The Nail Gun in the wrong hands is one of the worst things to ever happen to the dwelling industry. The rapid fire ability of nail gun technology makes it seem like a logical replacement for the lowly hammer. An experienced handler with knowledge of both the intricacies and limitations of a machine operated nailer can turn the chore of nailing into the Art of Attachment.
But, in the wrong hands, which are in turn controlled by a mind either inexperienced or immature, or both, this simple power tool can become an instrument that wreaks havoc on the innocent components which comprise a home.
Here’s why. A hammer is tactile. A nail gun is not. Let’s look at the task of roofing, for example. A roofer using a hammer will attach a shingle by striking a nail. Here’s the tactile part. He can feel the resistance, through the hammer, as the nail passes through the shingle, then the underlying membrane, then the plywood decking, until it finally penetrates into the solid, structural rafter or dense deck, turning a loose flap of fiberglass and asphalt into a permanent part of a long lasting roof. If the rafter is missed by the hammered nail, or if the nail slips through a gap in the decking, because of the lack of resistance, the roofer can feel that too, and know immediately that corrective action is required, as in “try again.”
A nail gun has no feeling, no sensitivity, no way of even hinting to the novice that the nail failed to hit home. The result could be a sheet of shingles not fully attached, and just biding time until the right gust of wind makes that shingle sheet sadly slide off the roof. Just for fun try rapidly repeating Shingle Sheets Sadly Slide. It’s fun.
But, it’s not fun if a roof falls off it’s house. There are other nail gun calamities that are also no fun. The power of the gun and the method used to fire it makes it too big a toy for some people to resist. Many times I’ve been in houses that had just been “dried-in.” That’s when a protective layer called Sheathing has been attached to the outside of the wall framing. Sometimes an additional membrane called House Wrap is draped over the outside of the sheathing. Sheathing and House Wrap work to stop air and moisture from blowing through the walls, called reducing infiltration. Both depend on the walls for support, because they have no strength of their own. They’re expensive and they’re thin. Being thin makes it easy to punch a hole, which reduces the ability to restrict infiltration.
So, One : sheathing and wrap have no puncture resistance. Then, Two : nail guns can cause rapid fire punctures. For many workers who think of their equipment as toys, this is a combination too inviting to resist. I’ve seen thousands of “dried-in” homes which appeared to be sheathed with swiss cheese. Holey swiss cheese sheathing (or is it Holy Swiss Cheese, Batman!) is utterly useless and not easy to repair. It has to be either replaced or meticulously patched, both at great expense.
Not only can novice nail-gunners hurt their own home, they can hurt themselves and other people. We’ve all seen news stories featuring x-rays of workers and bystanders with nails in their bodies and heads. Do we blame the nail gun or the person holding the nail gun?
I’ll simply finish with this answer : Unless you are a seasoned, experienced professional who can tell the difference between a nail being gunned into solid wood or hollow space, and unless you can fully resist the temptation to use high powered dangerous machinery as if it’s a plush toy, then for the sake of your home and all who enter there, drop your weapon and step away from the nail gun.
Andy Bozeman is the author of
IF I’D KNOWN THAT WAS GOING TO HAPPEN WHEN I BUILT MY HOUSE, I MIGHT’VE GONE CAMPING INSTEAD
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