Best Tools for Cutting Metal Roofing
When it comes to installing metal roof systems, time is money, and the right tools make quick work of cutting panels down to size. In this month’s blog, we review the best tools for cutting metal roof panels. There are several factors to consider when choosing the right tool for the job, such as budget, level of technology required, ease of use, and long-term investment, among others. In most cases, the higher the upfront cost, the better the investment in the long run, but either way, we have a lot of great recommendations no matter your budget or level of experience.
The metal sheets used for roofing must be cut to fit before you install them, but it’s easy to do with a few different tools. There are several basic, but incredibly useful tools to have on hand like tin snips or shears that allow you to cut lengths by hand or common tools such as a circular saw that can cut a high volume of sheets more quickly. You should keep in mind that the process of handcrafting metal sheets requires some degree of skill, but most importantly, it is labor intensive, and you should weigh this variable against your time and profit to determine the appropriate level of investment in your arsenal of tools.
Let’s dive in!
Malco’s AV Aviation Snips
Malco’s AV Aviation Snips are a traditional design sheet metal tin snip with forged steel jaws, compound leverage handles, and serrated edge blades for great cutting accuracy and control. You can use these snips to cut aluminum, copper, stainless steel, and even galvanized steel. They are a great basic snip to have on hand.
Offset snips on the other hand fall into two categories, clockwise-cut tin snips and counterclockwise-cut tin snips. As the name indicates, they can be used to cut in a circular pattern in either direction and they have colored handles so you can quickly differentiate them from the other. For example green handled snips cut clockwise, and red handled snips cuts counterclockwise, while some models are able to cut both straight and in a circular direction.
If you need a little more help, we have a video to walk you how to select and use the right snips.
Malco Turboshear HD
Malco TurboShear HD: A rugged but cost-effective option is the TurboShear HD from Malco. You get premium performance without the premium price of a dedicate power shear. Just attach a cordless drill and the TurboShear HD cuts straight and to the left to make fast cuts in material up 18-gauge galvanized steel. Cutting applications include ferrous and non-ferrous sheet metals, metal roofing / building panels, vinyl, steel mesh, ductwork, even thick metal furnace jackets. The TurboShear HD adjusts to fit both length and width of popular drill sizes including the more compact motor housings of lithium-ion battery powered units.
When you need to cut a high volume of metal panels quicky and cleanly, the Swenson Model 48 Pivot Shear is a great option. It requires no power and at just 140 lbs., it is easily transportable to the jobsite. The 48” blade is ideal for shearing heavy gauge exposed-fastened panels, with the ability to shear straight at 90˚ and up to a 8/12 gable.
Custom blades are available to match any panel profile, providing a clean cut, eliminating burred edges and flying metal. The interchangeable blade accommodates any manufacturer’s panel profiles, but note that separate blades are needed for each blade profile. To see the Model 48 in action, check out our video below.
As with the Model 48 Pivot Shear, the Model 64 Hip & Valley Roofing Shear requires no power and at just 160 lbs. the shear is transportable. Ideal for shearing heavy gauge exposed-fastener panels, the Model 64 has the ability to shear straight at 90 ˚ and up to a 9/12 valley cut.
Custom blades are also available to match any panel profile, providing a clean cut, eliminating burred edges and flying metal. The interchangeable blade accommodates any manufacturer’s panel profiles, but note that separate blades are needed for each blade profile. The recommended maximum gauge thickness is 24 and shearing thicker than 24ga may accelerate wearing of the blades.
Both the Model 48 and Model 64 Swenson Shears require a higher upfront investment than more basic cutting tools, but you’ll need to consider how much time and labor will be saved, as well as the finished product. These costs can make some projects cost prohibitive when labor costs outweigh profit. You may end up needing to rethink the way you work.
Some roofers are also under the assumption that power tools like circular saws and electric shears make the difference because on one hand they save time. You’ll also have to consider additional equipment that may be needed like eye protection, face shields, or hearing protection. Depending on the jobsite, there may be limits on how or where tools can be used, and there may not be access to electricity at all.
At the end of the day, you should also take into consideration that faster is not always better, and while you may save time, you could wind up sacrificing quality and accuracy, which is something most tradesman are not willing to concede. The good news is, there are a number of ways to cut metal roof panels using a range of high-quality tools. We recommend checking out the tools we discussed above and visit our video page for more helpful tips on selecting the right tools for your next job.