Best Practices)

There are many types of roofing nails, and each one serves a specific purpose. Here, we’ll look at the different types of roofing nails and how to choose the right one for your project.

What to consider when choosing roofing nails

When choosing roofing nails, there are several factors to consider:

1. Material

Roofing nails are typically made from galvanized steel, stainless steel, or aluminum. Galvanized steel nails are the most common and provide good durability and corrosion resistance. Stainless steel nails offer superior corrosion resistance, making them suitable for coastal or high-moisture areas. Aluminum nails are lightweight but less durable.

2. Length

The length of the nails should be appropriate for the roofing material and thickness. They should be long enough to penetrate through the roofing material, underlayment, and into the roof deck.

3. Shank type

Roofing nails are available in smooth shank and ring shank varieties. Ring shank nails have small rings along the shank, which provide better holding power and resistance to pulling out compared to smooth shank nails.

4. Head type

Common head types for roofing nails include flat heads and large-headed nails. Flat heads sit flush with the roofing material, while large-headed nails provide better holding power.

5. Gauge

The gauge refers to the thickness or diameter of the nail. Thicker nails generally offer greater strength and holding power. Common gauges for roofing nails are 11, 12, and 13.

6. Roofing material compatibility

Consider the specific type of roofing material you’re using (e.g., asphalt shingles, metal, or wood) and ensure that the nails are suitable for that material. Some roofing materials may require specific types of nails for optimal performance and warranty compliance.

7. Manufacturer’s recommendations

Always refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines and recommendations for the roofing material you are installing. They may provide specific nail requirements or restrictions that should be followed to ensure proper installation and warranty coverage.

8. Local building codes

Check your local building codes and regulations, as they may specify certain requirements for roofing nails in your area.

Different types of roofing nails and their benefits

  • Galvanized nails: Galvanized roofing nails are coated with a layer of zinc to enhance their corrosion resistance. They are affordable, widely available, and suitable for most roofing applications. The galvanized coating helps protect the nails from rust and extends their lifespan.
  • Stainless steel nails: Stainless steel roofing nails offer excellent corrosion resistance and are particularly suitable for areas with high moisture or coastal environments. They are highly durable and maintain their strength and appearance over time.
  • Copper nails: Copper roofing nails are known for their exceptional corrosion resistance and aesthetic appeal. They develop a natural patina over time, blending well with copper roofing materials. Copper nails are commonly used for historical restoration projects or when a specific aesthetic is desired.
  • Metal cap nails: Metal cap nails have a round or square metal disc attached to the nail head. The metal cap provides additional protection against water infiltration, making them suitable for low-slope or flat roofs. They offer improved sealing and can help prevent leaks.
  • Square cap nails: Square cap nails have a square-shaped plastic or metal cap attached to the nail head. Like metal cap nails, they provide extra protection against water penetration and are often used in low-slope roofing applications.
  • Plastic cap nails: Plastic cap nails feature a plastic disc attached to the nail head. They are lightweight and cost-effective. Plastic cap nails are commonly used in asphalt shingle roofing installations, where they provide additional grip and help secure the shingles in place.
  • Ring shank coil nails: Ring shank coil nails have small rings along the shank, providing excellent holding power. They are often used in high-wind or storm-prone areas, as the ring shank design enhances the nail’s resistance to pulling out.
  • Screw shank nails: Screw shank nails have a twisted shank that resembles a screw, providing superior holding power and resistance to withdrawal. They are commonly used in heavy-duty roofing applications, such as installing metal roofing or attaching roof sheathing.
  • Smooth shank nails: Smooth shank nails have a plain, smooth surface without any ridges or rings. While they may not offer the same holding power as ring shank or screw shank nails, they are still suitable for many roofing applications, especially when combined with appropriate nail length and gauge.

What are the different sizes and shapes of roofing nails?

Nail SizeShank GaugeShank Diameter (inches)Shank Length (inches)Head Diameter (inches)

This table provides a comparison of various roofing nail sizes, including their shank gauge, shank diameter, shank length, and head diameter.

  • Shank diameter: The shank diameter refers to the thickness or width of the nail shaft. It is typically measured in gauge numbers, with lower gauge numbers indicating thicker nails. Common shank diameters for roofing nails range from 10 to 12 gauge, with 10 gauge being the thickest.
  • Head diameter: The head diameter refers to the width of the nail head. The size of the nail head is important because it determines its holding power and how well it sits flush with the roofing material. The head diameter can vary depending on the type and manufacturer, but common sizes for roofing nails range from approximately 3/8 inch to 1/2 inch.

Can a roofing nail be too long?

A roofing nail can be too long. Using nails that are too long can result in the nail penetrating through the roof deck or causing damage to the underlying structure.

It is important to use nails of an appropriate length that can securely fasten the roofing material without protruding excessively.

Following the manufacturer’s recommendations and guidelines for the specific roofing material being installed is crucial to ensuring proper nail length and preventing potential issues.

What are the risks of using the wrong-sized roofing nails?

Using the wrong size roofing nails can pose several risks:

  • Inadequate holding power: Nails that are too short may not provide enough holding power to secure the roofing material properly. This can result in loose or shifting roofing, increasing the risk of leaks, wind damage, and premature wear.
  • Protrusion or penetration: Nails that are too long can penetrate through the roof deck or protrude excessively from the surface of the roofing material. This can create a hazard for workers and potentially cause injury. Additionally, protruding nails can compromise the integrity of the roof system, leading to leaks and structural damage.
  • Damage to underlying structures: If the nails are too long, they can penetrate through the roof deck and damage underlying structures, such as insulation, wiring, or ductwork. This can lead to costly repairs and compromised functionality of these systems.
  • Warranty and insurance issues: Using incorrect nail sizes may violate manufacturer warranties or roofing material installation guidelines. In case of roof damage or failure, warranty coverage or insurance claims could be denied if improper nails were used.
  • Aesthetics and resale value: Using the wrong size nails can affect the appearance of the roof. Protruding nails or uneven roofing material can diminish the curb appeal of the property and potentially impact its resale value.

Should roofing nails be smooth or ring-shank?

The choice between smooth-shank and ring-shank roofing nails depends on various factors.

Smooth shank nails, although not as strong as ring shank nails, are more affordable, easier to drive, and available in materials like copper, aluminum, stainless steel, or galvanized carbon steel.

As the standard, cheapest, and most commonly used roofing nails, smooth shank nails are a popular choice for many roofing applications.

Smooth shank nails are available in various materials, including copper, aluminum, stainless steel, and galvanized carbon steel.

This wide range of material options allows for flexibility in choosing nails that are compatible with specific roofing materials and environmental conditions. For example, stainless steel nails provide excellent corrosion resistance, while copper nails offer aesthetic appeal and exceptional durability.

Due to their affordability, ease of installation, and widespread availability, smooth shank nails have become the standard choice for many roofing applications.

They are commonly used in residential and commercial roofing projects, including the installation of asphalt shingles, wooden shakes, and other roofing materials.

While smooth shank nails may not offer the same level of holding power as ring shank nails, they still provide adequate stability and reliability when properly installed.

Do different types of shingles require different types of roofing nails?

Different types of shingles may require different types of roofing nails.

Manufacturers often provide specific recommendations for the type, length, and gauge of nails to use with their shingles.

This ensures proper installation and helps maintain the integrity and warranty of the roofing system.

What type of roofing nail is best for roofing?

Galvanized roofing nails are often considered the best choice for roofing applications.

These nails are coated with a layer of zinc, providing excellent corrosion resistance.

The galvanized coating helps protect the nails from rust and extends their lifespan, ensuring long-lasting performance in various weather conditions.

