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How to overlap metal roofing

Updated February 21, 2017

Metal roofs are lightweight, easy to install and much more fire resistant than asphalt shingles. The installation of metal roofing involves placing large metal panels on the roof. The panels overlap, allowing water to flow from one panel to the next without being able to penetrate the area under the roofing panel. As a first line of defence against water damage, it is important that the metal roofing overlap be done correctly.

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  1. Dress with safety in mind. Working with metal means an increased probability of being cut. Wear thick gloves when working with the metal roofing sheets, and keep safety goggles on at all times. Also keep a pair of ear plugs handy for when you are using saws or other power tools.

  2. Measure and cut the metal sheet panels as you go. The majority of the metal sheets will go onto the roof whole and intact. As you near the edges of the roof or any points where the roof has gables, you may need to cut the sheets to custom fit the space. Use a tape measure to measure the sheet and lightly mark the cut with a felt-tip pen. Use tin snips to make small cuts, or tackle large cuts with electric shears or nibblers.

  3. Identify your starting point. Start working in the bottom corner of the roof. If the wind and rain are known to come predominantly from one direction, then start at the end that is opposite of that direction. For example, if winds in the area blow primarily from the north, then start installing the roof at the southern end of the roof. If the prevailing direction of the weather is not known, start at the lowest corner of the building.

  4. Determine which direction the metal panels should be aligned. Each panel has an overlap ridge at one end and an underlap ridge at the other end. When the panel is laying flat on a surface, the side that touches flat is the underlap side. The opposite end, the overlap side, will be elevated slightly above the surface. When laying the metal panels on the roof, the overlap ridge of the new panel should straddle the underlap ridge of the panel before it.

  5. Apply side lap sealant if the pitch of your roof is 2:12 or less. In other words, if the height of the roof drops by 2 inches for every 12 inches in length, you will need to use sealant to strengthen the overlap barrier. If lap sealant is used, simply apply a bead of sealant on top of the underlap ridge, going all the way down the length of the ridge, before the overlap ridge of the next panel is placed on top. The sealant will act as an adhesive to bond the two pieces together, as well as acting as a water barrier.

  6. Screw fasteners into the metal sheet panels. The fasteners are screws that are 1 inch to 1.5 inches in length, with a rubber or neoprene washer at the head of the screw. The washer acts as a barrier to prevent water from penetrating the roof through the screw hole. Use an electric drill equipped with a screwdriver tip to install the fasteners. Place one screw on each side of the overlap/underlap ridge, then a third screw directly through the top of the ridge itself. Continue this screw pattern all the way down the overlap joint of the two panels, placing screws approximately every 6 inches down the length of the overlap joint.

  7. Tip

    Taking the time to add clear silicon sealant around the head of each screw will add more water protection and help increase the life of the metal roof.

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Things You'll Need

  • Work gloves
  • Safety goggles
  • Ear plugs
  • Tape measure
  • Felt-tip pen
  • Tin snips
  • Electric shears
  • Electric drill
  • Screws with rubber washers

About the Author

Jerry Garner has been writing semi-professionally for more than 15 years. The body of Garner's work includes informative articles, news and current events and historical essays. He is an avid sports fan and frequently writes about outdoor activities online.

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