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What are Clout Nails?

By M. Haskins
Updated May 17, 2024
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Clout nails, sometimes called felt nails or roofing nails, are one of the most commonly used types of nails. They usually have a short shank and a large, flat head and can be used for a wide variety of exterior and interior woodworking and building purposes, like furniture repair, cabinet making, fastening roof shingles, as well as box and crate construction. One common use for these nails is to fasten sheet metal to wood, for example when metal is used for siding or roofing. This type of nail is available in a range of lengths and sizes, and in various materials, like aluminum, copper, iron, and stainless steel. Clout nails are an old nail type that has been used in woodworking and construction for centuries.

There are different types of roofing nails. Some are smooth, while others have annular rings on the shank, making them more resistant to being pulled out. The ringed type of roofing nail is commonly recommended for roofing and exterior siding applications, because they make the construction more resistant to high winds. Depending on the size of the head, clout nails are classified as either standard head or extra large head.

These kinds of nails are used for both indoor and outdoor construction purposes. So-called wood roofing nails are commonly used for indoor construction projects like making and repairing furniture, building cabinets, making counter-tops, and attaching insulation boards. They can also be used to attach thin siding and paneling or when installing ceilings and partitions.

For exterior construction purposes, it is recommended to use nails that are resistant to rust and corrosion, like copper clout nails or those made of aluminum or zinc-dipped, or galvanized, steel. For roofing applications, two different kinds of felt nails can be used. Smaller nails, commonly 0.5-1 inches (12-25 mm) long, are called felt nails and are used to attach roofing felt. Longer roofing nails, typically 2-3 inches (50-75 mm) long, are used to affix different types of roofing shingles or metal roofing.

The term clout nail is an old one and has been used for centuries. Originally, "clout" referred to a flat, thin piece of iron, similar in shape to a washer that was fastened to the wooden parts of a cart, commonly the axletree, or a tool, like a plowshare. Clout nails were commonly used to fasten the metal to the wood, in order to strengthen the wood and protect it from wear.

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Discussion Comments

By matthewc23 — On Aug 23, 2011

Is there any special technique for using clout nails for fixing steel siding? I am planning to help a friend remodel a home he is looking to flip and some of the siding will need replaced.

If I go to buy the nails, will I find them called clout nails or roofing nails, or are there special nails designed for working with metal? Should I be trying to find a certain material for the nails? I assume I'll want a type that is either galvanized or rust resistant.

I was also wondering if you could get some of the smaller felt nails and use them in place of a drywall screw. I could see you being able to use roofing nails to fix slats on a deck, as well.

By Emilski — On Aug 22, 2011

@cardsfan27 - As for the shingles, I would just keep a watch on them and see if you start to notice any of them coming out of place. A lot of it will depend on the type of shingle and how secure the nails are in the wood. The wind and weather in your area could play a role, too.

As for putting a roofing nail in the brick, I probably wouldn't do it. You might be able to get the nail in, but I would expect it to be difficult. It is really a wood screw, so even if you got it in, the hold might not be tight. Personally, I would buy some masonry nails and screws, and just keep extras around if you need them.

By cardsfan27 — On Aug 22, 2011

I have a couple of questions about clout nails. I just finished putting shingles on the roof of my shed, and I am curious how long the nails are expected to last. Do they usually last longer than the shingles themselves, or should I expect to go back and do some repairs in a few years?

Also, I am working on a project outdoors, and I need to nail something to the brick on the outside of the house. I know special masonry nails exist, but I have a lot of nails left over from the shed. Can you use this type of nail instead of a masonry nail? How good will the grip be compared to a clout nail?

Just for clarification, these are the longer nails that are a few inches long.

By titans62 — On Aug 21, 2011

I never knew roofing nails were also called clout nails. The meaning behind the word is interesting, too.

I didn't realize that you could use roofing nails for wood projects and other uses. Because clout nails have the larger, flat head, if you got a copper or brass nail, it could add an interesting decorative touch to a project.

When you're using roofing nails, does the nail used to make the nail matter? Can you use copper, iron, and aluminum nails for the same purposes, or is each type designed for a special purpose.

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