Button cap nails vs button cap staples

I’ve read through several old posts and am still waffling on the best solution for fastening synthetic that may be left exposed for a day or two. This is where I’m at;

I agree there is negligible benefit applying button caps for areas that will be shingled right away. Staples will be fine to hold the underlay in place for the short term.

I like the manual cap stapler because there is no need for a compressor. On the other hand, I dislike the staplers because repeated, and often aggressive, banging will break them requiring frequent replacement. I’m also concerned whether shallow staple penetration has the ability to hold in high winds.

I like the pneumatic cap nailer because nails simply hold better and it’s fast. The cost of button nails, hoses and compressors makes this the premium choice. I dislike the air driven solution because pneumatic nailers encourage unnecessary nailing leading to increased consumption of consumables

I like the hand nailed caps as hammers are easily replaced, available, and buckets of cap nails are abundant and cost effective. I dislike hand cap nailing because it increases the “whining factor” from this current generation of “me puppets”. I’m of the camp that hand nailing was always better than “auto nailing” as it requires greater attention.

My thought is to assemble a dedicated “prep only” crew and leave the “roofers” to apply shingles and flashings only. The prep crew will strip the roof and apply all underlays with cap fasteners leaving the roof ready for the applicators to apply … either the same day or the next. Prep is equally as important as the installation and should not be treated begrudgingly but rather with the same attention as laying shingles.

Under the current “way of doing things” around here, our sub crews are required to remove and replace under contract at a set piecework rate. They are having a brutal time holding together a full crew and are rightfully frustrated they can’t hold together a team. It has far less to do with them than it has to do with the gene pool they draw upon and is a widely recognized problem everyone is facing. Throwing money at the problem is not the solution as the dollars currently spent don’t offer value. I think a shift on how tasks are managed needs to be examined.

We have to accept that the workforce has changed regardless of how much we insist it hasn’t.



I learned a lesson about 25 years ago about leaving underlayment overnight without plastic caps in place. Brand new high end contractor for a new company, (mine). Figured staples would be ok one night, weird isolated wind storm, felt on the ground. Bad look for a guy trying to make a good impression. My employees hate pneumatic nailers for cap nails and insist on hand nailing. 40 square walkable pitch takes 2 guys about 30 minutes to nail off.

Thanks for your response. I whole heartedly agree that caps fasteners are a must if the underlay is exposed overnight. Good to hear your team prefers hand nailing the caps vs autonailing. May I ask how insistent you are having the guys nail all the buttons printed on the underlay? Do you cap the ice and water also as a precaution?

I always used 1/2" slap staplers and only plastic caps if a storm was coming. If you use 1250 on 4 square of underlay it won’t come off. Carpenters in Georgia would use 1250 on the whole roof. Thus the saying " that black paper aint worth a damn, just make ya slip and bust yer ass!" Always tarped the side getting done first in the morning if it had to sit. Habit from when organic felt would buckle in the dew or rain. That said if you are subbing out work, you set the specs, and pay appropriately. I’ve subbed out work twice, and swear i never will again.

No inspections , then i would hand nail the simplex.
Inspections? Cap gun needed because the amount needed is very excessive.
Not required, but a crew can wear out their bodies trying to hand nail the underlayment of a roof that needs inspection.
Everyone around here uses the Stinger cap nailer.
We used to use the Hitachi, it had superior fasteners but it jammed too much and very difficult to unjam.

We usually have 1 to 2 men hand nailing the underlayment into place and one man to gun nail it all off.

Ice and water shield?
We hand drive some fasteners at the top of the roll (under the lap) every few feet if there is any pitch to the roof over 2/12

Had a local con man preaching about how wonderful plastic caps were. My response was if the felt blew off from under the shingles I’d eat every piece of it. Must be code where you work.

We do not have to deal with inspections in our area. We hand nail and hit the high wind marks only if underlayment will be exposed for a long time in a windy area. The tricky ones are metal roof underlayments, which cannot have button caps underneath panels for obvious reasons. In those cases we either have to use button caps then knock them out before panel install, (in longer term situations) or use roofing nails and nail the dogshit out of it. I never trust tacker staples in high wind events regardless of volume used. The wind can pick a few out and just work right down the line. Ice/water depends on the season here. Summertime button cap every 4 feet. Wintertime nail similar to synthetic as it is not adhered fully.