A Guide to Roofing Nails for Shingles: Nail Sizes & Types - IKO (2022)

Table of Contents

  1. Three Basic Types of Roofing Nails
  2. Roofing Nail Materials
  3. Length of Roofing Nails
  4. Roofing Nail Size Chart
  5. Roofing Nail Gauge
  6. Can I Use Screws for Roofing Shingles?
  7. What Type of Nails Should be Used with Shingles?
  8. How Many Nails per Square?
  9. The Cost of Roofing Nails
  10. What Type of Nails for Felt/Underlayment?
  11. What Type of Nails for Roof Flashing?
  12. What Type of Nails for Sheathing?
  13. How to Fix Nail Pops in a Roof
  14. How to Seal Exposed Nails
  15. Can You Reuse Roofing Nails?
  16. The Importance of Nails in Roofing

Roofing nails are cleverly designed to help you do a better job. Though they vary greatly in material, size and type, all roofing nails share one helpful characteristic: a diamond‐shaped point. This point is expertly designed to keep the decking intact when it punctures through.

We’ll walk you through the types, sizes and materials you may choose from when picking a roofing nail. Ultimately, it is best to refer to your building codes and roofing manufacturer for more specific guidance. In your building codes and international building codes, nails may be referenced as “fasteners” along with staples and screws.

A Guide to Roofing Nails for Shingles: Nail Sizes & Types - IKO (1)

With that said, let’s explore your roofing nail options and which is best for your next roof.

(Video) Nailing Shingles Properly - How to Nail Roof Shingles - IKO

Three Basic Types of Roofing Nails

There are three basic types of roofing nails:

1. Smooth Shank

The shank of the nail is the part of the nail that punctures through the material you are nailing. Simply put, smooth shank nails have a smooth shank. They are the most basic type of roofing nail and cheaper than the other two options.

A Guide to Roofing Nails for Shingles: Nail Sizes & Types - IKO (2)

2. Ring Shank

A ring shank nail is also called an annular roofing nail or corrugated roofing nail. As its many names suggest, this type of nail has rings along the shank. They aren’t connected, as they are with screws. Still, these rings give the nail extra staying power, or grip, in the shingles and sheathing.

The head diameter is typically a standard 3/8-inch for all roofing nails. A larger-size head might increase the risk of exposing part of the nail head in standard nailing locations on the shingle.

A Guide to Roofing Nails for Shingles: Nail Sizes & Types - IKO (3)

One IKO test found that ring shank nails have 300% more strength than smooth shank nails. So, choose these nails where performance, especially wind resistance, is a priority.

3. Square Cap

Square cap nails are typically used for fastening felt underlayment and not asphalt shingles. They have a square-shaped head, instead of the more typical circular head you see on other nails. Square cap nails may have a smooth or coiled shank.

A Guide to Roofing Nails for Shingles: Nail Sizes & Types - IKO (4)

Roofing Nail Materials

You can find each of the three types of roofing nails in the three materials we list below. Whichever material you choose for your nails, remember that roofing nails are on the exterior of homes and therefore the outer surface needs to be corrosion-resistant. In fact, in some coast regions, the building codes require the entire nail to be corrosion-resistant, not just the outer surface.

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1. Steel

Steel makes for strong nails. Of course, as your nails will be on the exterior of a home, they must have rust and corrosion protection. For steel, this means stainless steel or galvanized steel. Stainless steel nails are best used for slate and ceramic roofs or asphalt shingle roofs in coastal climates.

A Guide to Roofing Nails for Shingles: Nail Sizes & Types - IKO (5)

For asphalt roofing shingles, use galvanized nails. Galvanization adds a layer of zinc onto the steel that significantly inhibits rust and corrosion. There are two methods of galvanizing nails: hot‐dipped and electro‐galvanized. The hot‐dipped method results in a thicker layer of zinc that lasts longer, so they are preferred.

2. Copper

Copper is strong and naturally resists rust and corrosion. You may prefer to use copper roofing nails on a roof with other copper accents. Copper nails are most often used on roofs with copper flashing and accessories. However, as roofing nails will usually be hidden by the shingles above them, steel nails don’t detract from the look of the roof.

