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Updated May 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for Best roofing nailers

A roofing nailer might seem like a very specific tool, and to some extent it is, but there is more to roofing than just fixing shingles. You have vent and skylight installation, ridge and hip replacement, and the potential for a whole host of repair tasks. The right roofing nailer can help you with all these jobs.

A roofing nailer isn’t just a tool for the professional, either. There are some very affordable models available for the DIYer, but there are some important factors to consider as you shop. 

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A roofing nailer dramatically reduces the time it takes to fix roof shingles, but it’s important to make sure it’s set correctly so it doesn’t under- or over-drive the nails.

Key considerations

Power

Usually with power tools, part of our review discusses the power options. In general, that includes corded or cordless electric and often a number of pneumatic options that run off air compressors.

That’s not the case with roofing nailers, mostly because of the need for consistently high power to drive nails of the required size all day. Electric motors would struggle with this. We didn’t find a single corded model, and the only cordless roofing nailer seems to have been discontinued. There used to be models powered by a small battery and a compressed gas canister. They freed you from the need for an air hose, but with nails, batteries, and gas to refill, their complexity seems to have been their downfall.

Every roofing nailer currently available is pneumatic. If you don’t already own a compressor, you’ll have to buy one of those as well. On the one hand, that can make the initial investment substantial. On the other hand, once you own a good air compressor you can save considerable money on a wide variety of other air-powered tools. They’re often a lot cheaper (and lighter) than their electric counterparts because they don’t need their own motor — the power comes from the compressor.

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Did you know?
The difference between a 100- and 120-nail magazine may not seem much, but that’s 20% less time loading or 20% more time nailing.
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Roofing nailer features

Components

  • Depth control: Adjustable depth control is important for setting the nail properly so it doesn’t finish proud or sunk into the shingle. This is usually accomplished via a simple dial.

  • Nose: The nose is often tipped with steel or carbide to stand up to the wear it gets, from asphalt shingles in particular. Noses may also be tar resistant.

  • Exhaust port: An exhaust port expels excess air. It should be adjustable so you can direct it away from you, regardless of the position you’re nailing from.

  • Filter: If dust and grit get into the nail-driving mechanism, it can cause damage. Some models are fitted with a filter to prevent this.

  • Connector: Air inlets are 1/4-inch NPT, and most have a straight connector. A swivel connector just gives a little more freedom of movement with the air hose.

  • Magazine: A few roofing nailers use a strip-type nail magazine like you see on finish and framing nailers, but most use a coil, which has twice the capacity and sometimes more. Coil magazines usually hold 100 or 120 nails. The more nails in the magazine, the less time you have to spend loading. Small margins, perhaps, but it’s important to the professional for whom time is money. Magazine loading is usually straightforward, but single-action side-loaders are fuss-free and fast. Every roofing nailer we looked at takes full-head nails (3/4 to 1 3/4 inches). That range covers all common roofing styles and materials.

  • Shingle guide: Some roofing nailers have an adjustable shingle guide incorporated within the body, a useful aid to faster work.

  • Case: A storage case makes for easy transportation and helps keep your nailer clean when it’s not in use. It’s surprising how many manufacturers don’t include one.

Firing

There are two types of nail firing: sequential and bump.

  • Sequential firing requires you to pull the trigger to fire each nail. Some roofing nailers, usually cheaper models, only offer sequential nailing.

  • Bump firing automatically fires when you bump the tip of the nailer against an object. It’s faster, but it requires much more skill for consistent accuracy.

Comfort and safety

  • Weight: This is important if you’re using the tool all day. The main body is aluminum to keep weight to a minimum. The lightest professional roofing nailers weigh between five and six pounds. Budget models can weigh twice that.

  • Kickback: All roofing nailers have kickback, but manufacturers of quality tools work hard to reduce it as much as possible. It’s another one of those things that will make little difference to the occasional user, but it can have a big impact on fatigue if you use one all day.

  • Handle: You need good grip on the handle. Cheaper models are textured plastic, which can get uncomfortable if you’re holding it all day. Soft rubber is more comfortable and more secure if it gets damp.

  • Jams: All nailers jam occasionally, so it’s important to be able to free them up quickly and easily. On the majority of modern roofing nailers, this is a tool-free operation.

  • Anti-skid: Many nailers incorporate anti-skid pads.The last thing you want is yours sliding away down the roof every time you lay it down.

Warranty

We look at warranties as a reflection of the manufacturer’s confidence in the durability of their tools. Budget roofing nailers frequently only provide a one-year warranty. Some pro models offer up to seven.

Roofing nailers vs. siding nailers

Roofing nailers and siding nailers look very similar, and some suggest they can do the same job, but we advise against it. The big difference is the nails. Roofing nails have smooth sides and are comparatively short. Siding nails are ridged for greater grip and considerably longer. It’s not unknown for a roofing nailer to be used for siding, but it’s not as secure as using the dedicated tool.

Roofing nailer prices

Inexpensive: The cheapest roofing nailer we found costs just under $90, but unfortunately, performance seems a bit hit and miss. We would suggest paying around $120 for the best of the budget models.

Mid-range: Between $150 and $200 you’ll find a wide range of tools that will suit the enthusiastic DIY fan and the general-purpose carpenter who has a frequent but not full-time need for a roofing nailer.

Expensive: Roofing nailers for the professional start at around the $200 mark, and we found none that exceed $300. These are light, well-balanced, and durable tools intended for use all day, every day.

Tips

  • Always wear safety glasses and ear protection. Roofing nailers and compressors can be noisy.

  • Ensure the structure you’re working on is stable. If you’re working from a ladder, move it often. Don’t overreach.

  • Keep your free hand away from the nailer tip. Think about the position of your free hand and keep it as far from the nailer tip as possible, particularly when bump firing.

  • Disconnect the air supply before attempting to clear jams.

  • Do not point the nailer at another person. Safety features usually prevent accidental firing, but if that fails, you could cause serious injury. Never fire the gun unless you intend to drive a nail.
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The best roofing nailers are capable of driving up to two nails per second, but for most people speed isn’t a major consideration. Only highly experienced roofers can work that fast.

FAQ

Q. Can I use a framing nailer as a roofing nailer?

A. It could be done, but it’s not recommended. For a start, a roofing nailer is designed to work at a particular angle (15°). The framing nailer is not, so you lose speed and accuracy. Nail length is a minor problem (though framing nails are 2 inches minimum, and roofing nails are 1 3/4 inches maximum), but head size is more important. Framing nails are typically smaller and might pull through shingles. Then there’s magazine capacity. Roofing nailers can take up to 120 nails. A framing nailer no more than half that. So you’ll be reloading twice as often, and you’ve either got to take the spares up on the roof with you or keep climbing down and back up again.

Q. How do I know what size compressor I need?

A. All air tools have both cubic feet per minute (CFM) and pounds per square inch (psi) ratings. However, CFM is rarely quoted by roofing nailer manufacturers because their airflow volume demands are fairly low (seldom more than 2.5 CFM). Most compressors can comfortably supply that amount. Pressure then becomes the deciding factor, and it can be anything from 70 to 120 psi. You can always turn down a compressor that produces too much pressure, but if it doesn’t produce enough, you’ll either end up with a frustrating delay between nails while sufficient pressure builds, or it won’t work at all.

Q. Do roofing nailers need much maintenance?

A. No, but it’s vital to follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely if you want to avoid problems. Dirt and grit can cause damage. If a filter is fitted to prevent dirt from getting in, that needs checking. Regular lubrication is also important, and often a specific oil is recommended rather than general-purpose products. Don’t forget that the air compressor needs regular maintenance as well.

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