Exposed Nail Heads can cause leaks

Exposed Roof Nails – How They Impact Your New Roof

As a homeowner, you take pride in maintaining the safety and integrity of your property. One often overlooked aspect of home maintenance is the condition of your roof. Exposed roofing nails might seem minor, but they can lead to significant problems if left unattended. In this blog post, we’ll delve into what exposed roof nails are, why they pose a threat, and provide valuable insights on how to repair them effectively.

What are Exposed Nails

Exposed nails in your home inspection report refer to any visible nails in the roofing materials. This could refer to exposed nail heads, loose nails, or nail pops. Although this is most common with asphalt shingles, any exposed roof nails on any roofing material are a defect.

Exposed Nails from Improper Installation

The most common reason for exposed nails is improper installation by the roofing company. And the most common location for this is the ridge or peak. Generally, overlapping shingles conceal the underlying nails. However, at the ridge, there will always be at least one shingle that will not have a shingle installed over it. Most professional roofers seal those last nails with roofing cement. But it’s easy to forget or assume it won’t be a big deal.

In addition, some homeowners attempt to save money by choosing a cheap company or doing the roof themselves. Since roofs are relatively expensive to replace, this is understandable. However, they may not cover the nails if the new shingles aren’t lined up perfectly with a chalk line, laser line, or other method.

Improper nailing patterns can leave nails exposed. Every shingle manufacturer creates a nailing zone. Likewise, any nails driven outside that zone will likely end up exposed.

Exposed Nails From Nail Pops

Nail pops and under-driven nails are two different defects, but they create the same problem – exposed nails

Expansion and contraction of the wood caused by temperature fluctuations can push a nail up and through a shingle. These are nail pops. They occur more frequently with the use of improper (short) nails, but all nails are susceptible.

On the other hand, under-driven nails were “popped” from the beginning. This occurs when the roofer leaves them sticking up a little bit, and they eventually puncture the shingle above. In either case, they’re now exposed, creating leak points and making the shingle prone to damage from high winds.

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Exposed Nails from Weathering

Sometimes, everyone does everything correctly, and you still end up with exposed nails. This is because the most common fix for exposed nails is a dab of asphalt cement. Although this is a widely accepted practice, it’s not a permanent solution. Asphalt cement generally lasts 10-15 years but less in harsh weather. In contrast, asphalt shingle roofs last 20-40 years. Accordingly, without regular roof inspections and maintenance, exposed nails are inevitable.

That’s why many home inspectors describe roofing cement as a temporary fix.

The Problem With Exposed Roofing Nails

One common cause of roof leaks and subsequent water damage is exposed roofing nails.

As an exposed nail rusts, it shrinks, creating a path for water around it. In extreme situations, expanding and contracting forces loosen and push the nail out. Then, you’re left with nail holes. Additionally, exposed nails from shingle nail pops, underdriven nails, and other installation errors make the roof prone to missing shingles and further roofing damage.

Simply put, exposed roof nails cause leaks and damage to your home.

Repairing Exposed Roofing Nails

Repairing exposed nails is simple and prevents costly repairs.

Materials Needed:

  1. Asphalt cement (roof cement) or roofing sealant
  2. Roofing granules (typically available in bags at roofing supply stores or home improvement centers, or you can rub some off of an extra shingle)
  3. Putty knife or a small trowel
  4. Cloth or rag
  5. Rubber gloves
  6. Hammer


  1. Safety First: Roof repairs are inherently dangerous. Before starting any roofing work, ensure you have the proper safety equipment. Wear rubber-soled shoes or boots to prevent slipping, and use safety ropes or a harness if you’re working on a steep roof.
  2. Clean the Area: Using a cloth or rag, clean the area around the exposed nail to remove any dirt or debris. This ensures better adhesion of the asphalt cement. Also, make sure the area is dry. If it’s damp, you’ll want to wait for a dry day to complete this repair.
  3. Apply Asphalt Cement*: Scoop a generous amount of asphalt cement using the putty knife or small trowel. Then, apply the asphalt cement over the exposed nail, ensuring you completely cover the nail head and a bit of the surrounding area. Finally, press down gently but firmly to ensure the cement adheres properly to the shingle, creating a watertight seal.
    1. *If dealing with a nail pop, you’ll need to remove the nail with a hammer and install a longer nail. Any new nails should be stainless steel ring shank nails. This type of nail has the best holding power and rust resistance. The length of nails needed varies. Generally, they should penetrate the roof decking by at least 3/4″.
    2. *If the shingle is damaged, replace it first
  4. Add Roofing Granules: While the asphalt cement is still wet, sprinkle the roofing granules over the adhesive. Then, press the granules gently into the adhesive so they stick properly. This helps camouflage the repair and adds an additional layer of protection.
  5. Inspect Your Work: Ensure the nail is completely covered and the area looks well-sealed.
  6. Clean Up: Dispose of any leftover materials properly and store any unused asphalt cement or roofing granules for future use.
  7. Regularly Monitor the Repaired Area: Even after the repair, it’s a good idea to check the area periodically, especially after severe weather events, to ensure the seal remains intact.