What Should You Do About Exposed Nail Heads on Your Roof?

Posted on: 25 January 2017

When your roofing contractor installs your roof, they should be careful to place the top layer of shingles directly over top of the nails in the bottom layer of shingles. This way, the nail heads are protected and water does not seep in around them. However, roofing companies do sometimes make mistakes—or a previous homeowner may have made some DIY roof repairs that are not quite up to snuff. If you look across your roof and see exposed nail heads, this is an issue you'll need to deal with.

Why are exposed nail heads a threat?

As mentioned above, water can seep in around the nail, trickling down the length of the nail and moistening the wooden structure that underlies your shingles. In the best-case scenario, this will cause your wooden underlayment to rot out a bit more quickly than it otherwise would. In the worst case, it will lead to actual leaks in your attic, and this in turn can lead to moist insulation, mold problems, and other water damage.

What should you do about exposed nail heads?

Removing and replacing all of the shingles is not a very viable option because it's so time consuming. However, you can take care of exposed nail heads on your own—as long as you're comfortable climbing on a ladder and walking across your roof. If your roof is very steep, or if you're not steady on your feet, don't risk it. A roofing company can complete this project for you in the span of an afternoon.

If you do choose the DIY route, follow these steps:

  1. Purchase a tub of roof cement at your local hardware store. You'll also need a hammer and a small spatula or putty knife.
  2. Have someone hold the ladder steady for you as you climb onto the roof.
  3. Use the hammer to pound on the exposed nail head until it is flush with the shingle.
  4. Apply a glob of roofing cement to the spatula or putty knife.
  5. Wipe the glob of roofing cement over the nail head. Make sure the roofing cement extends to each side of the nail head, covering it completely. Don't worry if the glob looks a bit thick; it will smooth out once it dries.

Repeat these steps for each of the exposed nail heads. For best results, make these repairs on a dry day when rain is not expected for at least 48 hours, as this ensures the cement has time to dry.