Every roofer worth their weight in scrap copper will tell you how many square of asphalt shingles he or she can put down in a day. Just like that fish caught when no one was looking, the size gets bigger every year. With that said, I recently put down 10 square (30 bundles) of architectural shingles on a 90°F day, and I did it cordless, because I had my hands on DeWalt’s new 20V Max 15-degree coil roofing nailer.

DeWalt's DCN45RNB 20V MAX 15-degree coil roofing nailer is powered by a brushless motor that requires no gas canisters, and accepts 3/4-inch to 1 3/4-inch long fasteners.

If DeWalt had a specific job in mind when it designed this tool, I think this was the one: A boathouse on beautiful Lake George in upstate New York’s Adirondack Park. Who wants to lug a compressor and hoses down through the woods and over boulders to shingle a 1,000-square-foot roof over the water? Not this guy. So away I went: Step out of the truck, grab the Dewalt bag, head down the trail, climb up on the roof, hold down the trigger, and bump fire four nails into each shingle. Pop-pop-pop----pop. It did the job, and I would never want to do a boathouse again without it.

After about four hours of shingling, I switched from 1 ¼-inch coil nails to 1 ¾-inch nails for the ridge caps. Again, it performed well. Had I used my trusty old pneumatic Hitachi nailer, I would have shaved about 30 minutes off my shingle install. But then I would have added more time than that in loading the compressor at the shop, unloading at the job, setting it up, taking it down, and lugging it back to the shop. Here's a quick look at the nailer in action.

The nailer came with a 2.0-Ah battery, which lasted through almost two square (six bundles) installed. With a larger 5.0-Ah battery, I installed about five square. With the 2.0-Ah battery and no nails, it weighs about 7.4 pounds (for comparison, my Hitachi pneumatic nailer weighs 6.2 pounds); its size and balance make it feel a little awkward in the hand. To adjust, I found myself using a looser grip, letting the nailer hang more from my pointer and middle fingers.

The DeWalt nailer weighs about a pound more than the author's Hitachi pneumatic nailer, and has a plastic rather than aluminum body.

The nailer was reliable in shooting and setting nails consistently. Over a span of four days, we shot approximately 7,000 nails, and I had a problem with only about 20 of them. I wasn’t able to pinpoint the cause but believe it was due to a slightly bent nail coil that resisted a proper feed into the chamber.

With no hoses to trip over, no need for a compressor (or the power to run it), no gas to fill, no breakers being tripped in the house, this tool is a no-brainer for the average carpenter who may shoot on a couple roofs a year. And while it won’t replace a pneumatic gun for the full-time roofer, it will have a useful place almost every day for repairs, skylights, drip edge, nailing caps, shooting on a small roof, and other tasks. It does require a slight ramp-up period before firing the first nail, but that’s a minor quibble.

With no hose and no compressor, the DeWalt 20V MAX 15-degree coil roofing nailer is a great choice for smaller jobs where power is unavailable.

Roofing is harsh on tools, though. Hot and abrasive conditions wear on tools that are constantly placed on and dragged across the shingles. The only downside I see with this nailer is that it has a plastic body with mostly plastic components. We didn’t treat it with kid gloves, but in just four days of use, we had worn through a small portion of rubber buffer on the side, starting to expose the plastic underneath. Therefore, this nailer will need a little more TLC than an aluminum body pneumatic nailer. I have two pneumatic nailers that are pushing nine years old, maintained by spraying them out and adding a drop or two of oil every day. I don’t foresee that same longevity with this plastic body. But let’s put it this way: I am ordering another one. It costs about $400 in a kit with a charger and 2.0-Ah battery; $340 for the bare tool. dewalt.com