Both siding nailers and roofing nailers look and perform similarly. They’re about the same size, about the same weight, and they even have similar power sources.
However, these nailers are anything but interchangeable, and using the wrong one can cause serious harm to your project. When you’re talking about siding and roofing, the very things that protect people’s homes and help keep them dry and comfortable inside, that’s no small matter.
We’ll look at the core differences between these two tools and the nails they both use and make recommendations for the best uses of each.
Let’s get to work.
Siding nailers are exactly what they sound like. They are a specialized tool that’s meant to set nails for siding on a building and to do it with extreme precision and speed. These tools are a big part of what makes it possible to lay an entire wall or a building’s siding in a single day.
Siding nailers are relatively powerful tools that propel the nail forward with enough strength to go through the siding and effectively fasten it to the surface underneath. They’re also designed to do it incredibly quickly, with some nailers being capable of delivering several nails in a second when used by a skilled professional.
But siding attachment is a little different from roofing, and that leads to several core differences in the nailers.
Those differences start with the nails themselves. Siding nails aren’t designed to be removed and replaced frequently, so they tend to be longer to help hold the siding in place for the life of the siding.
Siding nails are up to 2.5 inches long in order to provide that grip. They are also designed to hold in the siding and wood without sliding or moving significantly over time. The ringed shanks on these nails help to hold them in place, even if the wood and siding grow and shrink due to temperature and moisture changes.
Siding nails also have a smaller flatter nail head. They are designed to stay in place and provide less grip since these nails aren’t designed to be removed. That’s a huge difference compared to roofing nails that are designed to be sturdy, but also removed and replaced regularly.
Differences in Application
Siding nailers also aren’t designed to work in quite the same way as roofing nailers. They usually aren’t quite as powerful since siding offers less resistance than roofing materials, but they are also significantly more precise.
Since siding nails come in a variety of lengths, siding nailers also need to have a depth adjustment system. Most are tool-free and easy to use and offer incredibly precise force to place the nail exactly where you want it.
Siding nails also aren’t designed to be applied flush with the siding. Instead, siding nails are supposed to have a small gap between the nail head and the siding. That gap allows the material to expand and shrink in different weather conditions without putting any strain on the nails.
Roofing nailers are another beast entirely. At first glance they are similar, both come in battery and pneumatic power options, and both kinds of nailers use a similar firing mechanism and a similar precision tip for closer placement.
However, roofing nailers tend to be significantly more affordable than siding nailers. A lot of people would rather use a roofing nailer for both applications, but they really don’t work that way. For one thing, roofing nailers are designed to punch through different materials, and the two aren’t interchangeable.
Roofing nails are designed to come back out periodically for roof repairs and replacements. Since they aren’t designed to be a permanent addition to your home, these nails tend to be shorter. A 1 ½ inch nail is perfectly acceptable for roofing but wouldn’t give you the secure hold you need for siding.
Roofing nails also don’t have the ringed shank on the nail. It’s less of a big deal if a couple of roofing nails work their way out of your roof ahead of schedule than if a siding nail came free.
Roofing nails also have a much larger head that makes gripping them and pulling them out of the roof significantly easier.
Since you’re punching through asphalt (or other roofing materials) that don’t shrink and expand quite as much as siding does, roofing nails are also designed to be applied flush with the materials you’re fastening in place.
Siding Nailers Vs Roofing Nailers -The Core Differences
Okay, we’ve talked a little about each tool, but let’s look at some of the core differences between siding nailers vs roofing nailers and see why you might want one nailer over the other.
For starters, roofing nailers are noticeably more affordable than siding nailers. The nails themselves also tend to be a little cheaper on the roofing side because they are a smaller and simpler design of nails.
That doesn’t mean that a roofing nailer is a more affordable alternative to a siding nailer though.
For one thing, the two tools are calibrated with very different firing pressure to go through very different kinds of materials that you’re working with.
Siding nailers are generally best for siding and some kinds of exterior trim, which some nailers perform better with some materials than others. Roofing nailers are designed to attach shingles of various types to the underlying structure, which has very different kinds of requirements on the tool.
One of the other big differences between these two tools is the depth adjustment tool. Almost no roofing nailers will have a depth adjustment tool because there aren’t many contexts where a roofing nailer will need one.
However, it’s really critical for siding nailers because they work with a wider variety of nail lengths.
Still think that siding nailers and roofing nailers are similar?
The last big difference is compatibility. Siding nailers are generally compatible with wider variation in the length and size of the nails (within reason) while roofing nailers are much more limited in compatibility.
Does increased versatility mean a siding nailer makes a good roofing nailer?
While you could theoretically use a siding nailer with a compatible smooth-shank nail for roofing, chances are you’d have more problems than if you were using the appropriate roofing nailer. For one thing, you’d likely be using nails that are longer than necessary for the job.
That might not cause too many problems by itself, but you’d be paying extra for length you really don’t need for the job you’re doing.
Siding nailers are also more likely to jam or only partially fire when you’re working with roofing material. They’re designed for a deeper drive, but through materials that have very different physical properties and are generally less grippy and bouncy than asphalt.
Which Do You Need?
We get it, most professionals already have huge toolkits and want to keep new tool purchases to a minimum. You want to know which nailer you need, and don’t want to end up buying two different nail guns unless you absolutely have to.
This is one area where not every professional who needs one of these nailers is going to need the other.
Whew. That’s a relief, right?
Well, here’s the bad news. Some professionals and even some DIYers are absolutely going to need to buy both kinds of nail guns. If you do both roofing and siding as your primary focus, you need both of these varieties of nailer.
Professionals who focus on roofing and siding will probably want to have several different versions of these nail guns to be able to work more effectively with your crew and to handle the different kinds of nails you’re working with. Switching between two different pre-loaded tools is usually easier than loading and unloading your magazine every time you need a different nail.
However, if your job primarily focuses on roofing, or you’re just looking for the tools you need to redo/repair your roof, a roofing nailer is probably sufficient.
On the other hand, if you don’t work with roofs but do apply siding and are looking for a slightly more versatile and effective nail gun design, a siding nailer is probably a good option.
There are more generalized nail guns that have similar features to siding nailers but that are compatible with a wide enough range of nail guns to be able to handle several different kinds of nails. Those are a reasonable third option, though you shouldn’t expect a generalist nailer to perform as well as the more specialized versions.