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A Pro’s Guide on How to Cut Metal Roofing

February 10th, 2022 BY First American Roofing

Calling all ambitious homeowners! We know you’ve considered installing a metal roof on your own. As it climbs in popularity, you may be thinking of getting one yourself.

But is it DIY-friendly? Yes.

Is it as easy as asphalt shingles? Not necessarily.

Can I get some help installing a metal roof? Absolutely!

While metal shingles may be more complex to install, metal panels are something even the most novice DIYers can handle. To those considering installing a metal roof, it’s vital you learn how to cut the metal properly before you begin.

So listen up because that’s what we’ll be showing you in this pro’s guide to cutting metal roofing.

tin snips for metal roofing

Materials and Tools You’ll Need to Get the Job Done

You’ll definitely want to collect and purchase, or even rent, the proper tools before you begin. Late-night runs to the hardware store are not fun, especially when you’re in the middle of a roofing project.

To help, here’s a list of all the tools and materials you might need: you may not use all of them, but they can all come in handy depending on the type of metal roofing you’re working with.

Angle Grinder

An angle grinder with a metal cut-off wheel speeds up the process of cutting through your metal pieces—especially if you have a ton. This tool can quickly and easily allow you to cut multiple pieces of metal roofing without the pain of using a manual tool. It’s also helpful in cutting dozens of other materials like bolts, rebar, fences, steel, and other metals—having one around the house could come in very handy.

Band Saw

If you don’t have an angle grinder or want to use a more precision saw for cutting metal roofing, a band saw is your next best option. It’s essential that the blade you choose to be specifically made for cutting metal, so it doesn’t overheat and potentially damage your material.

Circular Saw

You can also use a circular saw, which can be especially helpful when cutting through much larger pieces of metal roofing or making longer cuts accurately.

Metal Air Shears

Metal air shears are electric tin snips, and they’re amazing. They turn your slow tin snip cutting into high-powered, hand-cramp-preventing cuts through most metal types. If you do this a lot, it’s definitely worth the purchase. If not, you can also get attachments for power drills that can power a tin snip or metal shear for you.

Metal Roofing Materials

You’ll want to have all of your metal roofing materials on hand before you start. A professional contractor or someone at the metal roof manufacturer would be able to help you order it. You will need to know the dimensions of your roof and use math to determine how many pieces you’ll need.

Note: Order more than you need to have wiggle room for errors or miscuts.

Power Drill

A power drill with a bit will be vital for cutting out circles or squares in the center of your metal panels. Pipe boots or other roofing vents will need to go through parts of your roof, so cutting out those holes requires some careful consideration.

First, trace the item on your roofing material, being sure to give enough space to cut it to size without cutting TOO much. To get started, it’s easiest to puncture a hole in the center with a power drill and drill bit; then, you can start your tin snips in the middle and go along your lines.

Saw Horse or Work Bench

Cutting your metal roofing anywhere but a secure table or sawhorse is a big mistake. If you don’t already have one, it’s essential to get at least a sawhorse or a workbench that is heavy enough to stay put while you cut through these metal pieces. Your workspace is the first step to ensuring a safe, organized environment for this task.

Tarps

Tarps will be your best friend. When cutting metal, so many tiny pieces can fall to the ground that cleaning up will be a nightmare. Laying down tarps first, especially if you’re working in the yard, can catch every little piece that falls, ensuring no one steps on a sharp shard.

Tin Snips

Tin snips are a manual, handheld tool that is perfect for cutting small pieces of metal roofing. They work best when the pieces aren’t too large or for small angles that are hard to cut using a larger tool. Again, these will be used to cut out pieces from the center of your metal roofing with ease.

man cutting metal shingles to size on roof

Safety Tips for Cutting Metal

Working with metal can be dangerous, so you must follow the proper safety protocols and wear the right gear to keep yourself safe. In addition to some semblance of experience and good technique, you should also have the following:

Puncture-Resistant Gloves

Gloves will be your first line of defense against immediate injury. But you can’t have just any gloves. When cutting metal, you’ll want to use cut and puncture-resistant gloves, plus gloves that won’t melt due to the heat produced when cutting the metal. You can find some good options here.

Safety Glasses

Cutting metal produces a lot of tiny shards that can easily go in your eyes. Wearing safety glasses will help keep those shards from causing any long-term damage to your eyesight.

Ear Protection

The sound of metal being cut can be incredibly loud, and it’s easy for the noise to cause hearing loss over time if you’re not wearing some form of ear protection.

Long-Sleeve Shirt and Pants

Metal shavings can easily fly up when you’re cutting, so covering your skin is a good way to prevent any cuts or scrapes from happening.

Hard Hat

A hard hat may not seem like the most crucial piece of gear, but it can help prevent head injuries if a large piece of metal falls from the roof during installation. It can also give added protection to your eyes while cutting.

measuring metal roofing to cut a stright line using metal cutting tools

How to Cut Metal Roofing Step-by-Step

Now that you’re prepared, we can get to the fun stuff: how to cut your metal roofing the right way.

The way you cut your metal roofing depends greatly on the type of roofing. There are metal shingles, standing seam, stone coated steel, aluminum, tin, corrugated metal, and that’s just to name a few.

Despite there being many types of metal roofing, we can apply similar steps across the board, and for the sake of instruction, we’ll give you steps to cut standing seam metal roofing.

Step 1: Determine how many panels you’ll need for your roof.

Gather them in a space where you can easily cut them, and stack them for installation. This guide can help you adequately measure your roof to determine how many panels you’ll need, plus what sizes they should be. Triple-check your work.

Step 2: Mark guidelines on your metal sheets for where to cut.

Since metal roofing is not a forgiving material, it’s essential to have accurate measurements and marks. With a straight edge, draw guidelines on your metal sheet to indicate where you will make your cuts.

Step 3: Gear up!

Once you’ve got all of your accurate measurements and marked your metal panels (at least the first few), it’s time to get the safety gear on. When you cut metal, there will be shavings and metal pieces flying all over, so keeping your skin and eyes covered is a must.

Step 4: Start cutting.

You can use a few different tools to cut your metal, each with its own method or ideal scenario.

Step 5: Cut out spots for pipe boots and vents.

You will need to have spots for your pipe boots and vents where they fit snugly into the metal paneling. This can be done by tracing the circle or square you need to cut out and then starting a pilot hole in the center. Using a drill bit, you can make a small hole as a starting point for your tin snips. Then, you can easily cut along your guideline, making sure you cut the perfect size.

Step 6: You’re ready to install!

Now that you’ve cut all your pieces, you are ready for installation. Check out more tips for cutting metal below.

If you find the task of cutting and installing metal roofing too daunting or difficult for your skillset—call the team at First American Roofing. We’ll install a best-in-class metal roof that’ll be the last roof you’ll ever need.