What nail is right for your roof?

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What nail is right for your roof?

The Ultimate Guide to Roofing Nails

Roofing nails (also known as roof fasteners) are used to fasten roofing material to the roofing felt and the deck of the structure.

Choosing the right nail for your new roof installation is not as easy as it might seem. They come in various types and sizes, and your selection will ultimately depend on the project, budget, salt exposure and life expectancy of the roof. Some roofing nails last a lifetime, while others have a 20- to 50-year lifespan.

Let’s go over the various types of nails and when you should use them.

Copper Roofing Nails

Copper roofing nails are the most expensive option by far, but they will last a lifetime. Due to their cost, we do not recommend using them for your typical asphalt shingle roof application.

Copper nails are best utilized when you are installing a lifetime roofing product, such as a clay, slate, tile or copper roof.

Stainless Steel Roofing Nails

This is the best nail to choose if you are installing a wood-shake or wood shingle roof. Stainless steel nails withstand all mineral reactions, from the wood itself to the lead in the rainwater. They are available in various grades:

  1. Stainless Steel Nails from Home Depot or Lowes – These are the bottom of the barrel in terms of quality. We only recommend them for indoor use or somewhere that the nail is not exposed to the elements.
  2. Type 304 Stainless Steel Nails – These are the middle of the road and also only recommended for indoor use, as they are rust-resistant but not rust-proof.
  3. Type 316 Stainless Steel Nails – These are what you should be using on any new roof build involving an exterior wood product. 316 nails have elements of nickel, polymer and chromium, which prevent them from rusting. The composition is so high-grade that you can use the nails in the ocean and they still won’t rust. That is just incredible!

Aluminum Roofing Nails

The benefit of aluminum is that it will not chemically react with a cedar shingle. Wood roofs and aluminum roofs are probably the only time you should consider using this nail.

Galvanized Roofing Nails

Galvanized roofing nails should be the standard choice for almost everyone reading this article. It is what we recommend using for all asphalt shingle roofs.

Galvanization is the most widely used method of protecting metal from corrosion. Zinc coating is applied to base metal (usually steel) to protect it from the elements. It is the most cost-effective alternative to the superior stainless steel or copper options.

There are two main types of galvanized nails to choose from:

  1. Hot-dipped galvanized (HDG) – These are steel nails that have been dipped in a molten pool of zinc. This is usually the most cost-effective method of galvanization.
  2. Electrogalvanized Nails – These roofing nails receive their zinc coating through an electrical current solution, which attaches zinc ions to the base metal.

Nail Shank Types

Smooth Shank Nail

Without any ridges on its shank, this is the easiest nail to drive into your roof. However, it is also the easiest nail to pull back out of your roof, which isn’t good.

Smooth Shank Nail
Smooth Nail Shank

Spiral Shank Nail

As its name implies, this shank is a spiral thread that is able to spin and lock during installation, thereby increasing the withdrawal capacity. These nails are designed to drive easier into harder materials while also providing a better withdrawal resistance than a smooth shank.

Spiral Shank Nail
Spiral Nail Shank

Annular Ring Shank Nail

This nail is composed of many rings, as can be seen below. Together, these rings create an intricate interlocking system, which gives this nail one of the best withdrawal resistances.

Annular Ring Shank Nail
Annular Ring Shank

Size is Important!

Another important factor to consider is the length of the nail shank. Most applications require a length between 1-2 inches (2-5 cm), but the length ultimately depends on the material you are installing and the width of your roofing deck.

Ninety percent of the people reading this article are likely installing an asphalt shingle roofing system and will want to use 1-inch nails. Wood roofing systems are thicker and will require longer nails.

To determine the correct length, we suggest measuring the width of your roofing deck and reviewing the manufacturer’s instructions for the roofing material you are using.

Felt Nails/Steel Cap Nails/Button Caps

These nails have many different names depending on where you live, but they all serve the same purpose: to attach the roofing felt to the deck. Almost all of these nails are composed of electrogalvanized steel. However, the material is not super important because this nail will not be exposed to the elements.

Felt Nails (Button Caps)

Do you have more questions about which nail is best for your project? Leave a comment below or send us an e-mail. We are happy to point you in the right direction.

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