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Types Of Roofing Nails - Which Ones Are Best?

Nails Are An Important Part Of Ensuring Your Shingles Stay Put, But Which Roofing Nails Are Best?


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Roofing Nail Choice Should Not Be Overlooked

You have probably driven around residential areas and marveled at beautiful houses with seemingly perfect roofs. Often, a roof looks like a huge slab that magically crowns a house. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.


Instead, every gorgeous roof comprises multiple individual parts, both big and small. All these components are assembled to create not just an aesthetically pleasing roof but a durable, functional one that can withstand the elements.


One of the main components used to secure roofs are the nails. Without good nails and correct nail driving, you shingles might need replaced much sooner than you thought.

Roofing Nails

Roofing nails are used to attach sheet metal and roof tiles, install roofing felt for waterproofing, and attach shingles.


While there are different types of nails, all roofing nails share some common features. These are wide, flat heads and short shanks.


Nail tips are sharp to allow easy insertion. The pointed tips also ensure you do not damage whatever materials you are trying to fasten.

Types Of Roofing Nails

A nail is a nail, right? Well, not really. There are three main types of roofing nails, each having its own unique shape. A nail’s shape makes it best suited for certain fastenings and not others.


These three types are:

1. Smooth Shank

These are the most common nails you will find in construction sites, thanks to other things, their low cost. Unfortunately, they are not always the best nor the most effective. Their affordability is largely due to their design. The shank is the part of the nail with a sharp end that punctures the material to be fastened.


Smooth shank nails are smooth and free of grooves. This makes them easy to hammer in.


While smooth shank nails are okay for finishing, framing, and other carpentry-related tasks, they are not ideal for roofing.


Smooth shank nails are discouraged in roofing because their smooth body does not have the hold needed to fasten shingles or other roofing tiles adequately.


In essence, they lack the withdrawal resistance required to hold roofing tiles in place. Withdrawal resistance is the force needed to pull inserted fasteners from wood. This can be better explained in terms of holding power. A nail with high holding power will remain attached to fastened items through a variety of conditions. On the other hand, one with a low holding power is bound to come loose much easier.


Smooth shank nails have low holding power. Therefore, these are discouraged for roofing because your roof is exposed to various elements and extreme conditions. As such, you need to use nails that will hold their own through different climatic extremes.

2. Ring Shank

Ring shank nails are also known as corrugated roofing nails or annular roofing nails.


As the name suggests, ring shank nails bear rings on their shanks. These rings give them twice the withdrawal resistance of smooth shank nails. As such, these are a popular choice for roofing projects.


Ring shank nails have rings that give them a ribbed feel. When these are driven into wood, the grooves on their shank eat away at wood fibers, creating an uneven hold. This might sound like it would be a bad thing, but it’s just the opposite.


The rings of ring shank nails combine mesh with the deformed wood, making it much more difficult to loosen the nail. Think about it this way, with a smooth nail, you can actually hold the head and pull it from wood by pulling it straight out.


However, the ring shank will have its grooves edged into the hole it was drilled into. Pulling it out then requires extra effort as it has to come undone from the wood’s uneven nooks and grooves. This resistance is what you need when building a new roof.

3. Screw Shank

Screw shanks resemble ring shank nails. These bear grooves similar to those on screws, which then give them more withdrawal resistance. In fact, screw shank nails offer the highest holding power of all other roofing nails.


However, they are not the most preferred choice for roofing projects. Why is this? Two reasons.


The first is cost. Screw shank nails are pricier than smooth shank and ring shank nails.


Secondly is that screw shank nails are not easy to nail into hardwoods because of the density of hardwood.


This makes screw shanks ideal for flooring and decking projects that require maximum hold, albeit at a high cost. They, however, are not as feasible for roofing projects.


Therefore, ring shank nails take the lead when it comes to roofing.

Common Roofing Nail Materials

Aside from nail types, nails can also be classified according to the material used to make them. The metal a nail is made from speaks a lot about its durability and performance in roofing.


The most common roofing nail types are discussed below.

Aluminum Nails

Aluminum nails are commonly used thanks to their affordability. Despite being weaker than copper and steel, they are sturdy enough to build roofs with adequate resilience.


While these work fins in most parts of the country, they are best avoided in coastal cities. Coastal geographical locations tend to have salty air.


This can cause aluminum to corrode and deteriorate. For nails, this means their holding power becomes compromised, which can lead to shingles and other roofing tiles being blown off a roof leading to you needing roof damage repair sooner than normal.

Stainless Steel

You already know that anything built from steel is bound to be extremely sturdy. This is true for stainless steel nails.


The main advantage of stainless steel nails over aluminum nails is that stainless steel is not as corrosive as aluminum. So where there is possibly salty air, but building costs must be kept minimal, roofers can use stainless steel without it being problematic.


Stainless steel nails are great for fastening hard roof tiles like ceramic and slate roofing, thanks to their strength. Overall, stainless good is a good choice, but an even better option would be galvanized stainless steel.


With nails being on the exterior of your home, you need an option that offers some rust and corrosion properties. For steel nails, this means galvanized steel nails.


Galvanization adds a Zinc layer on steel which inhibits corrosion and rusting. Nails treated in this way are known as galvanized nails, or hot dip galvanized roofing nails. The result is song nails that can be used anywhere, including Coastal regions, without much concern about rusting or corroding.


Besides their rust-resisting qualities, the nail’s Zinc coating makes galvanized nails stronger than stainless steel and aluminum nails. According to experts, this is the best nail material to use on roofing projects.


Copper is a strong metal that is resistant to rust and corrosion. These nails are also stronger than stainless steel nails and can even fasten slate tiles.


Slate is a tough roofing material and is expected to last over 100 years once it’s properly installed. However, galvanized roofing nails can start deteriorating once the Zinc coating wears off, requiring replacement.


While slate is a strong material, it’s still prone to damage. Copper spikes are much easier to remove from slate than galvanized roofing nails. This makes copper the best nail material for slate roofs and galvanized nails for asphalt shingles.

Roofing Nail Length

Roofing nail length is another distinguishing factor. It’s critical for roofers to have the correct nail sizes before beginning a project.


Nails are measured by their length and diameter.


Nails for asphalt shingles should be a minimum of a 12 gauge shank or 2.67 mm. 13 gauge shanks are not uncommon. These are the shank diameter measurements.


On the other hand, the minimum head diameter should be 9.5 mm. Of course, you can find larger ones, and that’s okay, as long as the minimum is maintained.


While the shank and head diameters are clearly outlined, nail lengths are not stated explicitly. Guidelines only require that;


  • The nail penetrates the roofing material.
  • The nail must be at least 19.1 mm into the roof sheathing.


Wooden shingles will call for longer shanks than architectural shingles, while asphalt and fiberglass shingles have similar length requirements.


There are also some guidelines on the number of nails to use.


Asphalt shingles should be secured by 4.5 or 6 nails per shingle. However, most building codes require six shingles per shingle.


This is especially the case in areas with high winds where five nails per shingle would be considered insufficient.

Still Have Questions?

If you still have questions about what nails we use and which would be best for your roof replacement, give us a call and we can fill you in. Our roofers have tons of experience in every aspect of roofing so we can get all of your questions answered in person or over the phone. Advice is always free at Overhead Roofing Of Colorado Springs, so give us a call anytime!

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We provide exceptional residential & commercial roofing services all over Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak region.