22 years ago I made a career change, going from a cushy desk job working in air-conditioned comfort to roofing in the sweltering heat of Southwest Florida in August.
My first job was installing a second layer of shingles on a small house in Cape Coral, Florida. Once the boss was satisfied that I knew how to install roofing shingles properly, he let me do the job by myself.
I’m sure he had no idea that it would take me as long as it did. I had three things going against me…
First off, I was out-of-shape and not used to working outside in the heat. Second, I was too fussy, shooting for perfection instead of excellence.
But my biggest problem was installing thousands of roofing nails with a hammer because I didn’t have a nail gun. Fast hand nailing is an art and I was no artist!
So each day the boss stopped by to see how I was doing. The quality was fine, but my progress was painfully slow. However, I was on piecework, so it didn’t really matter much to him how long it took.
But as day after day went by, it became a big joke. Not only did the boss stop by, but other roofers and friends of the boss stopped by. None of them could believe how long it was taking me to install roofing shingles and each of them just had to see it for themselves. I remember them trying to conceal their smirks.
Finally, after nine days the job was complete. As the boss paid me the $200 I had coming, he asked if I was sure I wanted to install roofing for a living. When I told him I did, he said he better get me a nail gun… because I was going to starve at that rate!
Since I had a wife, three kids and a big mortgage, I couldn’t have agreed more.
The next job went much faster and easier, thanks to the pneumatic roofing nailer. I found I could install roofing nails six times faster with the nail gun than with my hammer.
If you’re going to roof your own home, you stand to save thousands of dollars… but it’s a tough job. You should be able to justify getting the tools that will make the job go faster and easier. And no tools will help you install roofing shingles faster and easier than a nail gun and compressor.
There are many good models available, but my preference is a Hitachi NV45AB2 for the nailer and a Porter Cable 150 PSI pancake compressor.
You could rent them, but the prices have come down so much, you will probably be better off buying. That will also allow you to work at your own pace and you could sell the tools after the job, recouping much of their cost.
Some old timers still prefer hand nailing because they say a nail gun promotes putting the nails in the wrong place. But I say you can put the nails in the right place or the wrong place with either tool.