What to Look for in a Pro Roofing Nailer
It’s a safe bet that most nails driven on a construction site today weren’t put there by a hammer. Framing and Roofing nailers have made the job faster and easier, so it’s no surprise they get put in the game while hammers ride the bench—at least for the bulk of the work. Our best framing nailer shootout lets you see which framing nailers performed the best. Whereas framing nailers drive longer, smaller-headed nails from a collated stick to fasten lumber, roofing nailers drive shorter, larger-headed nails from a collated coil to fasten shingles, house wraps, and siding. Some framers prefer coil framing nailers, but in our neck of the woods stick nailers rule supreme. There’s not a huge amount of variability among these nailers, but some features might lead you to choose one over another. This article covers features and what to look for in a Pro roofing nailer.
Quick Article Summary
- Weight matters
- Check balance and grip
- Depth of drive should be easy to set
- Dry fire lockout reduces wear and wasted time
- Look for tool- and trigger-free mode adjustment
- Check the trigger pull force
- Does it include an NPT connector?
The Weighting Is The Hardest Part
Talk to Pros and they will tell you that weight is the most important consideration when choosing a roofing nailer. Securing shingles and siding is an all day or multiple day job. If the tool is heavy, the work is brutal. It’s not only the tool weight, but the user also needs to pick up and hold heavy materials in place for nailing, which adds to the fatigue of the job.
Coil roofing nailers have a large fastener capacity than other nailer types, but that’s a double-edged sword: work doesn’t have to stop to reload nearly as often as with a stick or framing nailer, but that means the nailer will be heavier, especially at the beginning of the coil. Therefore, the nailer itself needs to be as light as possible. As long as the nailer is acceptably light and drives nails with few (if any) jams, then the other features are secondary. Yet those features can make the job easier or a lack of them harder, so let’s take a look.
What to Look for in a Pro Roofing Nailer
Besides being light overall, a nailer should be well-balanced from the head through the handle. Having a forward-leaning tool may be OK for the roof, but a better-balanced system will make siding much easier.
Having a tool in hand all day also necessitates a comfortable grip. Many of these tools have decent overmold grips, but Ridgid’s Hex Grip stands out to us as an exceptional design.
Depth of Drive Adjustment
Is the fastener depth easy to read and change? It should be. While mostly trial and error, due to variable air supply levels, you need the ability to easily dial in the nail depth. If the manufacturer provides a thumb wheel, ensure that it works well both with and without gloves.
Dry Fire Lockout
This feature prevents the nailer from firing when it doesn’t have a nail to drive. Many manufacturers include this feature because it avoids unnecessary wear. It also eliminates the frustration of firing a sequence of nails only to later discover the board, shingle, or material isn’t actually fastened.
All nailers have a single action mode where one nail is driven for each trigger pull, but some also have a bump fire mode that allows a nail to be driven each time the nailer’s nose is depressed as long as the trigger remains pulled. Bump fire can make work much faster, but a slight danger lurks in the increased speed: if the nailer recoils and then fires, it’s possible to shoot multiple nails through the same hole, causing a potential jam.
Roofing nailers accommodate a range of nail lengths, and the nail basket/magazine should move easily up and down. This adjustment ensures the nails feed smoothly and in alignment with the firing mechanism.
Trigger Pull Force
A roofer will drive hundreds of nails per day with a roofing nailer. The repetitive force of the trigger pull can add up to fatigue and pain over time. This is especially true in single action firing mode. It’s important that the trigger pull force is light. For bump fire, you’re holding the trigger down, so a high spring tension will also work against you.
Jam Release Latch
The nailer should seldom jam when it is properly maintained. When it does, the jam release latch should open easily to clear the jam and get back to work. Tool-free options are definitely the way to go.
Many nailers have an adjustable exhaust vent that deflects the burst of air that accompanies a drive. Otherwise, the repetitive burst might become annoying to the user.
Pneumatic or Cordless
A majority of roofing nailers are pneumatic, but a few have lithium-ion batteries with gas canisters for cordless/hoseless operation. The trade-off for cordless operation is often cost and a heavier nailer. However, these are helpful for smaller jobs or punch list work where dragging out the compressor and hoses is inefficient.
Swivel Quick Connector
A small convenience on pneumatic nailers is a swivel air connection which allows easier hose movement.
Roofing nailers feature a shingle guide that acts as a jig to ensure each shingle is in the right place for nailing. Pros rarely use features like this, but for the weekend warrior it may speed up the work.
You’re going to need to oil a coil nailer quite often—at least once a day. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for proper maintenance.
Now that you know what to look for in a Pro roofing nailer, check out a couple of our most recent reviews and our tips on how to use one like a Pro!
We hope this guide has helped you know what to look for in a Pro roofing nailer. If you’re a Pro and you have tips about choosing a roofing nailer, add them in the comments below—or hit us up on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!