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Friday, January 22, 2010

Hand Nail, Nail Guns, or Staples

Staples are out. Nobody uses them anymore. That was settled a long time ago although I must confess my boss put a staple gun in my hand in 1976. My roofing uncle was not proud of me anymore. Yet there is still a debate on how roofs should be applied: pneumatic vs hand nails.
The difference is whether the nail is driven by a hatchet, also known as a roofing hammer, or a nail gun. The differences are stark. The hammer will only drive the nail flush or not flush. A driver blade of a nail gun will either leave the nail raised, flush, or, most likely, over driven. The nails not driven flush are obvious and will be found on final inspection (if there is one) and if the customer doesn't start complaining first. All that is required is lifting the tab of the roofing and striking the high nail with a hammer.
To my recollection there has been wind damage in Dallas ever year since then necessitating the need for wind damage repairs. Carrollton, Lewisville, Little Elm, and Denton get it the worst.
Over driven nails are not visible. They leave no fish mouths, also known as warts and titties (really), in the face of the shingle. They are no longer attached to the roofing. Left to themselves the over driven fasteners leave the roof vulnerable to wind. Without a doubt the hand driven nail is superior when applying roofing. Nail guns are fine for fastening structurally strong materials like lumber but for thin asphalt roofing they should be outlawed.
For the contractor who uses inexperienced help a nail gun can help a novice put a roof on much faster. That's great. He'll make all his mistakes quickly. For a roofer not participating in his first rodeo a nail gun serves little purpose. While the novice is unloading, hooking up, and stringing out his heavy compressor, hoses, guns, and extension cords, the experienced roofer has grabbed his tool and is installing roof.
What if the breaker is tripped and the compressor can't be used and the homeowner's food spoils. The hand nailer can even complete the carpentry with his hand saw. The gunner is doomed.
No electricity or gas is used to run a compressor, the transportation costs are less to and from the job and from the factory to the roofer, the manufacturing costs are thousands of times less for the tools, and the maintenance costs are less. Even the environmental comparisons of the cost of manufacturing both nail types is clearly in favor of the hand nail. The box of roofing nails is smaller than that of the coiled nails used in guns and has no wire holding them in a line. Thus the roofing hatchet is green and the nail gun is destroying the ozone layer. Maybe, maybe not, but that is another debate for another forum.
Roofers have different weight hatchets with different length handles for different types of materials over different types of decks. Some even come with an attached replaceable razor type blade for cutting. Nail guns sometimes can be adjusted for pressure but the roofer has no feel for how the nail set, whether it found a void, cracked the board, or hit a hard spot. Plus the temperature on a roof changes rapidly and varies from area to area changing the firmness of the roofing. Shade, sunny slopes, wind, length of expose of the shingle to the sun after opening the bundle, and voodoo all effect roofing texture. Cold shingles are stiff and hot ones are like bread floating in the sink. You get what you grab. Maybe.
If we look at the entire job, the coming and going from the job site, tearing off, preparing the deck, stocking on the roof, opening and spreading of the shingles, trimming valleys, edges, hips, ridges.... and flashing chimneys, walls, skylights, pipes... setting up and taking down, cleaning up, and traveling to the landfill and back, we see that the only difference is in the fraction of the job that is the actual installation of the nail, THE MOST IMPORTANT PART OF A ROOF. Besides, when the roof blows off we have more costs to the pocketbook and environment. Now painting and sheet rock must be repaired, insulation replaced, and more stuff thrown in the dump, a place where that hatchet might come in handy in defense against other roofers. He can't hook up his nail gun down there.
Once a roofer has mastered the hatchet, a homeowner can see that he has a professional on his roof, the most important part of a home. The first exterior shelters that weren't caves consisted solely of a roof. Later the roof extended to the ground like in tee pees or huts and only later developed separate materials for walls.
In fact, the headline of the Dallas Morning News a few years ago was about how Dallas, and to some extent Fort Worth, surpassed Chicago as America's most windy city. How's that for roof repairs in Dallas County? Sometimes it can mean even a whole new roof.
Insist that your roof be hand nailed. Love the environment, love your family, love the planet. Get it done right, once.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Good to see some one collate information and publish like this. Good work man. Great info to put out in the public.
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