Roofing hammers and hatchets are specialized tools intended to help residential roofers cut shingles and drive nails into them. They have unique features to make this job more efficient, such as magnetized faces to help you pick up a stray nail and even gauges that help you position shingles with the right exposure.
While hammers have been a roofer’s tool of choice for many years, there is now a new method of driving nails: pneumatic nail guns. These drive nails automatically when the roofer pulls the trigger, using pressurized air to force the nail down just the right amount. Yet, with these high‐tech tools available, some roofers still choose to use a roofing hammer. Why?
Far from being a tool of the past, shingle hammers still have advantages over nail guns. They have special features that hammer manufacturers have found room to improve upon in recent years. In this article, we’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of roofing hammers and tell you how to use them.
We’ll also compare roofing hammers and nail guns to help you choose which you’d prefer to work with. Choice of nailing tool is important to roofers because the proper nailing of a shingle is so critical to its function. Overdriven nails, or those whose head has punctured through the shingle, create opportunities for water to penetrate the roof. Underdriven nails do the same, by propping up the shingle above. This prevents the shingle from sealing properly and thereby makes it liable to blow off the roof.
Further, a nail that is placed in the wrong spot on the shingle may fail to secure the shingle to the roof at all, which may allow the shingle to fall off before its adhesive can be activated by the heat of the sun. Proper nailing truly makes the difference between a properly functioning roof and one with missing shingles and increased risk of leaks.
Before you can understand the advantages of roofing hammers, you need to know what separates them from framing hammers and other nail‐driving tools. The parts of a shingle hammer each have specific features designed just for working with asphalt shingles.
Roofing hammers can accomplish tasks that other hammers can’t. In particular, a roofing hammer is designed to allow the roofer to cut, place and nail shingles, all in a single tool. The roofer cuts the shingle with the claw and then places the shingle with the use of the gauge on the head. In fact, some roofing hammers have an adjustable gauge on the head to help roofers achieve the correct shingle exposure. Once the shingle is placed, the magnetized face of the hammer helps the roofer hit the nail.
Those are the typical features of a magnetic head roofing hammer, but new designs have added even more functionality to these tools. These new features include:
Some roofing professionals and collectors seek out antique roofing hammers. These often have square heads and are made from metals that were more popular in the past, such as brass and bronze. If you’ve found an antique hammer, be cautious, as these tools may no longer be up to the task of installing a roof.
This basic outline will tell you how to use a roofing hammer so that you’re taking advantage of all of its special features:
You can also use a shingle hatchet when you’re doing a repair or reroofing job and need to remove old or damaged shingles. By sliding the claw of the hammer beneath a shingle, you can use leverage to pry it up. However, most professional roofers will use a wonder-bar for this purpose, which is a thin crow bar. Another option is the Cole‐Bar hammer, which has an extendable claw that turns into a crowbar.
All roofing manufacturers approve of the use of hammers or nail guns when installing their shingles. Therefore, the choice between the two tools is left to the professional roofer. There are advantages and disadvantages of both tools that you will want to consider.
The Advantages of Roofing Hammers
The Disadvantages of Roofing Hammers
The Advantages of Nail Guns
Disadvantages of Nail Guns
In the end, it is the roofer’s accuracy and timing that matters most; so whichever tool helps a specific roofer achieve his best accuracy with the most efficiency when driving nails is the best tool for him. Still, neither homeowners nor roofers should necessarily dismiss roofing hammers as the tools of the past. They have advantages and can be used with great precision. If you’re looking for a roofer who specializes in precise, high‐quality repairs on installation using roofing hammers, you can find one through our Contractor Locator.
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