How to Cut Metal Roofing: 6 Effective Methods

More and more homeowners are replacing their old shingles with new metal roofing. After all, there are numerous benefits to using metal for your roof:

  • It lasts a long time, sometimes over 70 years!
  • It takes less maintenance than asphalt shingles or wooden shakes.
  • It provides superior protection against impact and fire damage.
  • It looks just as good as other kinds of roofing.

We usually recommend working with a qualified roofing professional for installing metal roofing on your home. However, there are some cases where you might want to complete this task on your own. If you have prior experience in the field and want to save a little money, completing parts of the process yourself might make sense.

One of the most homeowner-friendly parts of the process is cutting the metal sheets into the size you need for your roof. If you’re in need of a refresher on how to do this, keep reading for some tips on how to cut metal roofing.

Materials and Information You’ll Need

worker cutting metal roofing sheet with scissors

Before you start cutting anything, you should collect all the supplies and materials you’ll need for the project:

  • Measuring materials – tape measure, combination square, straight edge, and ruler
  • Safety gear – a hard hat, a good pair of cut-resistant gloves, safety goggles, earplugs, long sleeves and pants, a dust mask or respirator, and steel-toed boots
  • Weights or adjustable clamps
  • Cutting tools, including blades specifically created for cutting metal
  • A workbench or sawhorses
  • Cloth drapes or plastic tarps

You’ll also need to measure the dimensions of your roof, buy the right amount of material, and mark each metal sheet so that it’s ready for cutting.

Measuring Your Roof

Measure both the width and length of your roof to get an estimate of the amount of material you’ll need. You must be very accurate with your measurements because any mistake will lead to a gap in your roof, causing leaks in your property!

If you have a chimney, vents, or any other items coming out of your roof, measure where these pieces are in relation to the edges of your roof.

Use all of these measurements to estimate how much roofing material you’ll need to purchase. If you have the budget, it can be useful to order a few extra pieces in case of any errors that come up during the cutting process.

Purchasing the Product

You should be able to buy your metal roofing from your local hardware store or directly from the manufacturer. Check to see if you qualify for bulk prices.

Again, consider buying a little more product than you technically need to ensure that you don’t run out of material during installation.

Marking Your Materials

Lay out all the panels underside up; this will make it easier to cut corrugated metal, and it will keep you from leaving marks on the part of your roof that will be seen when it’s complete.

Use your tape measure to mark where you need to make cuts. Using a combination square can also be helpful, as it will help you draw straight lines down the length of the metal panel. If you make a mistake at this step and cut in the wrong spot, you may render the entire metal panel unusable, so double and triple-check your measurements before marking them down.

Finally, take the first piece that you plan to trim and clamp or weigh it down to either your workbench or sawhorses. Make sure that it won’t move when you begin cutting.

Method 1: Tin Snips

Tin snips work a bit like regular scissors, except that they’re built to cut metal. They’re great for making short cuts and cutting thin materials. They probably won’t be able to cut through multiple sheets at a time, but if you need to make a curved cut or just do a bit of trimming, this is the tool for the job.

Tin snips come in different handle colors that signify different cutting capabilities:

  • Red grip – cuts to the left (counterclockwise)
  • Green grip – cuts to the right (clockwise)
  • Yellow grip – cuts straight

The most important thing to remember when using tin snips is to take your time and follow your marks. If you veer a little off track, it’s very easy to correct yourself with this tool. It’ll take a long time to make straight cuts, but tin snips are very beginner friendly and can be used for the entire project in a pinch!

Method 2: Metal Shears

Metal shears are sort of like the power tool version of tin snips. They’re great for use on thicker materials that the tin snips can’t handle. They also require less manual effort to use than tin snips, and you’ll get a cleaner straight cut than you could with the snips.

Because power shears run on electricity, you don’t need to use more than gentle pressure to get them to cut through the metal. Mostly, you need to guide the blade to ensure that it stays on track. The blade might get stuck, but it should be easy enough to turn it off and try to approach the cut from the other side of the material.

Method 3: Drill

professional using special drill to cut metal roofing sheet

Sometimes, you’ll need to make an interior cut on a piece of metal roofing. For example, you might need a round hole for a vent, or you might need to cut a square hole for a chimney or skylight.

For these cuts, you’ll need a drill to start a pilot hole. An electric drill with a drill bit specifically designed for cutting metal works best for this task. Once you’ve created the pilot hole, you can follow up with tin snips or metal shears to cut away the rest of the excess material.

Method 4: Nibbler

Nibblers are great for specialty cuts and for getting into areas that you can’t quite reach with a set of shears. It gets its name from the way the tool works; as it cuts, it removes a small piece of metal from the piece you’re working on, leaving a trail of small metal chips behind.

Because it removes some material as it cuts, it’s not suitable for working on fine cuts. However, it works well with thick metal and won’t leave distortions along the length of the cut it makes.

Method 5: Angle Grinder

If you need to make long, straight cuts along the length of multiple pieces of metal, an angle grinder may be the tool for you. It has a circular, rotating metal-cutting blade mounted on a handheld base. The blade is usually made from steel or carbide.

Because it’s a power tool, it can cut through thick panels quickly and with minimal effort on the user’s part.

To use an angle grinder, let the blade connect with the metal at a 90-degree angle, then allow the blade to do most of the work. You shouldn’t feel yourself forcing the blade through the metal.

This blade will probably produce sparks when it connects with the metal, so safety glasses and protective clothing, including a strong pair of gloves, are a must.

Method 6: Circular Saw

A circular saw looks like a bigger and even more powerful version of the angle grinder. You can use this tool to cut several sheets of metal roofing at once. So, if you have a lot of consistent cuts to make, this is an effective way to save yourself time and make sure that all the cuts end up the same.

Use gentle, slow pressure with this saw. Hold down the guard and guide the metal along the blade of the saw. Always keep your fingers far away from the blade, and watch out for any metal fragments that may come away from the cut edge of the piece.

How to Cut Metal Roofing Safely

roofer cutting metal roofing sheet wearing safety gears

No matter which tool you use, protect the safety of yourself and those around you by following a few key guidelines:

  • Wear protective gear. Cutting metal roofing is a risky activity, and you should never have exposed skin during the process.
  • Leave yourself enough space to work safely.
  • Communicate. Let the people around you know what you’re doing and when you’ll be working. Encourage other folks to stay away while you’re actively cutting metal panels.
  • Never point a power tool at yourself or another person.
  • Unplug power tools immediately after using them. Leaving things plugged in, even for a little bit, presents a huge opportunity for risk. If you forget that it has a power supply to it, accidentally turn it on and cause injury to yourself or someone else.
  • Always, always clean up your area when you’re done working. Use a shop vacuum for fine metal pieces, and use a magnet tool to pick up all the metal chips and shavings from the ground.

Create Your Perfect Roof

Knowing how to cut metal roofing is a crucial skill for anyone looking to install their roof on their own. As long as you have the appropriate safety supplies, knowledge, and a few different tools for cutting metal, you shouldn’t have any issues tackling this task on your own.

Of course, even the handiest DIY-er might feel intimidated by this job. That’s why Level Edge Construction & Roofing is ready to help with all your metal roofing needs. We can order the supplies for your project, easily cut your materials to the right size, and expertly install them on your roof.

Ready to work with the best metal roofing experts in town? Schedule a consultation with us today!