Roofing Guide: How to Cut Metal Roofing Panels by Hand


Metal roofing is a popular and durable choice for homes and buildings. However, metal panels must be cut strategically and accurately during installation to ensure a proper fit. Cutting metal roofing can be time-consuming and labor-intensive, but it's essential for a successful roof installation. That said, you don't have to cut every panel to length. Instead, consider ordering custom-cut lengths to minimize the amount of waste material and save time during the installation process. By only cutting what you need to, you can streamline the installation process and ensure a perfect fit for your roof. This guide will provide the information you need to accurately cut metal roofing panels and provide your customers with the highest quality roofing service.

Hand Cutting: Only Cut What is Necessary

While it is easy to purchase panels that will correctly fit your roof, that may not always be an option. If the roof you are working on has an odd shape or angle, it is unlikely that the panels will come pre-fitted for that specific roof. When this is the case, you must trim the panels to ensure the fit is correct and looks seamless. 

Reduce Hand Cutting Plan for Custom Cut Panel Lengths

With a metal roof installation, you should always ensure it is the correct size. Otherwise, it will create a disaster for you to fix later. When you are in charge of any metal roof installation, you should first measure the square footage that needs to be covered. While you may think measuring is simple, we encourage you to triple-check your numbers. It might seem like a waste of time, but we promise that you will save even more time, materials, and money if you catch any errors at the beginning. Once you have calculated that number, add 10% to ensure you have enough materials. Remember, you can always take away, but you will not be able to add to the panels. 

Numerous metal roofing manufacturers offer customization options for getting longer or shorter panels. You should be able to order panels up to 42 feet long. Custom-length panels are also available for contractors that want a guaranteed fit for their specific project. While the width will be standard, custom panels allow you to specify the length. Whether it is standing seam or exposed fastener panels, you can customize the length for each style. 

How to Cut Metal Roofing Pieces

Once you have the correct measurements, it is time to begin installing the metal panels. Gather the necessary supplies and the number of panels you will need to cover the roof, then take them to a space with plenty of room for cutting. You can use a straight edge to make any cuts that you will need to make to the panels. When the cuts on each panel are not precise, they can create leaks and damage your client’s roof. Straight and correct cuts are essential, so giving yourself a guide while cutting will make all the difference. When you cut roofing panels, it can cause small metal strips to fly up and will create sharp edges. Donning the proper safety equipment, such as goggles, a face mask, and thick gloves, will help protect your eyes, nose, and mouth from debris.

With ridged panels, the bottom has a flatter surface. When you place the underside up, it will ensure that your marked cutting line is visible. Clamps are a great way to secure the panel to the cutting surface. This helps promote precise and clean cuts, whereas when the panels can move, the cuts can be irregular or inaccurate. These initial steps may seem like they waste precious time, but prioritizing precision will benefit you and your team in the long run. 

Once your prep work is complete, the actual cutting begins. Many contractors prefer nibblers and claim it is the best tool for a precise cut. However, there are alternative tools that you could use. Electric sears allow you to cut through several sheets of metal quickly. Tin Snips is an affordable option but requires short, minor cuts. While this helps precision, it is more labor for the contractor. You could consider using an angle grinder if you use a steel or thick panel. Finally, a circular saw is an excellent option for cutting through several panels simultaneously. However, you need to make sure that you or one of your workers know how to use this tool before you begin. Otherwise, it can be a safety hazard.  

For the panels that will go alongside the roof’s ends, tabs should be cut to allow the trim to be bent around the edge. This process is simple. All you will need to do is create one-inch cuts around the bends. Then, fold the tabs over with a hand seamer. This will not all look the same, as the ends of the roof are at different angles and require different shapes. Roof vents, skylights, and chimneys require flashing around the fixture. This should be bent at a 90-degree angle for chimneys so it rests against the tall walls. 

Build an Eye-Catching Roof

Curb appeal is natural. While you may not immediately notice a roof while driving down the road, you will notice if it is installed incorrectly, does not fit the size of the house, or is an odd color. Installing the metal panels properly is essential, but it is also an art. Exposed fastener and standing seam roofing systems all have unique styles and can boost the curb appeal of a building. However, not every building will look best with the same roof style. Choosing what looks best for the home or building is crucial. When a general contractor takes his time to ensure the roof is installed correctly, it will make a visible difference. 

Cut Your Roof with Confidence

Now that you know how to cut metal roofing, you are ready for your next installation! Going into the installation process confidently will reassure your team and clients that you are the best contractor. However, we cannot stress the importance of triple checking your measurements. If you have that part of the equation correct, you can be encouraged that the rest of the installation process should be smooth sailing. 

Start the Process with Your New Checklist

All the necessary tools and materials are essential to ensure a successful metal roof installation. As mentioned earlier, cutting metal roofing panels can be time-consuming, but by only cutting what you need, you can streamline the process and minimize waste. Properly sizing the panels is an essential part of the process, but it should be something you can handle if you order custom-cut lengths. You can save time and money by getting suitable materials and tools and ensuring a high-quality end product. To help you get started, download our accessible Builder Materials Checklist for Contractors and ensure you have everything you need before starting your next project. With proper planning and the right tools, you can install a metal roof that will provide long-lasting protection and add value to any home or building.

Download Builders Materials Checklist for Contractors