Wear Guards. I've seen nailers worn to the point that the magazine is half gone and the nailer body is foil thin. Though it happens slowly, every time a nailer grinds across roof shingles it adds to the wear that can lead to premature retirement (for the nailer–not the user). Manufacturers now install sacrificial wear guards and, in many cases, skid guards to minimize wear on critical (and expensive) tool parts. Some are simple and can only withstand minimal abuse, like the adhesive rubber pads on Craftsman's tool head. Others, like Max, install thick replaceable steel wear guards on both sides of the base and head. Bostitch, DeWalt, and Porter-Cable apply rubber inserts within their replaceable steel wear guards that also act as skid guards effective at keeping the tool from sliding off low and moderate pitches. The Hitachi, Makita, Paslode, Senco, and Spotnails use a mix of replaceable steel and rubber wear guards.
Max's nice swivel attachment helps keep hoses from getting tangled.
Credit: Photo: David Sharpe
Nose Replacements. The Max, Paslode, Senco, and Bostitch have easily replaceable contact-tip noses. All the nailers have carbide inserts in the nose tip to reduce wear, but in time you may need a new one. Bostitch and Max have vinyl siding adapters that let you get another function from the tools. I like this.
Triggers. Like other Max nailers, the Max coil roofer has an "anti–double-fire" trigger. If you plant the nose before pulling the trigger, the tool will only cycle once before you have to lift the tool and release the trigger for another shot. When the trigger is squeezed first, the tool operates in bump-fire mode. Porter-Cable and Ridgid tools have a switch on the trigger to convert between sequential and bump-fire modes; this is more useful on a vinyl siding application, or anywhere else you need to precisely set a fastener, than on the roof. DeWalt and Max have lock-off switches, which are handy to activate when carrying the tools around or climbing ladders.
Nail Advance. The Hitachi, DeWalt, and Spotnails models have air-driven nail advance and return palls that the companies tout as a durability feature. I could not test for this on my sites. The other nailers have an air-driven return and a spring advances the palls.
Filters and Swivels. The Ridgid, Max, and Makita have internal air filters that prevent debris from getting into the working parts. Filters make obvious sense.
Max and Ridgid have swiveling air intake fittings that are great for keeping roof hoses from twisting and knotting.
This crop of tough-guy roofing nailers is a vast improvement over the tools I used a decade ago and can stand up to the hard-hitting abuse they face on the roof. Picking one winner among this group was tough and it ended up being a three-way tie: Bostitch, DeWalt, and Hitachi stand tall. They're all great. The Bostitch works flawlessly, and it has just the right blend of durability and features to stay at the top of the food chain. Hitachi's magazine, depth-of-drive, and bulletproof design are excellent, too; you could probably drive an 18-wheeler over this tool and it would still work. The DeWalt is smartly designed and ruggedly built with excellent features.
The Senco and Porter-Cable tools hit the mark, too, with tireless operation during every phase of the test.
The Max is rugged and reliable, but it's on the heavy side, its shingle gauge loosened up on me, and the nail canister wasn't my favorite. The Paslode, Makita, Ridgid, and Craftsman need more power, and the stylish Spotnails needs better ergonomics.
–Mike Guertin is a builder and remodeler in East Greenwich, R.I., and is a member of Hanley Wood's JLC Live! construction demonstration team.
Sources Of Supply
Hitachi Power Tools
3175 RCU: $299