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Siding Nailer vs Roofing Nailer: Which is Best for Your Needs?

nail gun

They look similar and they perform the same task, but that doesn’t mean that siding nailers and roof nailers are the same tool. Both tools are coil nailers that are built to drive nails into wood, but you can’t use them interchangeably. You might have noticed the price difference between them already, but it’s the reasons for the price difference that really separate these two types of nail guns.

Each nailer is named for the job they fill. Siding nailers are for installing siding and roofing nailers are meant for installing roofing. But did you realize that different nails are used for each task? Let’s take a closer look at each of these useful tools and see which one is the best choice for your situation.

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Siding Nailer Overview

At its heart, a siding nailer is a coiler nailer designed for installing siding onto exterior walls. They look the same as roofing nailers, and they even operate in the same basic fashion. The main difference between these two types of nail guns is in the nails they use.

using a nailer
Image: Pixabay

These Nails Don’t Come Out

Nails meant for holding up siding are intended to stay put. Siding isn’t meant to be replaced as often as roofing, so the nails are ring-shanked to provide a better hold. They also have small heads for the same reason.

Don’t Fire it Flush

Most of the time when you install a nail, you’re going to install it flush with the surface. But that’s not the case with a siding nail. Since siding is susceptible to the whims of nature, it’s going to experience a lot of expansion and contraction. Because of this, siding nails aren’t installed flush. Instead, a small gap is left between the head of the nail and the siding to allow for normal expansion and contraction. Otherwise, your siding would crack. 

Adjustable Depth

Since siding is installed on a vertical surface, holding it up requires a lot more force than holding on roofing that’s laying on a horizontal surface. As a result, siding nails are much longer than roofing nails; often as long as 2½ inches. To account for this, siding nailers have adjustable depth controls to allow you to alter how far the nail is being driven.

Longer Nails, Larger Price

Siding nailers tend to be quite a bit more expensive than roofing nailers, driving many to look at roofing nailers as an alternative. But if you need to drive long nails, only the siding nailer will let you do it.

Pros
  • Adjustable depth
  • The nails aren’t meant to be removed
  • Can use nails of different sizes
Cons
  • More expensive

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Roofing Nailer Overview

Looking at them side by side, it can still be difficult to tell a roofing nailer apart from a siding nailer. Since roofing nailers are much cheaper, many would prefer to purchase one to perform the job of a siding nailer. But these fire completely different fasteners, so that’s not going to work the way you might hope.

man using DEWALT DW45RN Pneumatic Coil Roofing Nailer

These Nails Need to Come Out

Unlike siding nails, roofing nails need to come out. Roof shingles need to be replaced occasionally, so the nails have larger heads that are easier to grab. They also have smooth shanks that will pull out much easier than the ringed shanks you’ll find on siding nails.

Punching Through Asphalt

Roofing nailers have to punch their nails through asphalt shingles; an arguably more difficult job than nailing through siding. But since these nails have to hold the shingles flush to the roof, the nails are installed flush as well.

Shorter Nails

Installing shingles doesn’t require long nails since they’re thin. Therefore, roofing nails are generally no longer than 1¾ inches. This is the most glaring difference that sets a roofing nailer apart from a siding nailer. Siding nailers use much longer nails that basically start where roofing nails end.

Smaller Nails, Smaller Price Tag

Since they use smaller nails, roofing nailers tend to also come with a smaller price tag. This is probably the most appealing aspect of a roofing nailer and why some people would prefer to purchase a roofing nailer if it will serve their needs.

Pros
  • Affordable
  • Very easy to use
Cons
  • Depth isn’t adjustable
  • Meant to work only with shorter nails
  • The nails are designed for removal

The Difference is in the Nails

Between these two very similar tools, the main difference is the nails. Siding nails and roofing nails are designed to perform different jobs, so they’re built differently. You can’t fire roofing nails from a siding nailer or vice versa, so it’s important to make sure you’re using the right fastener and therefore the right nailer for the job.

Siding Nails

Siding nails are longer than roofing nails since they have to hold up more weight. They’re not designed to be removed, so they have smaller diameter heads and ringed shanks that grip the wood better.

Roofing Nails

Roofing nails are meant to be removed, so they have larger heads that are easier to grab onto for when they need to come out. They also have smooth shanks that don’t grip the wood as tightly as the ringed shanks on siding nails. Finally, roofing nails are much shorter since they don’t have to hold up much weight and they only have to punch through a thin shingle and a single layer of wood.

Siding Nails Roofing Nails
Designed to be permanent Designed to be removed
Smaller head Larger Head
Ring shank Smooth shank
Up to 2.5 inches long No longer than 1.75 inches

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Quick Look: Our Top Choices

Image Product Details
Our Favorite Siding Nailer DEWALT DW66C-1 15-Degree Coil Siding and Fencing Nailer DEWALT DW66C-1 15-Degree Coil Siding and Fencing Nailer
  • Works with nails from 1.5-2.5 inches long
  • Easy to dial
  • Holds 300 nails at a time
  • Our Favorite Roofing Nailer DEWALT DW45RN Pneumatic Coil Roofing Nailer DEWALT DW45RN Pneumatic Coil Roofing Nailer
  • Drive up to 10 nails per second
  • Has depth adjustment wheel with numbered detents
  • Can use nails up to 1.75 inches long
  • Our Favorite Siding Nailer: DEWALT DW66C-1 15-Degree Coil Siding and Fencing Nailer

    DEWALT DW66C-1 Fencing Nailer

    Weighing in just under five pounds, this DEWALT siding nailer is built to work all day long. It works with nails from 1.5-2.5 inches long and features a tool-free depth adjust that makes it easy to dial in the perfect depth on the go. It holds 300 nails at a time and comes with DEWALT’s 3-year warranty, making it a great choice for any type of siding work.

    Our Favorite Roofing Nailer: DEWALT DW45RN Pneumatic Coil Roofing Nailer

    DEWALT DW45RN Pneumatic Coil Roofing Nailer

    Priced lower than the siding nailer, this roofing nailer is also from DEWALT and features the same quality build and feel. It weighs a bit more at 5.2 pounds and is able to drive up to 10 nails per second. There’s a depth adjustment wheel with numbered detents to help you set the right depth no matter what materials you’re using. It can use nails up to 1.75 inches long.

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    Conclusion

    While both of these tools could be used for jobs other than originally intended, they’re best-suited for specific situations. Just keep in mind the main difference between them; the fasteners they use.

    If you’re installing siding, you want a siding nailer. For installing roofing, a roofing nailer is the best choice. If you’re doing something else, pick the tool that uses the fastener that will work best for your needs.


    Featured Image: brizmaker, Shutterstock

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