Reuben's Home Inspection Blog

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Problems With Stapled Shingles

Wind damaged shingleWhile it used to be common practice to use staples to attach asphalt shingles to a roof, this has been a prohibited method of attachment in Minnesota since 2003.  Today, staples are considered an inferior method of attaching shingles to a roof, but it's easy to understand why roofers like staples.

  • Staple guns are smaller and better balanced.  Coil nail guns are literally fed with a coil of nails, and the holder for the nails makes the gun much bulkier.
  • Staples are far less prone to jamming up in a gun than nails.
  • Staples cost less money.
  • Staples are much more compact; a roofer can hold a bunch of sticks of staples in their pocket and reload their gun very quickly.  Nail coils take up a lot more space, they take more time to reload, and they need to be treated carefully; if a coil of nails gets dropped or stepped on, it deforms the coil and makes it much more prone to jamming in the gun.
Staples vs nails

Staples are used because they make the roofer's job easier; they don't equate to a better installation.

The problem with stapled shingles is that they have a much greater chance of coming loose or blowing off the roof because staples are so easy to install improperly.  When a roofer holds a staple gun and fastens a shingle, the staples will have a tendency to be driven at an improper angle.

Staples are often improperly installed because it's somewhat awkward to hold a staple gun completely perpendicular to the shingle.  For someone who is right handed, it's much easier to shoot the staples on the left side of their body at an angle similar to a forward slash, and the staples on the right side at an angle similar to a backward slash.  The two super-crude diagrams below should help to illustrate what I'm talking about.

Crude Staple Diagram

When staples are installed properly, they work fine, but they're just too easy to install wrong.  This issue doesn't happen with nails, because they have a round head; as long as a nail is driven in to a shingle straight, it doesn't matter which way the nail gun is turned.  To know if a roof has been installed with staples, you can sometimes see the outline of the staples pushing through the shingle above.

Roof staples covered   Roof staples exposed

Also notice, these staples aren't perpendicular to the shingle.  This is the installation problem that typically happens with staples.

If you have a roof that's been installed with staples, is it a defective installation?  If it was installed after 2003, technically yes, because staples aren't allowed any more.  If every staple was perfectly installed, the installation would work just as well as perfectly installed nails, but I've found improperly installed staples at every stapled roof I've inspected.   If you have a roof with stapled shingles, you don't need to replace the shingles as a rule of thumb, but you're taking on some risk.  If shingles start blowing off on a regular basis, you'll probably want to have the roof covering replaced.  This will be less costly and less of a hassle in the long run than having to deal with constant roof repairs.

When I inspect a house with shingles that have been improperly installed, I tell the same thing to my buyers; the shingles don't need to be replaced, but they might cause some headaches.  If shingles have already started coming loose and obvious repairs have been made, I typically recommend replacement of the roof covering.

P.S. - Special thanks to roof guru and fellow home inspector Mike Moser for always knowing the answer to any technical roofing question right off the top of his head.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections

        

Comment balloon 24 commentsReuben Saltzman • November 29 2011 06:17AM

Comments

I think this is great information. Your explanation is easy to understand. I suggested it because I thought what a great explanation you did. Well-written.

Posted by Loreena and Michael Yeo, Real Estate Agents (3:16 team REALTY ~ Locally-owned Frisco TX Real Estate Co.) about 6 years ago

Thanks Loreena!

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Minneapolis Home Inspections (Structure Tech Home Inspections) about 6 years ago

Hi Rueben,

Very good post. Shingles here need to be nailed. If they are stapled then the roofing project will fail inspection. The stapling has been a banned practice since 1992.

Good thing too. With our high winds and dust storms we get.

Everything needs to either nailed or screwed down good.

Have a great day in Minnesota.

Best, Clint McKie

Posted by Clint Mckie, Desert Sun Home, Comm. Inspection 1-575-706-5586 (Desert Sun Home, commercial Inspections) about 6 years ago

Reuben: Thank you for a very well written post about staples vs nails for installing roofing shingles. Given the additional time and cost, I could understand why contractors and homeowners might want to cut corners, but as you have demonstrated, not a good idea or even legal in many areas.

Posted by Anne M. Costello (Weidel Realtors) about 6 years ago

Reuben, you simply put it well and it is now a question I will ask my home inspectors when they inspect a roof for a buyer...great to know..thanks

Posted by Ginny Gorman, Homes for Sale in North Kingstown RI and beyond (RI Real Estate Services ~ 401-529-7849~ RI Waterfront Real Estate) about 6 years ago

Clint - banned since 1992 in your area?  Wow.  Good for you guys.  Don't try to tell me you guys screw down shingles though ;)

Anne - thanks.  As people stop buying staple guns, we see less and less stapled roofs.

Ginny - good stuff, thanks! 

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Minneapolis Home Inspections (Structure Tech Home Inspections) about 6 years ago

I purchased a home recently to be flipped. About 50% of the roof was stapled, you could sure tell the difference. Even though there was only one layer, we stipped everything and replaced it. It needed to look and be done right. Great post.

Posted by Joe Petrowsky, Your Mortgage Consultant for Life (Mortgage Consultant, Right Trac Financial Group, Inc. NMLS # 2709) about 6 years ago

What is important is to inform the client staples are a potential headache. As you so nicely point out, it's not necessarily a reason to change the roof. 

