Yes, and there are two types of nails that are normal to see in an attic:
1) The ring-shank nails used to secure asphalt shingles to the plywood or OSB roof sheathing typically penetrate into the attic 1/4” or more. The extra length that protrudes into the attic is necessary to provide adquate withdrawal resistance along the shank of the nail, since the pointed end does not have any withdrawal resistance. If the roof surface is metal or tile, you may see screws sticking into the attic.
2) Besides those shorter nails sticking into the attic all over the bottom surface of the roof sheathing, you can also expect to see a few longer nails (an inch or more) near the edge of the roof rafters or trusses. They are called “shiners” in the construction trade, and are essentially the nails for securing the roof sheathing to the trusses or rafters that missed their mark.
Roof sheathing is secured nowadays with a pneumatic nail-gun. If you happen to be on a jobsite when the sheathing is being nailed, you will hear the machine-gun-like rapid rat-tat-tat-tat of the thousands of nails being driven through the sheathing as the construction workers walk along the roof. Sometimes they get sloppy and miss, and that’s what you see in the attic.
Head and back scratches, and sometimes even a deep cut, are possible due to these nails if you are not careful when traversing you attic.
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To learn more about roofs and attics, see these other blog posts:
• Why is my roof sheathing sagging between the trusses?
• Why is granule loss a problem for an asphalt shingle roof?
• What are the mistakes to avoid when doing attic improvements?
• What causes roof shingles to curl up at corners?
• What causes shingles to buckle along a line on the roof?
• What causes leaks at a fake roof dormer?
• What causes a sagging roof ridge line?
• What causes bubble-like blisters in a built-up and gravel roof?
• Why does it cost so much more to replace a steep roof than a low slope roof?
• What is "ponding" on a flat roof?
• Is an attic required to have a light by the building code?
• How can I inspect my roof for hurricane damage?
• Why is premature curl of roof shingles a problem?
• How can I tell if a roof has more than one layer of shingles?
• What are the common problems with attic insulation?
• What is the life expectancy of an asbestos cement shingle roof?
• What's the average lifespan of a roof?
• Why is it a mistake to replace a roof and not replace its flashings?
• Why is there no attic access hatch in the house?
• What is the building code requirement for an attic access hatch, scuttle, or door?
• Does a roof with multiple layers of shingles last longer?
• What can I do to prevent roof leaks?
• Are roof trusses better than roof rafters (stick framing)?
• Why is a popped nail in a shingle roof a problem? How do I fix it?
• What are the most common problems with wood roof trusses?
• What causes a lump or dip in the roof?
• If my roof is not leaking, why does it need to be replaced?
• How can I be sure my roofing contractor got a permit?
• How many layers of roofing are allowed on a home?
• What are the dark lines running parallel to shingles on my roof?
• Can metal roofing be used on a low slope/pitch roof?
• How can I make my roof last longer?
• What are the warning signs of a dangerous attic pull-down ladder?
• How can I find out the age of a roof?
• Should I buy a house that needs a new roof?
• Should I buy a house with an old roof?
• What are those metal boxes on the roof?
• What does "lack of tab adhesion" in an asphalt shingle roof mean?
• Why do roof edges start leaking?
• Why do my dormer windows leak?
• Do home inspectors go on the roof? Do they get in the attic?
• Should I put gutters on the house?
• How much of a roof truss can I cut out to make a storage platform in the attic?
• What's the difference between an "architectural" and a regular shingle roof?
• What does a home inspector look for when examining a roof?
• Do stains on the ceiling mean the roof is leaking?
• How can I tell if the house needs a new roof?
• Why does my homeowner's insurance want a roof inspection?
• What are the hazards to avoid when going into an attic?
Visit our ROOF AND ATTIC page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.