Cutting Metal Panels Properly Onsite

Metal panels play a critical role in a building’s long-term performance. Manufactured from resilient materials, they keep occupants safe from the elements and boost curb appeal for years to come. Improper onsite preparation and installation of metal panels, however, can cause premature degradation.

At EXCEPTIONAL® Metals, we take pride in supplying construction and building partners with excellent metal panels. While onsite cutting is a common aspect of the metal roof and wall panel installation process, using proper tools and methods is essential to avoid the damage of their protective coatings. Here’s an in-depth look at the best ways to prepare metal panels for use at the job site.

Importance of cutting metal panels

To better cut metal panels in the field, it’s best to understand what protects them. Protective coatings are applied to the surface of metal coils during the painting process. These coatings help retain color long term and improve overall longevity by achieving high levels of resistance to a range of deteriorating factors, including:

  • Ultraviolet light
  • Moisture
  • Extreme heat
  • Acidic rain
  • Hail
  • Debris
  • Corrosion
  • Fire

The tools and methods that manufacturers use to turn metal coils into finished metal panels are designed to avoid damaging the coated surface. During fabrication, the metal panels are cut to length either by shearing before or after entering the roll former. These processes spread the coating across the cut edge of the metal panel, delivering excellent corrosion protection.

Protecting the coated surface is vital to the long-term performance of metal roofing and wall panels. Damaged coatings open the door to rust, which negatively affects a material’s structural integrity and durability. Localized corrosion can lead to pitting, cracking, and future fractures, causing leakage or more severe failure of building components.

Superior metals require the right tools

When metal panels reach the construction site, the need to cut them to fit specific dimensions is commonplace. Crews should approach on-the-job metal panel fabrication with the same quality-first mindset as the manufacturer because any defects can ultimately damage both customer relationships and business credibility. Here’s how to cut metal panels quickly and efficiently without damaging their coated surfaces.

Aviation Snips
These tools are ideal for small cuts, such as conforming to unique wall details or around pipe penetrations. Lightweight and practical, aviation snips act to wipe the protective coating just like the shears used by the manufacturer.

Electric Shears
They are perfect for longer cuts, such as trimming wall panels at a corner or accounting for door openings. These shears remove a quarter-inch strip from the metal panel, which leaves both sides smooth and flat. Similar to factory cutting methods and aviation snips, electric shears effectively protect metal panel edges by wiping the coating.

Mechanical Shears
Fitted to the end of battery-operated impact or screw guns, these add-on tools work fast and require minimal manual effort. Mechanical shears maintain metal panel longevity by effectively wiping the coating over cut edges, and they are an ideal tool for bevel trimming standing-seam panels at hips and valleys.

Nibblers
The nibbler punches out small, half-moon shaped pieces of a metal panel, and it offers protection by wiping the coating across a cut edge. A nibbler is an excellent tool for cutting across corrugations in wall panels to create openings for windows, doors, and similar structural additions. An important thing to keep in mind when using a nibbler, however, is cleanliness. The little metal pieces generated during a cut can fall to the floor and get stuck in the soles of shoes. Scratches may appear when installers walk on the roof.

Skill Saw
This useful, versatile tool is a great way to cut metal panels. It’s capable of cutting across and parallel to corrugations, both straight and at angles. Using a cool-cutting blade is important, though. The heat generated from standard or abrasive blades can melt protective coatings along the cut edge, opening the door for premature corrosion.

Additionally, it’s crucial to avoid cutting metal panels around other panels. A skill saw blade flings into the air considerable amounts of steel debris, which can land on the surface of nearby metal panels. This debris, called swarf, is prone to corrosion and can create rust spots.

Fast work, poor results

One of the most common challenges facing contractors is applying the right tool or procedure at the optimal time. Using the wrong tool might be faster, but it can lead to issues later on. Here’s a list of tools to avoid when cutting metal panels at a worksite:

  • Reciprocating saws
  • Torches
  • Grinding wheels
  • Cut-off saws
  • Hacksaws
  • Grinders

Every one of these tools generates considerable amounts of heat, which melts the protective coating and exposes the cut edge to the elements. This causes localized corrosion, which spreads over time. These pieces of equipment also create a lot of swarf that embeds into the panel coating, causing rust spots and other imperfections.

Quality is the way we do business

At EXCEPTIONAL Metals, our mission is simple. We want to help you construct high-performing, energy-efficient structures that exceed customer requirements.

Metal panels are renowned for providing superior durability and thermal resistance in a simple-to-install and aesthetically pleasing package. They are ideal for use on a range of applications, including:

  • Metal buildings
  • Commercial spaces
  • Warehouses
  • Banks
  • Office parks
  • Bus stations
  • Medical facilities
  • Automobile dealerships
  • Schools
  • Industrial complexes
  • Cold storage
  • Food processing
  • Laboratories
  • Manufacturing sites
  • Airports
  • Residential homes
  • Train stations
  • Agriculture applications
  • Universities
  • Athletic venues
  • Department or big-box stores
  • Hospitals

Strengthen customer relationships and grow your business with high-quality metal panels from EXCEPTIONAL Metals. We offer a wide range of beautiful, weather-resistant metal panels that add striking flair to any structure. Additionally, our extensive knowledge of proper fabrication techniques enables you to improve installation time and overall finished product quality.

Give us a call for more information to learn more about the importance of cutting metal panels effectively.