Galvanized roofing nails are widely available, cost-effective, and suitable for most roofing materials, making them a popular and reliable option.

Can you use screws instead of nails for roof shingles?

While screws can be used for certain roofing applications, using screws instead of nails for roof shingles is generally not recommended.

Shingles are typically designed to be installed with roofing nails, and using screws may not provide the same level of holding power or proper attachment.

Also, screws can potentially create puncture points or interfere with the natural expansion and contraction of the shingles due to temperature changes.

Can roofing cement replace roofing nails?

Roofing cement is not meant to replace roofing nails as a primary means of attachment.

Roofing cement, also known as roofing adhesive or mastic, is typically used as a secondary sealant to enhance the waterproofing and durability of the roof.

It is commonly applied in areas such as valleys, flashing, or around roof penetrations.

While roofing cement can provide additional reinforcement, it is not designed to be a substitute for proper nail attachment.

How are roofing nails supposed to be hammered on a roof?

Roofing nails should be hammered into the roof using a hammer or pneumatic nail gun specifically designed for roofing applications.

The nails should be driven straight and perpendicular to the roof surface, ensuring a secure and flush attachment.

Care should be taken to avoid overdriving the nails, which can damage the roofing material, or underdriving them, which may result in loose or ineffective fastening.

How do you seal exposed nails?

Exposed nails can be sealed to enhance waterproofing and protect against potential leaks.

This is typically done by applying roofing cement or a compatible sealant over the exposed nail heads.

The sealant is carefully applied to cover the entire nail head, creating a watertight barrier. 

You need to periodically inspect the roof and reapply sealant as needed to maintain its effectiveness.

What are the best practices for installing roofing nails?

When installing roofing nails, it is crucial to follow best practices to ensure a secure and long-lasting roof.

Some key considerations include using the appropriate length, gauge, and type of nails recommended by the roofing material manufacturer.

Nails should be driven into the designated areas of the roofing material, such as the nail strip or designated nailing zones.

You must exercise proper spacing and placement of nails, following local building codes and industry standards, to ensure even and consistent attachment across the roof.

How many nails per roofing square?

The recommended number of nails per roofing square can vary depending on the specific roofing material being used.

As a general guideline, asphalt shingles typically require four nails per shingle and five nails per starter shingle, while other roofing materials may have different requirements.

That’s roughly 320 nails per roofing square.

It is essential to consult the manufacturer’s guidelines or specific instructions for the roofing material being installed to determine the appropriate number of nails per roofing square.

Are all roofing nails resistant to rust?

Not all roofing nails are inherently resistant to rust. However, certain types of roofing nails are specifically designed and treated to be more resistant to rust and corrosion.

Galvanized roofing nails, for example, are coated with a layer of zinc that provides enhanced rust resistance.

Stainless steel roofing nails are another option that offers excellent resistance to rust due to their inherent corrosion-resistant properties.

How often should roofing nails be replaced?

The frequency of replacing roofing nails depends on various factors, including the type of roofing material, environmental conditions, and the quality of the nails themselves.

If properly installed, roofing nails should not need frequent replacement. However, over time, nails may experience wear and corrosion, which can compromise their holding power and effectiveness.

It is advisable to periodically inspect the roof for signs of nail damage or deterioration during routine maintenance. If any nails are found to be loose, rusted, or damaged, they should be promptly replaced to maintain the integrity of the roof.

Also, after severe weather events such as storms or high winds, it’s a good practice to inspect the roof for any potential nail damage and address it accordingly.

Are roofing nails expensive?

Smooth shank nails are typically more affordable than specialized nails like ring shank or stainless steel nails.

Usually, a 5-pound box of smooth shank nails can cost around $16.

The cost of roofing nails also depends on the scale of the roofing project. For smaller residential projects, the cost of nails is typically minimal compared to the overall roofing expenses.

However, for larger commercial projects or specialized roofing systems, the number of nails required can contribute to the overall cost.

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Author: Logan

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