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Nails or Staples? The Choice Matters.

Posted November 24, 2017 by Daniel White
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Similar to heated debates between Fords and Chevys, the roofing industry has a history of being split between staples vs. nails. Whether you’re looking to replace your entire roof or a few shingles that have blown away, it’s essential to select the appropriate fastener. 

However, the best fastener depends on four variables:

  • Fastener type
  • Appropriate installation
  • Placement
  • Holding power

These variables that keep your roof together may not seem like much at first, but these variables are the difference between having a literal roof over your head and one being blown away in the next severe storm.

Roof Staples – The Old Way of Doing Things

Roofing staples have had a solid following for many decades. They’re affordable, easier to handle, and have multiple roofing uses. However, staples fail to have sufficient holding power when installing asphalt shingles, and they rarely meet building codes.

Benefits of Using Staples

Roof staples were fairly inexpensive in the past and still remain the cheaper option of the two today. When they only cost between one to three cents per staple, the profit potential made it a clear advantage for many companies.

Staple guns also tended to be less bulky than most nail guns, which made them easier to control. Additionally, many staple guns in the past managed to jam less frequently than their nail counterparts. 

Another benefit of using roof staples in the past is that it was much lighter and easier to carry several sticks of staples than a load of nails.

The lighter weight and increased control meant that companies could complete the job much quicker. Overall, the cheaper cost of materials and potentially quicker turnaround for jobs may have been reason enough for companies to love using staples over roofing nails.

Downsides to Using Roof Staples

However, something changed twenty to thirty years ago. Even with the clear benefits of using roof staples, the cons started to outweigh the pros. 

Some reasons that pushed roofing companies to make the switch include staples:

  • Requiring more skill and focus
  • Having less holding power than roof nails
  • Typically failing building codes
  • Being installed incorrectly

Although the benefits of using staples can help complete the job much quicker, it requires a high level of skill and precision. This is because the poor placement of a single staple can compromise the roof’s integrity.

Even with solid holding power, staples lack lasting strength and durability compared to roof nails. This is especially important if your home is in a high wind area. 

Before starting your next roofing project, it’s always best to speak with your roofing company about any local building codes to ensure you pass inspections. 

Nowadays, most building codes follow similar guidelines with strikingly minimal variations. For example, fasteners for asphalt shingles in Oregon must be stainless steel, galvanized steel, copper or aluminum roofing nails, and other measurement requirements. 

In the past, before requiring roof nails, staples often resulted in many improper installations. The inaccuracy was due to it being difficult for the installer to hold a staple gun perpendicular to the shingle. 

Even though staple guns were easier to control, the inaccurate angles led to insecure shingles. Additionally, staples were easy to under or overdrive. 

This was problematic because under or overdriving staples caused integral issues. A staple that’s underdriven lacks sufficient holding power, and an overdriven staple can damage the shingle or crack in cold weather. 

As mentioned earlier, the poor placement of a roofing staple or inaccurate angle of a staple gun can affect the fastener’s overall durability, strength and integrity. 

Current Industry Recommendations

Today, roof nails are the gold standard across the industry. There’s a reason why the National Roofing Contractors Association recommends using nails over staples—three reasons to be exact. 

Benefits of Roof Nails

Overall, roof nails have stronger and longer holding power over roof staples. Depending on the type, most nails can last between twenty to fifty years, while others could last an entire lifetime. 

Homes in areas prone to severe weather would benefit from using ring-shank copper nails. In addition to using sealants and tape to help fortify roofs, the ring-shank design helps resist wind uplift. Combined with the life expectancy of copper nails, the cost is worth not having to replace or repair the roof every year. 

As briefly mentioned earlier, staple guns come with the risk of being inappropriately installed and misaligned. Fortunately, roof nails offer increased stability, even if the nail gun isn’t held perfectly perpendicular. 

The nail’s round head allows the roofer a margin of error while ensuring that the nail goes to the adjusted depth for maximum stability. Although some locations may vary, most building codes have the same or similar requirements for roof nails. 

A vast majority of building codes require at least a 12-gauge shank and a 3/8 of an inch head diameter. Generally, stainless steel galvanized or coated steel nails will pass local building codes, but depending on your location, you may be able to use copper or aluminum. 

Roof Nail Cons

Roofing nails have a substantially smaller list of cons compared to roofing staples. Nail guns are heavier than staple guns, and they’re more prone to jams.

Even though a lighter weight nail gun is preferable, they’re heavier and bulkier for a reason. In order to maintain durability and strength, the nail must be driven directly into the shingle. 

Although the bulk helps with power and drive, it can get tiring and lead to dropping the nail gun. Unfortunately, frequent drops can cause the nails to deform within the coil and ultimately cause the gun to jam. 

Unlike staple guns, it’s much more difficult to carry additional coils for nail guns and they take longer to reload. However, when comparing the two fasteners, it’s clear to see how the benefits of roof nails heavily outweigh outdated staples. 

These days, the only time roofing staples are superior is when they’re used to secure sheeting or underlayment. For roof repairs or replacement, roof nails beat staples in durability, installation, maintenance, lifetime use, and code compliance. 

Find an Experienced Roofer Near You

Even with the small list of problems, there’s a clear winner to the great debate between staples vs. nails. Roof nails and the continuous innovations in nail gun technology make it the clear choice for long-lasting, high-quality results. 

Get in touch with our roofing specialists today for a lasting roof repair or replacement!

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