How to Use a Roofing Nailer Like a Pro
With the rare exceptions of Spanish tile or metal, asphalt shingles cover most residential buildings. These shingles are held in place with short, flat-headed, wire-bonded roofing nails driven by a roofing nail. Nail machines come in two varieties – coil and stick – that can be used in different applications.
There’s no shortage of debate about which type works best, so it seems like it really comes down to preference. However, coil roof nails are overwhelmingly used for roofing for a variety of reasons. These include cheaper nails, full head nails, more choice of nails (smooth, ardox, galvanized), longer run time before reloading, and the ability to carry the nails in the gun rather than in a pouch. So if you need to install shingles, there are some important things to know as using a nailer leads to tens of thousands of injuries every year. Here’s how to use a roof nailer like a pro.
How to use a roof nailer safely?
We say it all the time, but it needs to be repeated: wear eye protection. After all, you’re going to be shooting nails. And of course there is an inherent danger in using a roof nailer in it you are on a roof. The first rule of rooftops: don’t fall off. As you’ll read in issue 7 below, it’s also very important to know the dangers associated with bump/contact mode.
You also want to pay attention to fall and ladder safety and adhere to OSHA guidelines. This is especially true if you work on a larger site and not for yourself.
Use the right air compressor
Roof nailers can fire up to ten nails per second in some cases. That takes a lot of air. You may not need the best air compressor, but those smaller pancake models probably won’t keep up. Make sure you have a compressor that meets or exceeds the manufacturer’s air consumption specifications.
If you plan on working with two guns at once, a large enough compressor will make sure you don’t miss out when two guns fire at the same time. When running a crew, this goes double.
Loading a roof nailer
To load the bus onto a roof nailer, open the input door and the warehouse door. They usually open in opposite directions, exposing the entire path of the nail nourishment. Remove any rubber bands or retainers that may be surrounding the nails.
Then place the coil in the socket with the nails facing down. Unwind only the end of the coil so that the first nail enters the barrel.
If you’re switching from longer to shorter nails (such as when nailing eaves that can show the nails), check the plastic “floor” under where the nails are. This round platform has to go up and down (often by turning it) to get the spikes in the right position to fire. Finally, close both doors.
To get a perfect result, you can also adjust the firing power by a depth adjustment at the nose of the tool. When making any of these adjustments, make sure you disconnect the air supply to the tool. This translates into battery when using gas or battery powered roofing nailers. Finally, give it a test shot before trying to quickly drive nails into your shingles.
Adjust the exhaust deflector:
Roof nailers expel a burst of air after driving each nail. Usually this isn’t a problem, but some roofing nails do double duty as siding nails from the ground or a ladder. In that case, if your nailer has an adjustable deflector, you may want to point it away from your face to avoid the blast.
Set fire mode
Nailers usually have two firing modes: single action and a punch/contact mode. A single action drives one nail every time you pull the trigger. In impact/contact mode, you can use the roof nailer to drive. nail each time the head comes into contact with the work surface.
This shooting mode brings more danger because you can shoot unintentionally. The rapid blast of air that drives each nail also causes kickback. This recoil can shift the gun just after firing a nail. That could end up firing a nail where you might not want it. These double shots happen to everyone from time to time, but are a particularly nagging problem for new users.
Bump/contact makes for quick work and most professional roofers use it. You just need to understand the danger it poses until you fully understand the tool and build some muscle memory.
Pro tip: Before you run into a new nailer, test it on some scrap wood to get an idea of how much kickback you can expect before you climb on the roof!
Fire away and find your rhythm
Professional roofers install shingles at seemingly superhuman speed. In the end, it’s all about finding a rhythm. Building muscle memory while repeating the same cycle over and over does wonders for increasing speed naturally and safely. Don’t go faster than you can, rather find a pace where you have both control and efficiency as you learn your craft.
Bonus: Using a Pebble Guide
The clapboard guide is like a jig for the clapboards to make sure the nails are all the same distance from the edge of the previous clapboard. Most pros throw this one out, but it can be useful for those just starting out.
Finishing our guide to using a roof nailer
If you have frequent use of a roofing nailer, you will find that drivers are among the most expensive replacement parts on a roofing nailer because they do not allow worn nail heads to sit flat. The good news is you can grind a driver two or three times before it becomes too short and needs to be replaced.
We hope you got some tips on how to use a roof nailer like a pro. If you’re a pro and you have roofing tips, please add them in the comments below – or share them with everyone on facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.