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Hand Nailing Roof Installation vs. Air Nailing Roof Installation

October 24th, 2022 | 5 min. read

Hand Nailing Roof Installation vs. Air Nailing Roof Installation

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You'll make a lot of decisions when it's time for a new roof. There are big decisions like hiring a roofing contractor and choosing the right roofing material. 

But there are some smaller decisions that are important as well. One of these decisions is choosing the installation method. 

There's an age-old argument of whether hand nailing or air gun nailing (pneumatic nailing) is the better roof installation method. While they both do the job, each installation method comes with pros and cons.

For over 30 years, the team at Bill Ragan Roofing has provided homeowners with the information needed to make the right decisions. That's why I'll break down what you need to know about both roof installation methods. 

This article answers the following questions:

  • Which roof installation method is more accurate?
  • Which roof installation is quicker
  • Which roofing installation method costs more?
  • Why is applying the right pressure crucial?
  • Problems with air gun nailing pressure

Which roof installation method is more accurate?

Nail placement is limited to a very small area on the shingle. Placing a nail outside of this area causes problems, including voiding the manufacturer's warranty and premature roof failure.

The key difference between the two roof installation methods is accuracy. Placing the nail correctly with air guns can be hard without experience.

On the other hand, hand driving nails into shingles allows the roofing contractor to place the nail on the proper nail line and then drive the nail in. This ensures that the nails are properly placed each and every time.

Just know that hand nailing doesn’t always necessarily equal quality craftsmanship. Both installation methods are accurate as long as it's done right. 

However, hand nailing just ensures each nail is hand placed before each shingle is installed. 

Which roof installation method is quicker?

Depending on the size and complexity of your roof, a replacement can usually be done in a day. Most homeowners think that this is only possible because of air gun nailing. 

But while air gun nailing may seem faster, a well-trained and experienced hand nailer can do it almost as fast. Now, you may have noticed I said "almost".

This is simply due to the fact that air nailing allows the installers to pull the trigger a few times and move on to the next shingle. But remember, hand nailing gives your roofing contractor the chance to be more accurate. 

Which roof installation costs more?

Now on to the question that impacts most homeowners decisions, pricing. Unfortunately, I can't give you an cost for each installation method because each roofing contractor has their own pricing. 

But what I can tell you is that hand nailing will cost more than air gun nailing. You can expect hand nailing to cost around $50.00 to $80.00 more per square (100 square feet of roof area) than air gun nailing.

The reason hand nailing costs more simply comes down to the labor, time, and skill it takes to do right. Anyone can pull the trigger of an air gun, but hand nailing is a skill that takes time and a lot of practice to learn. 

Why is applying the right pressure during roof installation crucial?

Not applying the right amount of pressure during installation leaves the nails too high and causes a hump in the shingle above it. This can lead to wind getting under the shingles causing them to lift and potentially blow off. 

Overtime, the nails can rub through the top shingle causing a nail "pop" (the nail "pops" through) which leads to a leak.

On the other hand, too much pressure leads to the nails being "over-driven" or "blown through". This means the nails have been blown too deep which will cause the shingles to potentially slide down the roof or blow off because they aren't held down.

The great thing about hand nailing is that the installers can feel the pressure while nailing. Because of this, it's not as common to have nails that have been over-driven when hand nailing.  

This is especially useful when installing shingles over the roof's decking because a lot of the nails get driven between the wood without hitting anything solid. Hand nailers can feel when this happens and make corrections as they go.

How is pressure handled for air gun nailing?

While hand nailers can feel and have control when hammering nails, air guns don't have the same feeling. The pressure in air guns is regulated by an air compressor that remains on the ground during installation.

The pressure must be adjusted often to maintain the right level of pressure suited to the conditions the roofer is working in, such as weather conditions, wood variations, shingle type, etc. This means that the roofer must get off the roof to adjust the pressure on the compressor for the different conditions.

Unfortunately, some roofing contractors set the compressor way too high to save themselves from having to get up and down off of the roof. The problem with this is that the nails get blown through the shingles, which leads to problems down the road.  

But as long as you hire a great roofing contractor that uses correct installation methods, you should have no problem with air gun nailing. 

Ask a roofing contractor what roofing installation method they use

Now that you have a better understanding of the air gun nailing and hand nailing debate, you’re ready to start the process of hiring a roofing contractor. But did you know which method they use is a question every homeowner should ask?

If you didn't, you're not alone. Asking what nailing method they use is just of the main questions every homeowner needs to ask.

That's why I wrote another article containing the rest of the questions you need to ask a roofing contractor. 

The team at Bill Ragan Roofing has provided high-quality roof replacements in Nashville and surrounding Middle Tennessee areas since 1990. Our high-quality workmanship and customer service speaks for itself, which is why we offer a lifetime warranty. I

f you’re local to Nashville or a surround Middle Tennessee area, don't hesitate to Contact Us for all of your roofing needs. 

To learn the questions every homeowner should ask a potential roofing contractor, check out this article on the Top 8 Questions To Ask A Roofing Contractor.

roofing contractor questions checklist

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