Why Are Roofing Nails Poking Into My Attic?

Have you ever climbed into your attic and wondered if you could turn it into a fabulous hidden hideaway, perhaps a retreat from the hectic life you live? Even if you haven't, your attic is a valuable portion of the home and fantastic for extra storage. But if you've climbed up there and noticed roofing nails poking through the ceiling, you may wonder just how safe it is. Could the exposed nails injure you if you're not careful? Will those nails create the risk of water leaking onto the precious memories stored in boxes?

Don't panic if you see exposed nails poking through the roof of your attic. At first, it might seem like the roofer has made a mistake, but protruding nails in your attic ceiling are normal. If you have a metal or tile roof, you could even see screws poking through the ceiling! Roofing nails typically extend about ¼ inch or more into the attic to provide a firm grip and hold the sheathing and shingles in place. Here's why roofers intentionally choose long roofing nails and what you can do if the nails become a safety hazard. 

Nails in the attic are completely normal

Roofing nails are an essential component of shingle installation as they help to hold shingles in place even through intense windstorms. There are two types of nails commonly seen in the attic. Ring-shank roofing nails, which are spaced all around the ceiling and stick out about ¼ inch, hold the shingles in place. Longer nails, which may be visible near the trusses and rafters, hold the sheathing in place. The length of each is typically dictated by building codes, so using shorter ones may be illegal — and a bad idea. 

While it might be an eyesore, having nails extend through the attic ceiling provides better traction along the shaft of the nail. If they are too short, strong winds could rip shingles right off your home! Protruding nails in your attic generally won't create a risk for leaks, although they can be used to check on the roof's integrity. If you notice decaying wood or rust stains around the nails, you could have a leak somewhere in your roof. 

Don't alter the nails, but take precautions

Although they might seem like a safety hazard, you shouldn't remove or replace the nails poking through your attic roof. Replacing them with shorter ones could compromise the integrity of the roof and shingles, making it easier for things to fall apart over time or with inclement weather. Avoid cutting, grinding, sawing, or pushing the nails. Accidental shifting could weaken your roof's water barrier and cause leaks while attempting to grind the steel nail points down could shower sparks around your attic and potentially start a fire. Instead, wear a hard hat when working in the attic to protect yourself from injury. You could also get creative by adding a few wine corks or foam cubes to cover the nails — just be careful not to push too hard and dislodge them.

If you hope to use the attic as a liveable space, you must do something about the exposed nails when finishing your attic. While there are various ways of going about this, be sure your plans don't compromise your roof's ventilation, as this can create more significant problems than some protruding nails. Unless you have ample experience in this arena, contacting a professional is probably a good idea.