What tools do you need for metal roofing installation?*
Metal roofing has a reputation of being among the most durable, economical and visually appealing roofing choices. When the wrong tools are used however, the integrity of a metal roof can be seriously compromised. Below is a breakdown of the most common tools found on a metal roofing job site.
Metal roofs require hundreds, if not thousands of fasteners, and the best tool for getting the job done right is a variable speed screw gun. The max speed recommended when using a screw gun to install metal panels is 2,500 RPM. The speed recommendations vary based on panel type and thickness.
In metal to metal applications the NFBA recommendations (National Frame Builders Association) on Carbon Steel or 410 Stainless steel are as follows:
- Less than ¼” panel – 2,500 RPM
- ¼” to ½” – 2,000 RPM
Recommendations for 304 Stainless Steel are:
- All thicknesses – 2,000 RPM if using self-drilling fasteners
- All thicknesses – 1,000 RPM if using self-tapping fasteners
Note: Stainless steel screws will not penetrate metal panels.
For metal to wood applications, a screw gun with up to 2,500 RPM is recommended.
While a cordless drill/driver can be used for installing metal roofing, the MCA (Metal Construction Association) has specifically recommended against using impact drills installing metal panels. The use of impact drills can result in over driving fasteners which can damage the metal panels. The force of impact drills has also resulted in damaging paint and coatings, and even breaking the heads off of screws while they are being installed. While impact drivers are commonly used among contractors, it is important to note the high risk of damaging screws and metal panels with these tools, which can result in early corrosion of both the fasteners and metal panels.
Shears for cutting metal panels are a must have for many metal roofers. Shears allow for onsite cutting of metal panels in order to fit the size and shape of the roof. Companies such as Swenson Shear have created a great product with a variety of blades to make cutting of panels incredibly easy.
Nibblers are a great tool for quick hand cutting of metal panels. Nibbler attachments can be found for drills, enabling low cost clean cutting of panels, easy to do on the go.
For panels that require machine folding of panel seams in order to lock the panels together, a seaming tool is needed. A seaming tool crimps the panels at the locking points. Some panels are double locked, requiring two different types of crimping. Hand seamers can be used, but are typically reserved for smaller jobs, or hard to reach areas. Electric seaming tools fit over the seam, and have motorized wheels allowing them to go up and down the seam.
Tools not recommended for cutting metal panels
When shears or nibblers are not used for cutting metal panels, some resort to using a circular saw or a grinding tool. While these tools can cut panels, they damage the panels in ways that can void a warranty and expose the edges of the panel to rusting. Circular saws and grinding tools leave rough and jagged edges, and often chip away at the protective coatings on the panel, decreasing the life of the roof.
Other tools not discussed here include a rivet gun, various size driver bits and nut setters, caulk gun and spray foam gun.
While virtually everyone has at times thought of ways to do a job without having the necessary tools, the best way to get any job done is to have the right tools to do it. Following manufacturer recommendations and best practices is always important for warranties, and ensuring a functional, long lasting and attractive metal roof.
*While Levi’s Building Components does not sell all of the tools mentioned, we are able to provide recommendations on tool specifications, but not on particular product brands. Swenson Shear, driver bits, spray foam gun and rivet gun are available through Levi’s Building Components and our suppliers.