What Size Roofing Nails for Shingles?

Do you want your roof to stay put, come rain or shine? Of course, you do! Then, choosing the correct size and type of roofing nails should be a top priority. But with so many sizes and types of roofing nails out there, how do you pick the right ones for your shingles?

In the sections below, we’ll discuss the factors to consider when deciding on the size of roofing nails for shingles. Let’s get into it!

Understanding Roofing Nails 

Roofing nails can be made of different materials and into different shapes. Each nail type has its own pros and cons to consider. This can be anything from longevity and stability to rust resistance and more.

Common Materials for Roofing Nails

  • Galvanized steel: The most commonly used material due to rust and corrosion resistance.
  • Stainless steel: Even more corrosion resistance could be ideal for areas with high moisture levels that need these properties even more.
  • Aluminum: Lightweight with corrosion resistance but not as strong or long-lasting as steel.

Galvanized steel is considered the standard option. However, upgrading to stainless steel in coastal regions with hurricanes and high winds can provide an extra layer of security.

Roofing Nail Types

There are three common roofing nail types to consider, and each has unique features that make sense for certain roofing projects.

  • Smooth shank: These are very common. They are durable and easy to drive into the shingle.
  • Ring shank: Offers more holding power with additional grip from rings on the shank.
  • Screw shank: The most holding power of the three. Usually used in areas prone to very high winds.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Roofing Nails

You must consider several factors when deciding which of these nails to use (and the size). This includes the following list:

  • Type of Shingle: Asphalt typically uses 1 to 2-inch nails, but wood and slate shingles may require longer nails.
  • Roof Pitch: Steeper roofs might need special nails with extra holding power (as noted above) to prevent the shingles from slipping.
  • Building Codes: Most codes in North America require at least 12 gauge nails for roofing projects.
  • Weather Conditions: High-wind areas usually need more nails with better-holding power. Coastal regions could benefit from corrosion-resistant materials.

Recommended Nail Sizes for Different Shingles 

What nail sizes you need for different shingles depends somewhat on the aforementioned factors. However, the general rule is that your roofing nails should be long enough to pierce through the shingle and sink at least ¾ inches into the roof deck below.

This gives your shingles a tight hug and keeps them from coming off during nasty weather. Here’s a guide on the standard recommended nail sizes for different shingles.

Type of Shingle Recommended Nail Length
Asphalt Shingles 1-1/4 inch to 2 inches
Wood Shingles/Shakes 1-1/2 inch to 2 inches
Slate Shingles 1-1/2 inch to 2 inches


Thickness matters, too! A nail’s girth is measured by its “gauge”—the lower the gauge number, the thicker the nail. Most building codes say 12-gauge is the minimum, but if you want some extra oomph, 11 or 10-gauge nails will really hold things down.


Gauge  Diameter (mm)  Strength
12 2.67 Minimum allowed
11 Thicker More durable
10 Thickest Most durable

Installation Tips

Of course, even the perfect nails won’t do you much good if you don’t apply them properly. Make sure you place them within the designated nail zone (about an inch above the shingle cut-outs) and drive them in nice and straight.

You want the heads snug against the shingle but not so tight that they dig in and cause damage. The sweet spot is for that nail to punch through the decking by at least ¾ inches. When the nail goes in too deep and damages the shingle, it’s called overdriving. This can cause leaks and/or earlier than scheduled roof repairs

Common Mistakes to Avoid 

If you are new to roofing nails and roof replacement, it’s easy to fall into these common mistakes. Here’s what you want to avoid:

  • Using the wrong nail length: If you are reading this article, you already know about this. Different shingle types need different roof lengths, so follow the abovementioned standards.
  • Incorrect nail type: This is another common pitfall. Not all nails are created equal. Make sure the nail type meets local building codes and is appropriate for the shingle type. Don’t forget about external factors, too!
  • Inconsistent nail patterns: This is probably the biggest mistake. Don’t skimp on the number of nails per shingle! Manufacturer guidelines usually call for 4-6 nails; most local codes won’t settle for less than 6. Using too few nails is just asking for trouble down the line.
  • Overdriving or underdriving nails: This was covered in the installation tips section, but it’s worth repeating. The nails should be flush with the shingle’s surface—no more, no less. Overdriving can damage the shingle while underdriving leaves the nail sticking out. Both can cause leaks.

Looking for a Roofing Contractor to Help?

So there you have it! Now you know how to pick the perfect roofing nails based on the shingles you are using. Stick to these guidelines and your roof will be sitting pretty for years to come.

If you are looking for the best roofing contractors in Philadelphia, PA, and the surrounding area, Glick’s Exteriors is the preferred choice.

Glick’s is quick to respond with upfront pricing. They are locally owned and operated with a 5.0 rating to boot.

Contact Glick’s Exteriors for a free quote today, or call 610-810-1290 with any questions!


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