Exposed Nail Heads

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This article will address the following areas regarding exposed nails:

1. Low Nailing
2. Nail Pops
3. Ridge Cap Shingle Ends
4. Insurance and Nails

Exposed nail head leaks can be a real issue because these are small leaks that don’t always become apparent inside your house for an extended period of time.  They are one of the most frequent causes of roof leaks. Each nail on a roof is a penetration that leads through the roof decking and into the attic or living space. When a nail is not covered and is exposed to precipitation, water can use the same penetration hole to make its way into the building and cause damage (particularly once a nail has rusted). By the time comes that these leaks start showing up in places like the ceiling of your home, a lot more damage has already taken place, such as mold and moisture growth in your attic and rotten boards.

1. Low Nailing

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One common issue with exposed nails is what is called low nailing, which is when a shingle is secured by a nail that is not covered by the next row of shingles. Low nailing is an issue because without a shingle overtop of it to protect it, it is nothing more than an opening in the shingle that can allow water in and form a leak spot. These low nails are exposed to the elements and in time will corrode, and this corrosion leaves an opportunity for water to enter.

The best solution for a low nail shingle is to replace the shingle entirely. As long as the shingle is not brittle and can be reasonably matched. An alternative solution would be to remove the low nail, replace the nail properly, and seal the previous nail hole in the shingle with a high quality silicone sealant, but this is NOT a surefire method like removing the shingle is. Exposed nails and/or fasteners are also common in certain types of roof flashing, pipe boots, box vents, power vents, capping shingle on a ridge cap, skylight flashing etc. The solution for all of these is a properly dabbed high quality silicone sealant that completely covers the nail head fastener.

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Exposed Pipe Boot Nails

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Exposed Flashing Nails

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Exposed Ridge Cap Nails

2. Nail Pops

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Nail Pop Example

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Another Nail Pop

Nail pops are when a nail head works its way up and out of the roof. This can be caused by anything from improper nailing of the shingle at installation, to weather causing expansion and contraction. Because weather is such a large factor in nails pops it is worth noting that this is a rather common problem to have occur. A tiny little nail moving up a very small amount may not seem like a very big problem. However, a nail hole not properly sealed is an opportunity for water to get in and a leak to start, so in all actuality this is a very big issue and nail pops do require being fixed.

In the case of flat asphalt roofs it is acceptable to hammer the nail pop back into place. But it is also a good idea to add an additional nail to that shingle to provide additional support. In other cases it can be best to remove the nail completely and caulk over the old hole adding a new nail back in a different spot. If you have the aid of someone in the attic they can help guide you to find a spot to put the new nail in that might allow for better reinforcement to keep the nail in place, such as locations that do not have cracks, knots, joints or splintering.

3. Ridge Cap Shingle Ends

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We talk extensively about the ins and outs of Ridge Caps on our Hip and Ridge Page. But here we would like to zero in a little bit on Ridge Cap Nails specifically. The most important point on this is that nails used for Ridge Caps should be covered by the next Ridge Cap. Exposed nails are what lead to leaks and should be avoided. The last nails on the final Ridge Cap should be covered in cement to assure they do not leak. Nails also need to be at least 2” long in order to penetrate the additional Ridge Vents and into the decking below.

4. Insurance and Nails

Seemingly simple issues like “little” nail pops can mean big issues as far as the insurance companies are concerned. In fact typically insurance companies will not cover a damaged area unless a spot such as nail pops are completely replaced and a new shingle added back in its place. Trying to patch nail issues is considered an iffy business at best, because the results are rarely permanent. Of course full replacement of shingles that are damaged can be a disruptive process for customers who thought their job was done right the first time.

In addition further damages that develop from nail issues being discovered down the road can mean costly repairs not covered by insurance because it was not done right the first time. This means a lot of time, hassle and money for the consumer. The bottom line is even little details like nail placements are critical when completing your roofing process.