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HomeKey Inspections Blog

New Construction Fails, part one: Exposed Nails on the Roof

From early building phases, to the pre-drywall walkthrough, to the final walkthrough, new construction is NOT immune to problems / defects / improper building practices.

If you find that hard to believe, we’ve written this post for you!

In fact, this begins a series of posts where we’ll show you just some examples of the things we find on home inspections of newly-built homes. Maybe you’ll be surprised by some of these…but we hope–if you plan to buy new construction–that you don’t have to be surprised by seeing them in your own house after you’ve moved in!

Exposed Nails on the Roof

Our primary service area is the Northern Virginia / Washington, D.C. area. Here, asphalt shingle is the most common building material we encounter. Shingles are secured to the roof framing via nails, in an appropriate nailing pattern, in accordance with manufacturer’s installation instructions. 

When properly installed, all nails should be covered by the courses of shingle above them (see below picture, from Carson Dunlap’s “An Illustrated Home”, for an illustration of this).

The above illustration relates to a 3-tab shingle; architectural-grade shingles are another very common type we come across (and installation instructions are different for those). 

One of the possible results of improper installation–and VERY common to see in new construction–is that nails have been left exposed / visible along the surface of the roof.

Why is this an issue? 

Every nail penetration in your roof is, well…a penetration in your roof! When properly covered by other shingles, this is not an issue. But when nail heads can be seen from the roof, those nails will eventually rust and become points of possible water intrusion / leaks.

In my (the author’s) experience, it was more common to FIND 2-3 exposed nails somewhere on the new roof, than to NOT FIND any. A couple of problem spots are easy enough to address. (Note: A proper repair is NOT to simply caulk the nail heads; the area should be re-roofed so that you as the homeowner do not have to worry about getting up on the roof every several years to re-caulk the problem spots!).

However, occasionally the home inspector finds that nail heads are exposed ALL OVER the surface of your roof. This is a significant problem as it may mean the only legitimate solution is to essentially re-roof the entire roof! This is an issue you absolutely want to find during the pre-drywall or the final walkthrough inspection, after the roof has been installed, but before you move in.

Caulk is not an adequate repair for exposed nails...especially on a brand new roof!
Our inspectors often use chalk to clearly identify exposed nails.
Many exposed nails were found throughout the roof of this new construction home.

In short, don’t assume that because your roof is newly installed, that it is PROPERLY installed!

Lastly, all of the photos used in this post were actually from an 11-month warranty inspection. In other words, the homeowner had not performed a home inspection before finalizing on their new home (at least not through us!), but had us do their home inspection towards the end of their 1-year warranty. Hopefully the builder adequately addressed all these improperly roofed areas after receiving the inspection report…but it would have been far more likely to have been addressed had these issues been noticed before moving into the home.

Lesson: Make sure you hire a competent home inspector…even for new construction!