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Nail Gun vs Hammer: Roof Shingle Installation (Pros & Cons)

“Is using a nail gun to install shingles as good as using a hammer and hand-nailing?” This is a question we hear often.

Follow along as we break down both methods and determine which is better when it comes to nail gun vs hammer for roof shingle installation.

Close up view of man's hands using a hammer to install roof shingle; nail gun vs hammer

Nail Gun Vs Hammer

Nail guns are considered a “pneumatic” tool, meaning that they are fueled by air compressors that use air to forcefully insert the nail into the asphalt shingle. When pneumatic tools such as nail guns were first introduced in the realm of shingle attachment, staples were used as the fastener. Staples are more prone to crooked installation than nails, and this made roofs installed using an air gun (with staples) less resistant to wind damage than roofs installed through hand-nailing. Despite their rocky start, however, air guns have improved over the years as technology has enhanced. Today, air guns use nails that have the same geometry (that is, they are the same shape) as nails that would be hammered in.

The key to a properly installed roof has less to do with the tool used to install the fastener, and more to do with the contractor taking the time to install the nail in the correct location without over-driving them. It’s less the tool, and more the person using the tool, that makes the difference. While additional factors, such as air compressor settings and equipment maintenance, need to be considered when using pneumatic tools, nail guns are an asset to the field of roofing, as these tools significantly reduce the amount of time and effort needed to properly install a roof without compromising the integrity of the roof.

View of two workers on the roof with Roofing nail gun installing Asphalt Shingles; nailgun vs hammer


The most important thing to consider when choosing a roofing contractor is their track record. Have them explain to you how they install their shingles and why, and make sure they offer a written workmanship warranty to guarantee their work.

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