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LSR has hand nailed every roof we've ever installed. It is impossible during the installation of shingles to watch every roofer lay every shingle or lift every tab to check for proper nailing pressure and patterns. But, when a roof is installed by hand nailing, it is possible to maintain a greater sense of control.
Air guns are great tools for some construction jobs, like framing or trim work, but they can cause too many problems when installing a new roof.
It does not cost any more to install a new roof hand-nailing than it does using air guns. All that is required for hand-nailing is experience. Our crews are seasoned veterans and we have gone head to head with crews using air guns only to find out that we can work at the same pace, but with much greater consistency and precision.
Over the years we have interviewed a number of large shingle manufacturers asking their preference of installation method and "hands down" that majority favor hand-nailing.
When installers use air guns, they tend to move the gun across the shingle at a fast pace. This makes it easy to miss the very narrow nailing area which is only about 1/2 inch wide. Also, if the gun isn't held perfectly level with the nailing surface, the nail will be driven in at an angle. An angled nail doesn't permit the shingle to seal properly and allows wind to get under it. When hand-nailing, it's impossible to over-drive a nail and when it comes to developing a feel for the nailing surface and deck base, it is much easier to determine if the nail is secure.
For your next roofing project, be sure to ask yourself how you want your roof installed- hand nail or by air gun?