A Guide to Roofing Nails for Shingles: Nail Sizes & Types - IKO (6)

3. Aluminum

Aluminum is a weaker metal than steel and copper. However, aluminum nails are still used on asphalt shingle roofing by some roofers. Aluminum nails are more prone to corrosion, as well as chemical and salt damage, than steel nails.

A Guide to Roofing Nails for Shingles: Nail Sizes & Types - IKO (7)

Length of Roofing Nails

Roofing nails are available in lengths ranging from one to two inches. Roofers seek to use just the right length of nail so that the decking (or OSB) is completely punctured by the nail. The puncture must be complete so that the whole diamond tip is past the wood.

Therefore, you have to plan out your sheathing thickness, shingle thickness and nail length carefully. If you’re using typical architectural shingles and 3/8-inch-thick sheathing, you’ll need 1‐inch nails. If your building codes require thicker sheathing, you’ll need 1 ¼-inch nails.

When installing thicker shingles, you may need to use a longer nail in order to penetrate the OSB beneath fully. Also, when installing ridge and hip shingles, you’ll need nails that are about a half an inch longer, as they need to penetrate more shingle layers.

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You may find roofing nails identified by their penny length. The penny system is an old way of classifying nails. It is represented by the letter “d.” Here is a handy chart to help you find the right size of roofing nails if they are only listed in penny length.

Roofing Nail Sizes Chart

Nail Length in InchesNail Length in Penny Inches
12d
1 ¼3d
1 ½4d
1 ¾5d
26d

Roofing Nail Gauge

Roof nails are available in 12-, 11- and 10-gauge. The lower the gauge number, the thicker the nail. Under most building codes in North America, 12-gauge is the minimum thickness of nail allowed on a roof. Roofing nails that are 11- or 10-gauge are also allowed by most building codes as they are thicker and sturdier. However, you may find they are more expensive.

Can I Use Screws for Roofing Shingles?

You cannot use screws for roofing shingles, only roofing nails are approved fasteners. Screws leave small gaps in the material they are driven into, and this may be enough to allow for a leak. If you were considering using screws for their extra security, consider ring shank nails instead.

What Type of Nails Should be Used with Shingles?

For best performance, you should use ring roofing nails that are made of hot‐dipped galvanized steel. You should use 12-gauge or thicker. The length of nail you use depends on the thickness of the sheathing and shingles you use.

A Guide to Roofing Nails for Shingles: Nail Sizes & Types - IKO (8)

How Many Nails per Square?

Estimating your roofing materials is key to your success, so you’ll want to know how many nails you’ll use in a square. That depends on the exposure and coverage of your shingles. With higher coverage, you’ll lay down fewer shingles in a square and therefore use fewer nails. For example, when using Cambridge™ shingles, you’ll use roughly 240 nails, because of their Advantage size. If you’re installing by the High Wind Application, you’ll use two more nails a shingle, so 360 nails per square.

The Cost of Roofing Nails

The cost of your roofing nails will depend on a few factors, including material, type and length. Also note that nails are sold by the pound, and if you’re a professional roofer, it may benefit you to buy in bulk in order to reduce costs.

A Guide to Roofing Nails for Shingles: Nail Sizes & Types - IKO (9)

That being said, you can expect a small, 5-pound box of smooth shank galvanized steel roofing nails to cost around $10. Nails for roofing felt are also more expensive than typical nails.

If you’re estimating the cost of your nails, it’s best to head into your supplier and compare their prices yourself, as costs vary by location too.

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What Type of Nails for Felt/Underlayment?

Roofing felt is a type of underlayment that professionals install beneath a roof’s shingles. Unlike self‐adhering underlayments, such as ice and water protector, felt underlayment needs to be fastened in place with nails. Specifically, you’ll need roofing cap nails. These have large plastic caps for heads, which help prevent water intrusion.

Don’t confuse these cap nails with gasket roofing nails. Roofing nails with gaskets are intended for metal roofs. The gasket is rubber, not plastic. You want roofing nails with plastic washers for roof underlayment.

What Type of Nails for Roof Flashing?

Roofers tend to use the roofing nails they already have on hand to install flashing. You don’t need to use cap nails or another special type of nail for this purpose.

