Should You Use Roofing Staples or Nails for Roofing Projects?

Jenna Jonaitis
Written by Jenna Jonaitis
Updated October 28, 2021
Shingled roof of a home
Tab62 - stock.adobe.com

When it comes to securing roof shingles, you’ll “nail it” if you choose roofing nails over staples

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If a few of your shingles blew off in a storm or it’s time to replace your roof, it’s critical that you choose the right fasteners for the job. Roofing nails are highly preferred to staples for asphalt and other types of roofs because they offer more holding power, meet building codes, and are easier to install correctly.

Before you jump into your next roofing project, learn about the local building codes in your area to ensure that you’ll meet code requirements. Talk with your local roofing contractor about what they use to ensure your investment will pay off. Now, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of roofing staples and nails to determine what’s right for your roof.

Pros & Cons ​of Roofing Staples

You should use roofing staples to secure the felt paper underlayment of your roofing. But they don’t provide enough holding power for asphalt shingles. In fact, roof shingles secured by staples rarely meet building codes. Here are the pluses and minuses of roof staples.

Pros

Easy to maneuver a roofing staple gun: Staple guns tend to be less bulky and easier to control than most nail guns.

Works well for underlayments: When it comes to securing roof underlayments, such as roofing tar paper, staples get the job done with precision and durability. 

Less prone to jamming: Staple guns often jam up less than nail guns, which means that you can complete the project quickly.

Effortless to carry lots of staples: A roofer can have several sticks of staples in their pocket to easily reload their gun.

Affordable: Roofing staples are inexpensive, costing anywhere from $0.01 to $0.03 per staple.

Cons

Requires more skill and attention: Poor staple placement on a shingle compromises the roof’s integrity. Staples need more detail and skill to place upright into a shingle.

Doesn’t give shingles holding power: Staples don’t maintain strength and durability when securing shingles, especially in areas with high winds. Staples are more likely to blow off or become loose.

Usually doesn’t meet building codes: Your local building authority has codes related to roofing. In many areas, stapling roof shingles does not meet code regulations, meaning your roof repair or replacement would not pass inspection.

Often improperly installed: It’s hard to hold a roofing staple gun perpendicular to the shingle.  That kind of inaccuracy can lead to the staple being put in at an odd angle that does not secure the shingle well. 

Easy to overdrive and underdrive: An overdriven staple can dig into the shingle or crack it in cold weather. An underdriven staple won’t offer holding power.

Person putting shingles on with nail gun
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Pros & Cons​ of Roofing Nails

Roofing nails are durable and hold shingles in place for decades, even in areas with inclement weather and high winds. Nails are the standard for securing roofing shingles and meet nearly all building codes. Here’s what to know about the advantages and disadvantages of roofing nails for asphalt shingles.

Pros

Strong holding power: Nails are the gold standard for roofing and often hold up well for decades.

Easier to install correctly: Thanks to the round head of the nail, it’s easier to ensure the right depth. Even if the nail gun isn't held perfectly perpendicularly, the nail will offer great stability to the shingle.

Meets building codes: Galvanized, coated, or stainless steel nails meet building codes in almost all areas. Experts recommend a minimum 12-gauge shank, along with a head diameter of at least 3/8 of an inch. Depending on your home’s location, copper or aluminum roofing nails might also meet code and pass inspections.

Cons

Nail guns can be tiresome to hold and reload: A nail gun is bulkier than a staple gun. Plus, reloading the gun takes time, and it can be difficult for a roofer to carry extra nail coils with them.

Nail guns can jam: If someone drops a coil of nails, the coil might deform and lead to jamming.

Roofing Staples vs. Roofing Nails​

While roofing staples should be used to secure felt paper underlayment, nails are much better for shingles. Here are a few reasons why nails are the preferred option for securing shingles

Durability​

Because nails are easier to install correctly, they offer more durability and holding power than staples. Galvanized nails should last for decades.

Most durable: Nails

Price​

Roofing staples cost anywhere from $0.01 to $0.03 per staple. Roofing nails fall into the same cost range, depending on the type and size. Staples might be slightly less expensive, but the cost difference is negligible.  

Least expensive: Staples and nails are both low-cost

Ease of Installation

Staples are more likely to be placed at an improper angle or too deep or shallow in the shingle. On the other hand, roofing nails have holding power even if they aren't put through at a perpendicular angle. Nails are also less likely to be overdriven or underdriven. While holding and using a nail gun for hours is more tiring than with a staple gun, it demonstrates the value of a skilled roofer.

Easier to install properly: Nails

Maintenance​

Using nails on your roof requires less maintenance than if you use staples. Staples are more likely to become loose or rip off during high winds. You’ll need to repair your roof or replace it more often if you use staples for your shingles. 

Lower maintenance: Nails

Length of Life​

Nails are more sturdy for asphalt shingles because they have more holding power, allowing the roof to last longer.

Longer life: Nails

Building Code Compliance

Roofing staples rarely meet building codes, which presents a problem if you get your roof inspected or want your roof to hold up well. Most galvanized roofing nails meet local building code ordinances. Check with your local building authority to be sure you’re using the proper type of nails. 

More likely to meet building codes: Nails

How Does Hand Nailing a Roof Compare To Using A Nail Gun?

Hand nailing a roof isn’t better than using a nail gun and takes much longer for the roofer to do. That’s why most roofers use nail guns to achieve quality, long-lasting results. 

Talk with a roofing contractor near you about essential roofing materials and what process they use for a new roof or repair project.

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