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Wind damaged roof shingles (C) Daniel Friedman Staples vs Nails in Asphalt Shingles
Asphalt Shingle Installation Methods

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Asphalt shingle installation using a stapler versus a nailer:

Use of staples for asphalt shingle installation can work if you work carefully but in my experience you're asking for trouble. Here we describe what can go wrong when using a roofing stapler on asphalt.

Roof shingles that are not adequately fastened to a sound roof deck are likely to blow off, as we illustrate in our photo above showing a semi-naked barn roof.

This article series discusses best roofing practices for the installation of asphalt roof shingles.

We describe asphalt shingle nailing type, size, spacing and locations. Asphalt roof shingle course offset requirements. Low slope and steep slope limits for asphalt shingles. Asphalt shingle roof flashing at eaves & skylights. Best practices for roofing material installation, flashing, ventilation, nailing, underlayment.



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Fastening (Nailing) Requirements for Asphalt Shingle Roofs

Nailing schedule for asphalt shingles (C) J Wiley and Sons, S BlissAs we state in our companion article ASPHALT SHINGLE INSTALLATION - best practices,

The preferred fastener is galvanized roofing nails with a minimum 12-gauge shank and head diameter of at least 3/8 inch.

Although staples are allowed in some jurisdictions, they do not provide the same holding power.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Both nails and staples should be long enough to penetrate the roof sheathing by 3/4 inch or penetrate 1/4 inch through the sheathing if it is less than 3/4 inch thick.

Fasteners should be driven straight and flush with the shingle surface (Figure 2-10 above, courtesy of Steven Bliss, Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction).

Overdriven nails or staples can cut into the shingle or crack it in cold weather.

Is it Acceptable to Use Staples to Install Asphalt Roof Shingles?

Bostitch roofing stapler gun at InspectApedia.comRoofing staple guns have been sold for nearly 40 years and in some models including the one I liked, are still available, such as the Stanley Bostitch 16-Gauge Wide Crown Roofing Staple Gun, shown here. This stapler might also be used for securing house-wrap and other building materials.

Using staples to install roof shingles is not generally recommended in areas where the roof will be subject to wind damage, and as we excerpt from a GAF statement below, you will see a warning about using staples that does not narrow the stapled-shingle caveat to just high-wind areas.

Watch out: some writers, including for roofing company websites state that " ... both staples and nails are approved by some roofing manufacturers...", suggesting that using a stapler gives performance and wind damage resistance equal to shingles secured with roofing nails.

"some roofing manufacturers" is a bit vague and may not be accurate since it's hard to pin down a maybe.

While staples remain an acceptable shingle fastener on manufactured housing, staples are not an approved shingle fastener in most current residential building codes. - (Donan retrieved 2017)

Excepting comments such as by Donan, our review (September 2017) did not find a building code nor a roofing shingle manufacturer explicitly recommending the use of staples to secure asphalt roofing on residential structures. FEMA specifically recommends the use of roofing nails, not staples in high wind areas.

Let's look at the IRC model building code on roof shingle fasteners:

R905.2.5 Fasteners. Fasteners for asphalt shingles shall be galvanized steel, stainless steel, aluminum or copper roofing nails, minimum 12 gage [0.105 inch (3 mm)] shank with a minimum 3/8-inch (10 mm) diameter head, ASTM F 1667, of a length to penetrate through the roofing materials and a minimum of 3/4 inch (19 mm) into the roof sheathing.

Where the roof sheathing is less than 3/4 inch (19 mm) thick, the fasteners shall penetrate through the sheathing. Fasteners shall comply with ASTM F 1667. - IRC 2006 (New Jersey coph), Section R905.2.5 in IRC CHAPTER 9 ROOF ASSEMBLIES [PDF] (2003)

Disclosure: my first roofing "nailer" was in fact a staple gun, a yellow Stanley Bostitch staple gun. I loved it. Fast, light, easy, durable, reliable, rarely jammed. Senco also produced popular roof shingle staplers that are still in use.