A Guide to Roofing Nails for Shingles: Nail Sizes & Types - IKO (10)

What Type of Nails for Sheathing?

If you need to install new roof decking or OSB, you’ll need to nail it to the roof truss. There are fewer requirements for these nails than those used to secure shingles. Common nails, or even wood screws, may be acceptable nails for OSB roof sheathing. You should check with your building code and local bylaws to confirm.

How to Fix Nail Pops in a Roof

Nails can pop above the roof surface for a number of reasons. Perhaps they were underdriven in the first place. Nails that didn’t fully penetrate the sheathing may work their way up over time. Or, if a roof’s decking has warped or bent, it can pull nails out of place. Whatever the cause, it’s important to fix any nail pops in a roof to prevent damage.

Fixing the nails is simply a matter of removing them, removing the shingle and installing a new shingle. Be sure you to use the correct nail length and place it properly.

Do not simply hammer the nail down, renail it in the same spot, or use the same shingle. All of these methods could allow water through the roof. For example, if you remove the nail and drive it back into the same spot, your aim won’t be perfectly accurate. There will be a tiny gap on one side of the nail or the other. Even if it is imperceptible to you, water will find it.

If you use the same shingle and add the nail back in a different spot, you’re leaving behind a hole where the nail once was. Some suggest you fill this hole with roofing cement, but this repair option must be done carefully to maintain the roof’s water-shedding performance.

How to Seal Exposed Nails

Exposed nails are those with visible nail heads. Sometimes homeowners put in new nails when trying to attach something on the roof. However, this is a detriment to the roof’s performance.

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Ideally, your roof will not have any exposed nails, with the exception of the last cap shingle (and those nails should be covered in roofing cement.) Otherwise, all new nails should be inserted so that they are covered by the shingle above them.

Can You Reuse Roofing Nails?

If you take off a shingle for repairs or take off the whole roof in preparation for a reroofing job, you’ll have a ton of roofing nails on hand. You may be tempted to reuse these to save on costs. That’s a bad idea. Not only is it tedious to yank these nails out, but their zinc coating will also be worn. Plus, they may have been otherwise damaged. It’s not wise to attempt to reuse them, as they may cause problems on the new roof.

The Importance of Nails in Roofing

Every time there is a gust of wind, we rely on the nails we’ve chosen to hold new shingles in place. Choosing the right roofing nails and driving them properly is essential for getting the best performance out of your roof. For more tips on roof installation and tools, read our article about choosing between a nail gun and a roofing hammer.

FAQs

What size nails do you use for roofing shingles? ›

Fastener Size

The International Building Code requires that roofing nails have a minimum 12-gauge shank and a 3/8-inch diameter head.

How do you nail IKO shingles? ›

Course at the rake in e apply nails about 1 inch and 13 inches in from each end working left to

What are the best nails to use for roofing? ›

6 Best Roofing Nails To Consider
  • Galvanized coil nails. “These are the most inexpensive nails,” Simmons shares, also mentioning that consequently, “these types of nails are also the most common on the market.” ...
  • Ring shank coil nail. ...
  • Stainless-steel. ...
  • Copper nail. ...
  • Plastic cap nail. ...
  • Metal cap nail.

What is the nail pattern for shingles? ›

And deck remember the nail must go 3/4 of an inch into solid wood decking or penetrate through

How long are roofing nails for shingles? ›

Proper Nail Application For Asphalt Shingles

Nails should have a minimum, nominal shank diameter of 11- or 12-gauge, and a minimum head diameter of three-eighths of an inch. The length of each nail must be a minimum of 1¼ inches long, and for roof-overs, Atlas recommends a nail length of at least 2 inches.

How many nails should you put in a shingle? ›

Most shingle manufacturers recommend at least four nails per shingle and six in high wind areas such as Florida and Oklahoma.

Is it better to hand nail shingles? ›

Supporters believe that hand nailing shingles gives them more control over the fastening process. They can use a certain “feeling” to determinate if the nail is deep enough and applied on the right location.