Posted by James Quarello, Connecticut Home Inspector (JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC) about 6 years ago

Forty years ago staples were just coming out.  My mother needed a new roof and I suggested she get her price and then demand the roofer use nails instead of staples.  She asked why and my thinking was that the shingles would not be attached well with the staples.  I wasn't a home inspector, but my thinking was probably right on.

She got her nails too...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

If four staples are good, wouldn't ten be better?  That would really be a strong roof!   ;>)

I say that because I've seen that!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

Interesting. I'll have to check to see if there are any such regulations in my state.  Because a great portion of our roofs are concrete tiles, spanish tiles, etc.  asphalt roofs aren't discussed for installation.  Thanks for sharing such a great post! 

Posted by Jan Green, HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN (Value Added Service, 602-620-2699) about 6 years ago

Perfect example of why you need a home inspection. With new tools, materials and codes a home inspection pays for itself.

Posted by David Popoff, Realtor®,SRS, Green ~ Fairfield County, Ct (DMK Real Estate ) about 6 years ago

Reuben-Once again you've taught me something. I always have heard that nails were better, but never really knew why. Home inspectors are worth their weight in gold. Thanks!

Have an AWESOME day!

Posted by Michael S. Bolton, MN Appraiser (Michael S. Bolton,Inc.) about 6 years ago

An other great post Reuben.  This is another of many "REASONS" good home inspectors are like gold.

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) about 6 years ago

Reuben, a while back I had a brand new 30 year roof that was literaly not more than a week old that had been stapled.  While I could not NOT say anything about it, bringing it up created a mess----well at least philosophically.  My reasoning was that the roof would likely last a long time any way and why not at least get some life out of it as opposed to its ending up in a landfill somewhere.  That will happen soon enough.  At any rate, the roofer admitted the mistake and replaced it the next day.  Why can't people use a little more sense?

Another thing about staples is that they do not represent very much surface area compared to a nail head---assuming the nail is installed properly.

Posted by Charles Buell, Seattle Home Inspector (Charles Buell Inspections Inc.) about 6 years ago

Great point.  I did a lot of re-roofs because of the stapled on shingles.  But like you said, they were used wrong.

Posted by William Feela, Realtor, Whispering Pines Realty 651-674-5999 No. (WHISPERING PINES REALTY) about 6 years ago

I had a client a few years back that after the inspection showed the roof had been stapled, canceled out of the contract.

Posted by Vern Eaton, Realtor 651-674-7449 about 6 years ago

Reuben , Staples can not be used here either from about the same time as you. I had done an inspection on a home that was stapled on a roof over. I could literally lift whole sections of the roof up.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

Joe - Good for you.  A lot of people who flip houses don't have the same attitude.

James - that's just it.  I inspected a house on Monday that had a stapled roof, and I couldn't find a single staple that was improperly located.  

Jay - that was some intuitive thinking on your part, way back when.  As for ten staples... as long as they're installed properly, sure :)

Jan - I bet the roofs in your area last a lot longer.  

David - yeah, I'm a big proponent of home inspections.  I'm a little biased... but still. 

 

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Minneapolis Home Inspections (Structure Tech Home Inspections) about 6 years ago

Michael - I've always heard the same thing, but had to do a little research myself to figure out exactly why staples had so many issues.

Chris - thank you!

Charles - I remember you writing about that roof, and that post you wrote has certainly influenced my way of thinking about things.

Good point about the surface area as well.  I'll have to write a follow-up post about improperly installed nails.

William - It's amazing what a difference it makes when the installation instructions are followed.

Vern - that sounds a little drastic.  I can understand being concerned about the roof or even wanted the shingles replaced, but to cancel the whole contract?  Bummer.

Donald - you wrote about that roof, didn't you?  Wasn't that just recently?  I scrolled through a few of your recent blogs but didn't see that post.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Minneapolis Home Inspections (Structure Tech Home Inspections) about 6 years ago

Reuben, Yes I did I do not remember quite when I wrote it. But it was a perfect example how staples perform (or not; )

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) about 6 years ago

I had not heard of the angle of the staple as reason for poor performance.

I have heard the explanation as an insufficient amount of asphalt/fiberglass material between penetration points with a dual pointed staple compared to a single point nail. 

As the shingle expands and contracts with temperature change, the fastener locations stay constant.  A sufficient distance between fasteners needs to be maintained to allow for shingle material  expansion and contraction.  

 

Posted by Jim Mushinsky (Centsable Inspection) about 6 years ago

Donald - I went through your posts again, and I guess it was about a month ago.  Time flies. 

Jim - staples are no longer allowed because of the reasons I stated above.  If staples are properly installed, they will perform just fine.  

If there was a concern over the distance between fastener penetration points, I'm pretty sure that shingle manufacturers would say that fasteners must maintain a minimum distance from each other.

Posted by Reuben Saltzman, Minneapolis Home Inspections (Structure Tech Home Inspections) about 6 years ago

This is great information to share with clients. Thanks!

Posted by Kathy Sheehan, Senior Loan Officer (Bay Equity, LLC 770-634-4021) about 6 years ago

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