How To Deal With Loose Nails During A Roofing Project

Completing a roofing project brings a sense of satisfaction and relief, but dealing with nail cleanup during and after your project can be a nightmare. Your roof shingles have thousands of nails holding them down, so whether you're tackling the whole roof or just a small section, you'll have plenty of nails to deal with. Here are some tips to follow to prevent injuries and flat tires as you (or your contractors) work on your project.

1. Lay down tarps. As you work on removing a section of shingles, place a tarp on the ground beneath you and try to have all of your debris land on the tarp. You'll be able to pick up most of the nails inside the tarp when you are through. There will still be stray nails that didn't hit their landing mark, but the number will be significantly reduced.

2. Throw debris into a large trash bin. Another way to prevent nails from falling on the ground is to throw your roofing debris into a large trash receptacle. If you hire a contractor, they will likely provide a bin. DIYers should rent one to have on site during the project. Place the trash bin wherever you think it will be most accessible while you are on the roof.

3. Use magnetic sweepers on large areas. Contractors come to the site with special magnetic sweeping tools that roll over the ground to collect stray nails. These tools are pretty effective and should eliminate most of the nails that are on flat ground. If you're doing the roofing project yourself, buy or rent one of these magnetic sweeping tools--it will save you a lot of work.

4. Use handheld magnets in flower and shrub beds. The down side to the magnetic sweepers is their inability to clean rough terrain such as flower and shrub beds or vegetable gardens. For these areas, use a handheld magnetic tool that will allow you to manually pick up nails sitting in or underneath plants. 

5. Clear driveways and roads often. If you're tackling a large project, it will take several days to complete. Don't wait until the entire project is finished to start picking up the nails! This puts you at high risk for an injury or flat tire. Instead, perform several quick clean-ups throughout the duration of the project. You should clean up the driveway and walkways every hour or two (or every time a person or vehicle comes through the area), and again at the end of each day of the project. Perform a thorough final cleanup after the entire project is complete.

6. Keep your grass short. If your lawn looks like a jungle, go out and cut it before the project begins. Long grass will reduce the effectiveness of the magnetic sweepers and cause more nails to be left behind. Short grass enables the magnetic tools to work better and also allows the workers to see where the nails are located.

7. Check again after a storm. If you follow all of the steps above, you'll end up with a near-perfect site when your project is over. It's impossible to remove all of the nails, but you'll get pretty close. However, what you may not realize is that there will still be loose nails left behind on the roof and in the gutters. Don't forget to go out and do a re-sweep after any type of wind or rain storm to pick up nails that fell off the roof during the storm.

Your roofing project will go a lot more smoothly if you are able to handle loose nails effectively. These tips will help you locate and remove the vast majority of nails both during and after your project. If you hire a roofing contractor, he should be following most of these tips already, but it can't hurt to follow up yourself to make sure it gets done well.