As a homeowner, you often find yourself needing professional tools, despite your largely amateur construction status. A wide gamut of professional tools exists for similar purposes, often barely distinguishable from one another. Roofing nailers and siding nailers fall into this category – they look the same, if not identical, and perform very similar tasks. Differences between these tools come down largely to their suitability for projects, which relates to the types of nails each uses.
Nailers are power tools that use air, electricity or even gunpowder to drive nails through surfaces. Numerous types of nailers exist, though all of them perform the same basic function, that of attaching a material to a surface by driving a nail through both of them. Manufacturers usually design nailers for very specific purposes. For instance, categories of nailers include roof nailers, side nailers, framing nailers, finish nailers and light-duty nailers. Within each of these categories, various types of nailers exist.
Roofing nailers exist for nailing down roofing materials and siding nailers exist for nailing down siding material. However, this description doesn't give a very accurate depiction of the differences between these two tools. More specifically, roofing nailers work with roof shingles made from either asphalt or fiberglass. Various types of siding nailers exist, all suited for use with different siding materials. Most siding nailers exist for use with wood, though some work with other types of siding material, such as vinyl.
The type of nail used helps differentiate siding nailers from roofing nailers. Roofing nailers use very specific roofing nails designed for use with shingles. These nails vary in length, depending upon the thickness of shingles used, but all exhibit the same basic design. Various types of siding nails exist, such as galvanized siding nails and aluminum nails for vinyl siding. Unlike roofing nails, siding nails come in several designs. Companies like Bostitch load nailers with appropriate nails when you purchase them for a specific application. Or, you can purchase nails for your needs at a hardware store.
Nailers load in one of two ways, with coil cartridges or straight cartridges. Coil cartridges pack nails in a spiral and shoot them out like a Tommy gun does with its bullets. Straight cartridges load in a straight, narrow clip located on the front of a nailer. Roofing nailers are almost always coil nailers, while siding nailers can be either, depending upon the manufacturer.
You can use roof nailers for any roofing project involving shingles. Do some research before using a siding nailer when installing new siding. For instance, nailers exist for use with vinyl siding, but an article in "Fine Homebuilding" magazine strongly recommends against the use of siding nailers with vinyl.