But it didn't take more than the first five minutes with my new roof shingle stapler, to discover that if I didn't take care my staples would give me (and the roof and my client) trouble.

Here are some of the typical roof shingle staple snafus:

Seven Ways to Foul-up a Roof Shingle Stapling Job

Cement asbestos roof shinglesIf experience is the best teacher, after a strong wind storm roofers who used a stapler might want to go check on their stapled roof shingle jobs. They might find that their crew made some of the same mistaked I did. Back in the day.

Really? Let me say at the outset to all you staplers that all of these mistakes can be made with a roof nailer as well as a roof stapler.

However anybody who has worked with a roofing stapler and who's not president littlehands has a duty to be truthful: they'll agree that truth be told, it's easier to cut through an asphalt shingle with a staple than with a roofing nail.

  1. Wrong Fastener for Roof Material: my finger is just to the right of a staple used to try to salvage this cement-asbestos roof by re-fastening loose tiles. Using an impact nailer, air, gas, or electric, on slate or fiber cement or in this case asbestos-cement roofs invites damaged slates or tiles.

    OK so you'd never do something this dumb, right? Moving right along:
  2. Cocked asphalt shingle staples: Roofers who get tired of scrambling over a hot steep roof surface develop long arms. Or wish they could.

    It is just too tempting to reach waaaay over to the right or left to staple just one more shingle before taking another step

    When you reach waaay over with your stapler the nose of the tool will be cocked at an angle with respect to the plane of the roof surface. Either that or after an hour of stapling your wrist will be killing you.

    A roofing staple gun must be fired with the gun tip parallel to and flush on the shingle surface, otherwise one end of the shingle is left sticking up, ready to puncture the overlying tab of the next course either from being heated in the sun or from your heavy-footed laborer who steps on it right before he slams down another bundle of shingles.

    I carried a hammer to smash down cocked roof shingle staple ends. That didn't work out so well. A cocked staple has probably already cut into the shingle at its low end.

    Smacking down too hard on the high end of a shingle staple pushes it right into the shingle, cutting it and leaving the shingle with no fastener.

    So the roofer has to slow down (lose money) to stop, notice a a cocked staple, take out the hammer, smack down the staple, then working with care, shoot another staple close by.

Roof damage assessment (C) D Friedman R LeBlanc

Above: a cocked roof shingle staple pokes its pointy little head up at its lower end and cut right through shingles at its upper end. This staple is also mis-placed, too low on the shingle. It should have been covered by the shingles of the successive course above.

  1. Over-driven asphalt shingle staples: Even when I held the stapler properly, tip not cocked at an angle, either my enthusiasm or my visceral fat spare tire would sometimes cause me to press down too hard on my stapler, driving the staple right through the shingle.

    Roofers who work fast and set their nailer to a higher pressure than specified by the staple gun's manufacturer will also over-drive staples.

    A gas operated stapler or nail gun has less of this trouble but you can still push down with too much force when stapling or nailing.

    Stapling shingles on a hot day, through sun-softened shingles also encouratges over-driving staples and cut shingles, as does working too fast or setting the stapler's air pressure too high.

Roof damage assessment (C) D Friedman R LeBlanc

Above: another shingle staple, over driven from above cut right through two shingle courses. Mis-placed (too low) and damaged the asphalt layers of the two shingle courses.

Don't be surprised to find the same mistake repeated on multiple areas of a roof or on multiple roofs at different buildings if the same crew are working consistently.

  1. Under-driven asphalt shingle staples: ok so after some practice I learned the proper air pressure adjustment, stapler nose adjustment, and downwards pressure each time I fired a staple into my shingle and roof deck.

    I took care that the wire of the shingle was all the way down touching, but not cutting into the asphalt shingle.

    Then I'd speed up a bit, blam-1 blam-2 blam-3 blam-4, four quick staples. Stop! Why is blam-3 sticking up?

