August 16, 2021

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Do I need a ladder?

Before we dive into the tools you will need to install duct, we need to discuss location of the duct. For duct on a roof, usually a ladder is not needed on the roof but a ladder may be needed to access the roof. If the duct is very large, a ladder may be needed to get to the top of it. 

In spaces like an attic, generally, no ladder will be required. On mezzanines and catwalks, fall protection may be required along with a ladder but generally, no ladder will be needed. 

Finally, for very high duct, consider an articulating lift of scissor lift to gain access. Remember that if access is needed outside of the basket to reach, use fall protection to help you get home at night.

The Best tools to install ductwork

HVAC Sheet Metal Tools List

These are the simplest ducting tools and the most basic. The tools you will need to install duct are also hand tools for duct fabrication.

Here is the HVAC sheet metal tools list:

Tin snips 

There are right-handed and left-handed (paid link), which are commonly packaged together but can be bought separately, and straight tin snips.

Pro Tip: I have never found the straights to be very useful when working with ductwork but they have there moments when they are needed. I am not including a link because the cost does not outweigh the benefit.

Then there are the bulldogs (paid link). These tough snips will help keep the left and right handed everyday cutting snips from getting damaged. Bulldogs are used for cutting multiple layer so metal at the same time. For instance, s-cleats or snap lock seams.

A Hammer

I prefer a modified roofing hammer (paid link) but there is a tinner's hammer (paid link) as well that is used to pierce duct.

Offset hand seamers(paid link)

Cordless Impact Driver(paid link)

A Beater Screwdriver or Straight Prybar(paid link)

Also consider a strong pair oflineman pliers (paid link).

These are all of the tools needed for ductwork, aside from drill bits and chucks. The list is simple and if you understand what all of these are. No more reading is necessary. If you still have questions, read on.

All of the tools listed above and described below can be bought at the big box stores like Home Depot or Lowe's, however, they can also be bought on Amazon.

An affiliate link is created for tools above for ease in referencing what each item is and, if you are ready to buy, take the opportunity to use our links.

Offset snips

it has been asked "What tool do you sue to cut ductwork?" Tin snips are the answer but there are many kinds. The offset snip is the hybrid snip that has made cutting ductwork easy.

Used by right handed people and left hand people alike. There really is no separation between these snips. They are like salt and pepper, they belong together.

Right-handed snips are used as a basic tool to install ductwork. They cut straight and radius easily. The same with left-handed snips. 

These are the most common type of snips and if cared for they will last a very long time.


These durable and tough set of snips are used to cut the snap lock on a piece of duct. That 3/4" piece of bent up metal will destroy your offset snips.

Take it from a pro, if you use your offsets to cut the snap lock on the duct edge too many times, the fine teeth will break and your offset snips will need to be replaced. 

The Hammer

A regular nail pulling hammer doesn't work well for this line of work. The duct is bent when pieced and becomes hard to seal after installing take-offs. 

It is the best recommendation to use a tinner's hammer or a modified roofing hammer. (The modification to the roofing hammer is to grind the rounded end of the axe side to be straight. This allows for a clean pierce into duct.)

the Offset hand Seamers

Like so many tools there are a variety of variations. The offset hand seamers is a variation of the straight hand seamers. While they have a place, they are easily replaced with their offset counterpart.

Most of the edge folding is done more efficiently with offset hand seamers. They are ergonomically designed to allow less wear on the wrist.

These will be used a lot, so best to take advantage of the convenience of science on this one. 

Cordless Impact Drive

The impact driver has revolutionized duct installation. What was once a two step process of drilling a hole with a drill bit and then putting a screw in it has turned into an easy install process. The impact driver and self tapping screw combination have made this task a game changer. 

Most self tapping screws for duct installation use the hex head chuck in either a 1/4" or 5/8". There are some larger screws used on mechanical units like the 3/8" or 1/2" hex heads but they are less common. The 1/2" being the least common. The 1/4" being most common in Residential Construction. The 5/8" being most common in Commercial Construction. Industrial is varied and has a wide range of materials that require a lot of different parts. The phillips head self tapping screw is not used in duct generally, that is used mostly in metal stud framing.

The impact driver is essential. From fastening straps to straightening duct, using a cordless impact driver is the most widely means to install duct. Of course, there are many options that go along with this. The impact driver has evolved over the years to include a light, a clip for changing chucks easily, clips to connect onto belts and bags, and, most importantly, battery life. 

Batteries Got Better

Before Lithium batteries were used, batteries sucked... The Nicd (paid link) batteries were the standard. They were heavy and awkward to haul around in tool bags and they had to constantly be charged.

Not only did batteries for cordless drills not last very long (maybe 3 hours), they wore out over time. How long they would hold a charge dwindled with every charge and then to replace them cost $100 a battery. 

Ryobi changed things. They had an economical drill and the same quality of battery. Companies like Dewalt and Makita had to evolve and they did! 

Now the lithium technology has extended battery drill time and battery life. Amperage has also increased to give drivers more power. They have even incorporated battery life remaining indicators. 

Get rid of the cords and go cordless, your project will go much more faster. 

The beater screw driver

Unfortunately, some duct is going to need to be taken out if installed improperly. This tool will be used in so many different ways and it is just convenient to have something to hit that extends the reach of a hammer. 

If a good beater screw driver cannot be found, a straight pry bar with a handle can be used but usually the tip is offset and an angle and it doesn't work the same a straight screwdriver.

Lineman Pliers

These pliers are such a convenient tool. Installing drives is a common and necessary part of the job but on some of the tight seams the drives curl as they are hit, that is where these pliers come in.

Use these pliers to clamp onto the drive. They reinforce the drive so the end does not curl. The drive will be installed and the end cut off and folding over. 


Now you know the tools you will need to install duct. With this information, any installation should go relatively smoothly is you know how to use them. With proper access and the right tools, we hope your install is quick and easy.

About the Author TinnersToolBox

Tinner's Tool Box is a resource for HVAC professionals to gain access to information to help them complete their projects. It is also a reference for the everyday person who wants to improve their knowledge on the topic.


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