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Nailing Versus Stapling For Roof Shingles

If you work in or around the U.S. roofing industry, an age-old question you are bound to hear - which is better, nailing or stapling roofing shingles? Get expert advice on both options, as well as tips to calculate materials usage and more!

Let's start with stapling.

In the past, when it came to the debate of roofing nails versus staples, the industry was split down the middle. After all, it's no surprise roofers loved staples for attaching shingles to roofing. Staples cost less than nails, offer exceptional holding strength, and cover a greater area of space with a more versatile and compact collation. Paired with the fact roofing staplers are typically easier to handle than a coil nailer - and a stapler is less complex to repair - it's easy to see why stapling would be the preferred method for fastening shingles.

Senco RoofPro 455XP Roofing Nailer

PRO TIP: When estimating nail or staple usage for your roofing project, you should budget 400 nails or staples per square. Breaking it down further, you'll typically use four fasteners per 3-tab shingle. However, always consult your local building authority for exact code requirements.

Bostitch Roofing Nailer

Flash forward to present day, where coil roofing nails dominate the market. But what changed?

Within the last two decades, the roofing industry has shifted its preference toward the roofing nail. What's ironic, it can actually be argued the staple has better holding power compared to the nail. Nonetheless, here's why coil roofing nails have gained such popularity over staples.

Hitachi NV45AB2 Coil Roofing Nailer

While many factors have led modern roofers to use nails more often than staples, the strongest argument doesn't actually involve the quality of either fastener, but rather depends on the patience and precision of the end user. The problem with attaching a shingle to roof using staples, if the positioning of the staple is not perpendicular to the shingle itself, holding strength is greatly compromised. Staples are also much easier to over-drive, or under-drive, both scenarios that can further contribute to holding issues. With roofing nails this issue doesn't exist, because the nail has a round head - just make sure the nail gets driven straight into the shingle.

Other benefits to using coil roofing nails include higher capacity magazine load, adjustable depth of drive on most roofing nailers, and most roofing nails maintain a universal design for ease of compatibility.

Stinger Cap Coil Roofing Nailer

In some areas of the U.S. today, staples have even been banned from shingle to roof installation, due to the likelihood of improper installation. Depending on region, other regulations may dictate type of galvanization or coating, or even require stainless steel roofing nails in coastal areas. As always, please confirm code requirements with your local building authority prior to starting a project.


~ The Nail Gun Depot Team

Leave a Reply


  • Ken Abrahamson October 9, 2016 at 6:42 AM

    for a decade I said staples when used correctly were better. My reason was we used staples to roof with but had to order them because there was no supplier in the tiny town of Pierre SD in the 70s. We ran out of staples and had to hand nail over half of a new home. The next day the house was destroyed by a tornado. The staples held better than the nails. Sadly time has shown me differently. The tiny diameter of staple legs mean less hold with time. If you can find a roof with staples here because of code, it is easy to identify them because so many have worked up. I was on a shake roof and could see staples worked up over an inch.

    • Nail Gun Depot October 10, 2016 at 8:36 AM

      Ken, thanks for commenting. Great feedback!

  • Bob decker April 27, 2019 at 11:27 AM

    Staples should be totally banned from the roofing industry. They rust, they back out, they don't hold and they put two holes through the roof shingle, whereas a nail only one. Also, the roofer fires off more than needed into the shingle. I've had nothing but problems with our roof because of them. Any re-roofing of my home will not be with staples.

    • Nail Gun Depot April 29, 2019 at 4:53 AM

      Thanks for your comments. We appreciate hearing from others' experiences.

    • Ronald Dean Evans May 31, 2019 at 6:48 AM

      I absolutely agree with Ken.. I have made at least 8 repairs or more since my roof was put on with staples... . Staples are not holding and are rusting and rising causing damage to the existing roof..
      Can i get my insurance company to compensate this installment flaw?

  • BCM December 19, 2019 at 4:01 AM

    I was just replacing a flue pipe flashing on a roof. It was the first stapled roof I have come across (I am an HVAC technician not a roofer). It must have been stapled correctly because it did not appear to have any problems with staples working loose or rusting out and the owner thinks the roof is nearly forty years old. While I am content with nails and find them easier to work with when replacing a flashing, I was impressed with this roof and its staples.

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