    Because it hit either a nail in the plywood roof deck or because it hit a knot in the plywood. Darn.
  2. Excessive roof shinngle staples in one spot: I never did this. Well rarely. But my helper was of the school that more is better.

    If she wasn't sure a staple was driven perfectly she'd shoot five more quickly into the same spot. Blam, blam, blam, blam, BLAM! cutting the heck out of the shingle and inviting wind blow-off. Sigh.
  3. Wrong staple location: stapling too low exposes the staple and can invite roof leaks. Stapling too high invites wind damage and blow-off.

    Details about fastener location in asphalt shingles are at ASPHALT SHINGLE INSTALLATION
  4. Exposed staples: a madwoman with the staple gun, my helper shot staples like popcorn all over the place on some roofs before we had a little talk about continued employment.

    Below: (not our roofing job) you can see exposed staples just below the apex of an asphalt shingle roof hip ridge cap.

Roof damage assessment (C) D Friedman R LeBlanc

Watch out: the following is an excerpt from a GAF Technical Advisory Bulletin warning about the use of staples to secure asphalt shingles:

Staples are not recommended by GAF and most industry organizations

…Staples made of at least 16-gauge galvanized steel with a minimum crown of 15/16” (24 mm) have been and continue to be used by some applicators to install shingles.

If staples are used to install GAF shingles, our limited shingle warranty will remain in effect.

However any problems resulting from the use of staples, including wind blow-off, are not covered by the warranty.

... Most local building codes do not permit the use of staples…

Here is another position statement on use of roofing shingle staples from IKO

Q: Which type of fastener should be used to install asphalt shingles – nails or staples?

A: IKO agrees with and supports the ARMA position that nails are the preferred method of fastening asphalt roof shingles due to their superior holding strength.

Research on Use of Staples vs Nails in Asphalt Shingle Roofs

Shingle nailing error patterns - FEMAThe roofing nail sketch of common roof shingle nailing errors shown here is a detail from FEMA's , Asphalt Shingle Roofing for High Wind Regions [2].

This sketch points out that mis-driven nails can also lead to shingle WIND DAMAGE - live link given below.

Roofing product manufacturers are careful to specify where shingle nails should be placed in each shingle and the number of nails required. (Typically four, six in high wind zones, plus other measures to avoid wind damage.

In addition to the number of nails, how nails are driven is critial to a shingle's ability to stay on the roof.

The following example comments on roofing nails are from the GAF Materials Corporation Grand Timberline™ Premium Architectural Shingle Application Instructions [at Reviewers]

Wind damaged asphalt shingles on a garage roof, Poughkeepsie NY USA April 6 2007 (C) Daniel FriedmanFASTENERS: Use of nails is recommended.

Use only zinc coated steel or aluminum, 10-12 gauge, barbed, deformed or smooth shank roofing nails with heads 3/8" (10mm) to 7/16" (12mm) in diameter. Fasteners should be long enough to penetrate at least 3/4" (19mm) into wood decks or just through the plywood decks.

Fasteners must be driven flush with the surface of the shingle. Over driving will damage the shingle. Raised fasteners will interfere with the sealing of the shingles.

Even a nailed-on roof can blow off in high wind. These shingles were lifted along the drip edge and ripped right off of this garage roof less than two years after I had installed it. More about this particular wind damaged roof is at WIND DAMAGE to ROOFS.

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Continue reading at ASPHALT SHINGLE INSTALLATION - best practices, or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see ASBESTOS CEMENT ROOF REPAIR - more about the stapled asbestos cement roof shown in this article

Or see ASPHALT SHINGLE LIFE / WEAR FACTORS

Or see SHINGLE EXPOSURE AMOUNT

Or see ASPHALT ROOF SHINGLES - home

Or see WARRANTIES for ROOF SHINGLES

Or see WIND DAMAGE to ROOFS 

Suggested citation for this web page

ASPHALT SHINGLE STAPLE vs NAIL at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES: ARTICLE INDEX to BUILDING ROOFING

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