Where do you nail the starter for shingles? ›

ESSENTIALS OF THE STARTER SHINGLE - YouTube

How many nails do you put in a 3 tab shingle? ›

A three-tab shingle requires 4 nails per shingle. The amount of tabs does not change the number of nails required to secure the shingle. A 4-tab shingle of the same length will also require 4 nails – the same goes for architectural shingles.

Should roofing nails be ring shank? ›

A ring shank nail has an extra-large head and a blunt shank, which is more suitable for nailing through roofing felt as well as shingles but doesn't provide as much traction. Meanwhile, a smooth shank is an inexpensive option best suited for rooftops that don't face bad weather.

How far should roofing nails penetrate the sheathing? ›

Nail length

Roofing nails should be long enough to penetrate the roofing material and go 19 mm into OSB, solid wood, plywood or non-veneer wood decking, or through thickness of decking, whichever is less.

Do you nail shingles on the tar line? ›

High Wind Nailing Pattern for Architectural Shingles

Be sure to keep around 1-inch in from the sides and keep the nails just below the tar line. You also don't want any nails to appear below the level of the shingle that rests on top of the nails.

How many pounds of nails do you need for a square of shingles? ›

You will need approximately 2 ¼ pounds of nails to install a square of shingles in regular conditions, and about 3 ½ pounds if you are dealing with windy conditions. Because nails are purchased by the pound, so can ask your supplier for the correct number of nails for your size roof, in the length you specify.

What is high nailing of a shingle? ›

What Is High Nailing? Shingles nailed too high above the butt (bottom) edge of the shingles or above nailing guideline are considered as high nailed shingles.

What is the most common size roofing nail? ›

According to the International Building Code's (IBC) 2018 Edition, “fasteners for asphalt shingles must be a minimum of a 12-gauge shank”. While it is common to find nails with a shank diameter of 13 inches, they cannot be smaller than 12 gauge (2.67mm) and still comply with the IBC.

Should roofing nails go through the plywood? ›

Nails should never go through the plywood, water does go under the shingles and rust the nail thus making it thinner, more water to go through, the correct nail length should be the sum of the shingle thickness plus the underlying materials minus 1/4 inch...it is strange that protruding nails are thought to be normal!

Do roofing nails go through sheathing? ›

Roofing nails shall be of sufficient length to penetrate through the existing covering and into the sheathing a minimum of 3/4 inch or through 1/2 inch plywood.

How many nails do I need for 4 bundles of shingles? ›

Generally, you should use four nails per shingle in the field of the roof, and 5 nails per starter shingle. For regular three-tab shingles, this would require 320 nails per square for field shingles.

How far should shingles overhang drip edge? ›

Asphalt shingles should overhang the exterior edge of the drip edge by ¼ to ¾-inch. Check local building code for drip edge requirements prior to the start of your roofing project.

When six nailing a full landmark shingle nails must be spaced evenly across the shingle? ›

IMPORTANT: When "six nailing" a full shingle, follow the nail pattern shown in figure 12-5, nails can be placed in the 11⁄2" nailable area. Use six nails and four spots of asphalt roofing cement for every full shingle for every full shingle as shown below.

How many nails do you put in a 3 tab shingle? ›

NAILING: Use galvanized (zinc coated) roofing nails, 11 or 12 gauge, with at least 3/8" diameter heads, long enough to penetrate through plywood or 3/4" into boards. Use 4 nails per shingle placed 6-1/8" above the butt edge, 1" and 13" in from each end and 1/2" above each cutout.

How many pounds of nails do you need for a square of shingles? ›

You will need approximately 2 ¼ pounds of nails to install a square of shingles in regular conditions, and about 3 ½ pounds if you are dealing with windy conditions. Because nails are purchased by the pound, so can ask your supplier for the correct number of nails for your size roof, in the length you specify.

Should roofing nails go through the plywood? ›

Nails should never go through the plywood, water does go under the shingles and rust the nail thus making it thinner, more water to go through, the correct nail length should be the sum of the shingle thickness plus the underlying materials minus 1/4 inch...it is strange that protruding nails are thought to be normal!

How far should roofing nails penetrate the sheathing? ›

Nail length

Roofing nails should be long enough to penetrate the roofing material and go 19 mm into OSB, solid wood, plywood or non-veneer wood decking, or through thickness of decking, whichever is less.

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