To erect a metal building you need the right tools for the job. Since the largest part of the work is cutting and fastening metal panels for the walls, we put together a list of tools that can expedite that process.
Do you enjoy being able to see? Then make darn sure you are protecting your eyes anytime you work with metal. Getting a metal shard in your eye or getting hit by kickback from a tool isn’t funny.
Always, always, always wear protective eye covering.
- Safety goggles
- Sunglasses with side panels
- Safety glasses
- Face shield
Wear heavy-duty gloves and shoes to protect your hands and feet from cuts. Until those metal edges are hemmed, they can have a nasty bite. It’s best to wear long work pants and a shirt with sleeves as well to keep cuts from flying metal from becoming embedded in your flesh. That could prove difficult the next time you need to board a plane; you don’t want to set off the metal detector and have to explain what happened, do you?
Stay safe by being sharper than your tools.
Measuring tools for steel panel erection
What is the old saying - measure twice and cut once? That seems to be doubly true for cutting metal. Messing up metal panels is a bit more inconvenient and expensive than cutting paper.
- Measuring tape: It should be a no-brainer to have a measuring tape with you. Eye-balling, estimating, or measuring against a previously cut piece will probably lead to the issue of cutting twice that you’re trying to avoid.
- Marking tools: All the measures in the world will not help if you don’t have a marker or pencil. In addition, you need something you can use to score the metal. A folding, locking knife is a good addition to your tool belt.
- Straight edge: You make long marks on panels, in the valleys most of all. A straight edge keeps it accurate. It's tempting just to grab a board or something, but that will not guarantee you are cutting perfectly straight or square. Get a metal straight edge of about five to six feet for the best results.
- Square: Preparing valley panels will go more smoothly with a 24-inch square. A 12-inch square is handy for leveling, making plumb cuts, and bending along the ridge line and elsewhere.
Manual cutting tools
While many steel building come with pre-cut panels, you will probably have to do some cutting and trimming to make space for penetrations or to customize panels.
- Metal snips: Metal snips work well in tight places and for small cuts and trims. They are especially handy for trim and flashing. Metal snips can be specialized for right cuts, left cuts, and straight cuts. Make sure yours has a comfortable, non-slip grip on the handles to minimize accidents and poor cuts.
- Duck bill snips: Duckbill snips cut cleanly when you have a long cut to make through the flat of the pan. They will probably be the tool you use the most for cutting out metal for penetrations such as plumbing vents. Since most cuts are about one inch deep, a duck bill snip is the tool to have.
Power tools for cutting steel wall panels
You have a lot of cutting to do, especially if you are working with rolls of metal paneling. A power tool can save time and effort.
- Blades: Using an abrasive wheel attachment or circular saw with a ferrous cutting blade to cut metal panels may not be the best way to cut your panels. Abrasives create edges that prematurely promote corrosion.
That being said, sometimes you just gotta git’er done. A circular saw will make short work of cutting a panel. If you decide to go this route, cut the panels from the underside to reduce any scratching of the finish. If you do a lot of cutting, a carbide metal 7-1/4 inch circular blade is a good investment.
- Nibblers: A nibbler attachment for your drill is an inexpensive tool for cutting through corrugations and making circle cuts. It easily creates both curved and straight cuts. However, it is a tool only used in metal cutting. If that is a minor part of your work, swivel-head metal shears (see below) may be a more economical choice.
- Turbo shears: A turbo shear attachment for your drill will make short work of cutting panels. The tool snaps on quickly for fast work.
- Electric swivel-head metal shears: Electric swivel-head metal shears are another attachment for your drill when you need to cut across corrugations or shingle-type materials. If you get one with a deep throat helps when you have high ribbing to cut through.
Bending, seaming and hemming
Bending and seaming tools prepare eave trim and bend around corners. It’s typically marked for every half inch, so keep that in mind when you need to make bends of an inch or more.
Next to the metal snips, these will be your most used and useful tools.
Hemming tools are meant for use at the tops and bottoms of panels. Use them to hem the panel to fit into the offset cleat or to make a bread pan fold at the top.
Once the panels are cut, you need to fasten them together. There are tools for that.
- Rivet gun: Used along with 1/8 inch drill bits, a rivet gun is often used on hips and ridge lines as well as alongside walls and for end wall work.
- Fastener drivers: For large jobs, you will want a specialized driver to save your hands and wrists. You can use an impact drill to speed up the work. It’s a durable tool that was originally designed to place sheet rock screws.
- Screw guns: Screw guns with an adjustable clutch or depth-sensing nose piece and a minimum of six amps are recommended. When you select drive sockets, those with a recessed magnet and internal lobular hex design are the best at reducing damage to the paint on the fastener head. They will also reduce wobble and increase the socket life.
Nothing is better than having the right tools for the job. From cutting and bending to fastening, these tools will help you put together your building quickly, easily, and safely.
Now, let’s get to work.