Last fall Paslode introduced the first fuel-powered cordless roofing nailer. Tools of the Trade sent me one to test at a most convenient time: A record-breaking wind storm had just blown through the area and I was getting a lot of calls from people who wanted me to replace missing shingles.
The CR175C roofing nailer will be familiar to anyone who has ever used Paslode's other fuel-powered tools. It has the same battery and charger and takes a smaller version of the fuel cell used in the newer framing guns. Loading fasteners is the same as with any coil nailer: You open the cover (this one has a single door), place a coil in the magazine, lay the end of the coil across the feed pawls, and then snap the door shut. The fuel cell installs in the usual place, a vertical chamber behind the piston housing. On most fuel-powered nailers the battery compartment is on the side of the magazine, but coil guns have round magazines, so that's not an option. Instead, the battery drops into a vertical compartment at the very back of the tool.
The first time we used this gun was on a full tear-off and reroofing job. The CR175C is not a replacement for a pneumatic nailer and was not designed for fastening shingles over broad expanses of area – but we used it that way anyway, because we wanted to see what it could do. It performed very well, consistently driving nails to the correct depth. However, it was slower than a pneumatic. The manual says the tool can drive two nails per second; by way of comparison, Paslode's pneumatic model drives eight. The slower rate of firing was partially offset by a decrease in setup time and the ease with which we could work without hoses getting in the way. I could see using this gun on small additions, but on large projects it would be best to stick with pneumatics.
Where the fuel-powered roofing gun really showed its worth was in repair work. I often find myself wielding a hammer on small repair jobs because it's too much trouble to set up a compressor and hoses. There's nothing wrong with replacing shingles by hand except that it's nearly a three-handed job: one hand for the hammer, the other for the nail, and – oh, guess I'll have to hold the shingle up with the back of my nail hand. The fuel-powered gun made it possible to fasten shingles the way I would with a pneumatic – by holding them back with one hand and nailing with the other. It's faster and easier than using a hammer.
There is a convenience factor to using a cordless gun. You can show up on site, climb on the roof, and start working right away. It's hard to quantify the amount of setup time this saves, but I bet it would be on the order of 15 to 20 minutes at each end of the day. And I like being able to walk around on the roof without having to worry about snagging or tripping on hoses.
Cold weather use. As with other fuel-powered nailers, cold weather affects this gun's performance. In temperatures below 50° F the manufacturer recommends warming the fuel cell in an inside coat pocket and then – once the cell's in the gun – depressing the nose twice before firing. You might have to repeat this process until the tool is warm enough to operate properly. We used the cordless roofing gun in temperatures down to 45° F, and it worked fine once we warmed it up.
I kept a spare cell in my pocket and swapped it with the one in the gun whenever we stopped long enough for the tool to cool down.
Weight: 7.5 pounds
In recent years, toolless depth-of-drive mechanisms have become standard on most nailers. The mechanism on this gun requires the use of an Allen key, which stores in a holder on the bottom of the magazine. I didn't find this to be a hardship, as I can usually set the depth one time per job. In fact, I can go from job to job without ever changing the depth setting, assuming the roof sheathing is the same and temperatures don't vary radically.
This gun's other features include an adjustable shingle guide, a belt hook, and a shock-cord tether that clips to your belt to prevent the gun from falling to the ground.
Fuel and fasteners. Although the CR175C accepts any brand of roofing nail, it works best with Paslode's PowerBoost Black Tip Coating fasteners, which are designed to be easy to drive but hard to withdraw. Fuel cells can be purchased separately, but the pricing is better if you buy a Fuel + Nail combo pack ($13 for 720 nails and a fuel cell capable of driving 1,000 fasteners).
The Bottom Line
The CR175C performed very well for us and would be our gun of choice for small repairs and remodels. A few years back, when I was doing a lot of roofing work and hail repairs, I would have gladly paid this nailer's $529 price. I do less of that work now, so it would be hard to justify the expense – but I'm still tempted, because working on the roof is safer and easier when you don't have to deal with a hose. This gun is also sold under the DuoFast label, as the DFCR175; the only difference is that the DuoFast model is blue instead of orange.
Scott Dornbusch is a remodeler in North Branch, Minn.