We have explained below the best tool options for cutting metal roofing. The good news is there are a few options and primarily it will depend on how much roofing you need to cut, how often you need to cut metal roofing and how much you are prepared to spend on the various tool options available on the UK market.
The professional roofer who does this everyday will be willing to spend the money on an electric nibbler or shears, whereas, a home owner doing a shed will probably not want to make a huge investment. They would be better off buying a much cheaper manual nibbler or shears, or buying an attachment for a drill.
Just below we explain the various options so as you know what is available and which option will suit your pocket the best.
Most metal corrugated roofing comes in sheets with either a 0.5mm or 0.7 mm thickness. They are usually made from steel or galvanised steel. You can then buy them in different lengths anything from 0.5 metres to 6 metres. There is around 990mm of coverage once lapped over.
So to be able to cut metal roofing, you need a tool that can cut at least 0.5 to 0.7 mm in steel.
Tool Options for Cutting Metal Roofing
- A power nibbler
- A manual nibbler
- Electric scissors/shears
- Hand shears
- A drill nibbler attachment
- An angle grinder
- A circular saw with a metal blade
You can use any of the options above and some are just far better than the others. We will now explain each one and also show you the advantages and disadvantages of each tool option.
A Power Nibbler
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This is the best tool of them all but they are not cheap to buy so will mainly be used by professional roofers. If a home owner has a lot of work to do, then this is also worth considering.
They are available as a corded and cordless option and most buyers are now going for the cordless, such as the Makita nibbler shown on the left.
This type of nibbler has an on/off switch with lock on function for continuous operation
Most of them come with a thickness gauge and the die holder will rotate at 360 degrees so as you can change the cutting direction.
It is also easy to quickly change the punch and die.
Cutting capacity mild steel 1.6mm (16Ga)
Cutting capacity stainless steel 1.2mm (18Ga)
Cutting radius, inner edge 45mm, outer edge 50mm
A Manual Nibbler
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As you can see the hand or manual nibbler is a great deal cheaper but will be much slower. This is probably a better choice for home owners as it is simply more affordable
These are not that easy to use on sheet roofing but you can get there with a little patience, they seem to work better on thin sheet steel
These need considerable effort as the process is manual and you may end up with sore forearms
These are very good for straight lines, but they do not handle tight curves that well.
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these can typically cut up to 2.5 mm mild steel so will be able to handle metal corrugated roofing
These are powered using 240V main's electricity
These are good because they don't wander so really good at sticking to a straight line
Like any new tool, they take a little bit of getting used to and we would recommend a little practise before making any serious cuts
These are really fast and really accurate and you can buy replacement blades easily from the manufacturer.
Manual Hand Shears (Tin Snips)
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Many home owners eventually end up owning a set of tin snips as at some stage they will have to cut through some type of sheet metal
The snips shown to the left are professional ones and can cut 1.5 mm steel so will be able to handle metal roofing
On the ones to the left the cutting length is 32 mm so cutting with these can be a slow process, but you are very unlikely to make any major mistakes as they do give you very good control
It is a manual process so a good grip and strong hands are required
Drill Nibbler Attachments
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If you own a drill then you can buy a nibbler attachment
With the attachment shown to the left you will need a drill hat runs 1500 - 3000 RPM with a 9mm chuck or above
They are good for cutting sheet roofing and leave a burr free edge
Most of these can cut up to 2 mm in steel or metal
If you have a cordless drill then it makes this setup very portable and you can use it anywhere
There are no distortions of material shape and no burrs or sharp edges
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The big disadvantage of using an angle grinder is the heat generated and the sparks that can fly
For sure an angle grinder with the right blade will fly through any type of metal roofing so it is fast
The problem though is that it can actually burn the edge of the roofing and that can leave it slightly weakened at the edges, and can also look tarnished
Your angle grinder will need to have a metal cutting blade rather then one for cutting stone, tiles or masonry
This type of blade like the one shown to the left is a very ultra thin blade and that is what can make really fine cuts
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The big disadvantage of using a circular saw is the same as an angle grinder with a lot of heat generated and the sparks that can fly
Circular saws are big and can be really difficult to line up and use
Like the angle grinder the blade can actually burn the edge of the roofing and that can leave it slightly weakened at the edges, and can also look tarnished
Your circular saw will need to have a metal cutting blade rather then one for cutting wood
This type of blade like the one shown to the left is a thin blade and can make really fine cuts
So as you can see, there are a number of options for cutting metal. If it is a small roof tin snips or a manual nibbler are going to be your best option. This is a slow and arduous process but if you are a patient person and the job is not too big, then these will work and are definitely the cheapest option for cutting metal.
After that there are a range of power options. The electric nibbler is what many professionals use and they work the best of all the tools. They do however come with a hefty price tag. After that electric scissors/shears are worth your consideration, but we would only recommend those if you have a large roof to do. Likewise, if you own a cordless drill then a nibbler attachment is worth considering.
Roofing professionals will tell you never to use an angle grinder or a power saw. They can be unwieldy to use and you can easily damage sheets. They also make a hell of a racket and sheets can get bashed about. If you have some way of holding the sheet down then you can get straight lines.
The quality of the blade will determine how neat and burr free the cut actually is.