It's crucial to always have the right tools for the job. And cladding installations are no exception. In this guide, we will walk you through everything you need for a cladding installation, from ensuring perfectly cut panels to moving them with ease. We will cover various cutting tool options and explain the best use for each so you can choose the right tools for your specific needs. We have also listed great tool choices for sandwich panels and metal wall panel sheets.
Before taking a panel cutter to your sandwich panels, you need to measure up. You’ll also want some tools to ensure your installation is lined up perfectly afterwards. You’ll need:
- A Tape measure
Even the most precise panel cutter won't help if the measurements are not accurate to begin with.
- A Setsquare
Measure your angles with precision to ensure everything fits together seamlessly.
- String line and spirit level
Make sure everything is level over short (spirit level) and long (string line) distances.
Cutting composite panels
No matter how precise your measurements are, you need a powerful and accurate cutting tool that delivers a clean finish for the best fit. Thankfully, we have the perfect panel cutter for you.
For panel cutters, we opt for a brand you will hear about a lot - Trumpf. They are the standout brand across the industry with a full range of power tools you know you can rely on. Their signature panel cutter, the TruTool TPC165, is no exception.
Here are some reasons we love the TPC165 for cutting sandwich panels…
The TruTool TPC 165 panel cutter cuts flat and profiled panels up to 200mm thick. There's no need to turn over your panels - the TPC 165 will cut right through. Plus, it is just as well suited to the soft materials (such as polyurethane, polyisocyanurate and mineral wool) inside the panel as the metal skin. You will have a clean cut with a high-quality finish throughout the panel. If you are working with thin panels, you can even cut two at once.
The TPC 165 is for more than just cutting your panels to the right length. It has a 90-degree adjustable blade allowing you to create precise cutouts and notches without requiring pilot holes. You can work around windows and doors with ease.
Cutting metal sheet wall panels
If you are using metal cladding sheets, there are a number of tools available to cut them to the right size. The best tool for you will depend on the type, thickness and profile of the sheet as well as the desired cuts. Your sheet metal cutting tool options are shears, slitting shears and nibblers.
Single cut shears
The first sheet metal cutting tool we will look at are shears. (This section is on shears, sometimes called single cut shears. We will look at slitting shears in the next section.) single cut shears create clean cuts without producing material waste.
Sheet metal shears have a high cutting capacity making them a fantastic option for heavy-duty tasks. However, they do produce some distortion to the material resulting in warping and bending at the edges.
Slitting shears are a great alternative to single cut shears and may be a better option for you, depending on the task. They cannot handle the same heavy-duty tasks as single cut shears and are more suitable for light gauge sheet metals. Unlike nibblers (which we will look at next), slitting shears are not designed for cutting curves.
Where slitting shears do excel, however, is cutting straight lines on light gauge metal. As slitting shears remove a thin strip of metal from their path, they can create clean cuts with minimal distortion, provided they are kept straight. They are perfect for flat sheets as well as a variety of profiles.
Slitting shears are designed for cutting a sheet in two (plus the thin strip removed from the middle). If you choose a model without a chip cutter, you must finish the cut through to the other side of the sheet.
If you are using light gauge wall panels which simply need some size adjustments, slitting shears might be the ideal cutting tool for your installation. Effortlessly cut your panels in two.
As with single cut shears, the best range for slitting shears is the TruTool range from Trumpf. The range includes the TruTool C160, TruTool C200, and TruTool C250 for cutting different thicknesses. The range also includes a selection of accessories so you can get even more from your tool.
Nibblers use a punch and die method to chew through the metal in front of them. They are a popular choice as they do not distort the metal around the cut. Nibblers can cut straight lines as well as curves and more intricate shapes. This makes them popular among sculptors and creative metal workers but is worth keeping in mind for your cladding project too.
Nibblers can create cutouts from the middle of a metal sheet (using a drilled whole starting point) and can effortlessly cut through the peaks and troughs of corrugated metal.
SAFETY NOTE: Nibblers produce semicircular chips which can be sprayed out when cutting. Take necessary precautions as these chips can be sharp.
Our top picks for Nibbler cutting tools come from Trumpf. The TruTool Nibbler range has something for all your needs, including thin sheet nibblers, profile nibblers, and thick sheet nibblers, as well as solutions for diagonal and rounded cuts.
All three of the sheet metal cutting tool types listed above are excellent options. There is no best overall option, however. The right tool for your cladding installation will depend on your specific project and requirements.
Moving and lifting cladding panels
If you want to make your installation even easier and safer, you can reduce the manual handling workload with vacuum lifters. A portable GRABO vacuum lifter will make light work of lifting and transporting your panels. For larger projects, VIAVAC vacuum lifters deliver everything you need. They have a wide range of models accommodating panels of all sizes up to weights of 800kg.
Fitting cladding panels
Once your cladding panels are cut to size, you will need a few more things to complete your installation. You will need a hand drill to secure the cladding screws to the panel. You will also require the appropriate fixings for the panels you are using.
Buy cladding tools for your installation
If you would like to purchase or hire any of the equipment discussed in this guide, get in touch. We stock a full range of power tools and cladding and roofing equipment. We also supply manual handling vacuum lifters, and VIAVAC lifters are available through our 4 Cladding Services brand.
Not sure what tools are right for you? No problem. We are a team of cladding tool specialists, and we would love to help you make an informed choice to help your project run smoothly and more safely.
Learn more about cladding tools
Make sure you are prepared for your next cladding project with more insightful guides like this. Here are some more great reads which can help you choose the right tools for the job and improve onsite efficiency and safety: