Best Practices for How to Handle and Store Metal Coils

The improper handling and storage of metal coils can negatively affect the materials integrity, create an unsafe working environment, and result in lost time and money. Learn the best practices for coil storage and handling here.

If you’re a panel manufacturer or a contractor who rollforms their own panels — you’ll know that handling and storing metal coil is an important part of your workflow and your ability to complete projects.

Metal coil is an extremely heavy (and potentially dangerous) item to move and has specific instructions for proper storage. If handling and storage best practices are not followed, it can lead to injury, damaged or unusable material, equipment damage, lost time, and lost profits. 

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Sheffield Metals is a leading supplier of metal sheet and coil products for the standing seam metal roofing industry. We handle and store hundreds of master and slit coils every single day at our five processing facilities. 

In other words, we know the best methods and recommendations for handling and storing metal coils, which we’ll discuss ahead in this article.

Proper Handling & Moving of Metal Coil

You might be asking yourself why properly handling metal coils is essential. There are several reasons, primarily because incorrect coil handling can:

  • Cause harm to humans and creates a safety concern – First and foremost, improperly handling metal coils — no matter the size — is a significant safety concern. Metal coils are extremely heavy and require machinery (usually a forklift) to move. If the individuals handling the coil are not properly trained and competent, it can result in injury for themselves or someone else.
  • Damage the coil – If you’re improperly handling a metal coil, you can easily damage the metal; if bad enough, it can make the material unusable. Some of the most common damages are:
    • Scratches or gouges that go down to the metal core – If a coil is dropped when a forklift or lifting device is moving it, it can be severe enough that a scratch or gouge goes through the paint or coating system and reaches the metal core. Remember that the coating is very thin at around one mil (or 0.0254 mm), so dropping or scratching a coil can quickly leave the coating damaged and difficult to remedy with a paint pen. If a scratch occurs, you can always unwrap the first layer of the coil to verify the remaining material is undamaged. If it’s intact, simply cut and scrap the unusable material.
    • Kinks, dents, or unsightly bends in the metal – If you move the coil too roughly or without the proper support, the metal can dent and bend in ways it is not intended to. Similarly to scratches and gouges, you should always verify that the denting or bending damage isn’t just on one, two, or three coil layers before scrapping altogether.
  • Damage property – Beyond damaging the metal, you can also damage nearby property if it’s mishandled. For example, suppose a coil falls off a pallet, or the forks are not long enough to support the load. In that case, a coil can fall onto items (machinery, storage racks, vehicles, rollforming equipment, etc.) and cause significant damage.

In short, improper coil handling can result in injury and irreversible damage, leading to lost time, effort, and profits.

Note: Damage that happens to a coil during the handling or storage process is NOT a reason to submit a claim. 

Best Recommendations & Method(s) for Handling Metal Coil

The proper method for moving or handling metal coil will differ depending on your equipment capabilities, space, and beyond. Here are some of the best considerations to always follow when moving coil:

  • Any employees who are handling the equipment that lifts/moves coil must be competent, trained, and certified (if required).
  • Ensure the equipment and environment (foundation) are rated for the weight of the material you’re lifting.
  • Always examine the condition of the skid that the coil is on.
    • Whether the material to be moved is a master coil or slit coil, you should always evaluate the condition of the skid and the soundness of the stack you will be working with. It’s recommended to look at the skid before lifting anything to check for any broken or unusable skids.
    • Never lift a coil on a broken skid.
    • If you do encounter a coil with a broken skid, replace it immediately. 
  • There are two different orientations for coil, which will determine the handling considerations:
    • Vertical with the center hole facing upwards or perpendicular to the ground (sometimes called eye-to-the-sky)
      1. Usually moved with a forklift.
    • Horizontal with the center hole facing sideways or parallel to the ground (sometimes called eye-to-the-side)
      1. Typically moved by forklift; however, some larger facilities may have coil hooks (C-Hooks) that can make lifting and moving material easier. Please refer to lifting standards for proper lifting requirements and limitations.
  • Always make sure forklift best practices are followed; this includes (and is not limited to):
    • Ensure the coil is secure on the pallet before lifting. A vertically facing coil is more secure on a pallet than a horizontally facing coil. However, there are roll cradle devices for pallets that you can use if you’re utilizing a forklift to lift a horizontally facing coil. 
    • Ensure the fork length and width are adequate for the specific lift. Every load size is slightly different, so before lifting any material, get off the forklift and adjust the width of the forks for that particular lift. 
    • When lifting, lift slightly off the surface to ensure the center of gravity is achieved, and the load is balanced and secured. If the load is not secure and needs repositioning, lower the load and adjust the fork widths again.
    • Assess how deep the forks will need to be inserted under the material. Be aware of what is behind the material you are lifting that could be damaged, as there may be a wall or another coil. If there are markings on the forks, use them to determine where to place the skid on the forks.
    • Do not move too quickly; this could cause the material to fall off the forks or damage the pallet (and material too).
  • When moving the coil, the outer wraps of the coils should be secured tightly with tape or banding.
  • Never lift or drag a stack of coils as a unit. You should always only move them one at a time.
  • When setting down a load, leave sufficient distance and spacing on all sides to allow the execution of a safe future lift.
    • Additionally, know where material can and cannot be set down. For example, if you’re using a C-Hook or an upender to change the orientation of the coil, do NOT set the coil down on concrete or other flooring material. 
    • Keeping the coil on a palette or other approved covering protects the material and its edges.

Proper Storage of Metal Coil

Like handling, there are proper ways of storing metal coils as well. And the reasons for adequate storage of coil are similar as well, as improperly storing material can lead to:

  • Lower quality of material – There are several ways that improper storage can lower the metal’s quality. One of the significant concerns of incorrectly storing coil is moisture getting on the cut edges and creating issues with the paint and metal substrate. Another concern is air circulation, as little airflow access is unsuitable for the metal’s integrity and makes it harder for any moisture to dry.
  • Void the warranty of the material – Should a coil be left out in the elements (i.e., not stored in a cool, dry area), precipitation, condensation, and not having proper circulation for an extended period of time could void the substrate and/or paint finish warranty.
  • Nicks, scratches, or gouges that go down to the metal core – Without the right storing practices, coils can rub against each other, the ground, or other rough items, which runs the risk of damaging, nicking, or scratching the paint system on the coil. Luckily, if a deep scratch occurs, you can unwrap and scrap the affected layers of coil.
  • An unsafe working environment – If coils are stored all over the place or in an area with a lot of foot traffic, it can be a safety concern. Stacks of the stored coil can get in the way of forklifts, production, rollforming, and other daily tasks. Additionally, if coils are not properly stacked, it could be dangerous if they were to fall over.
  • An unsightly mess – Wet coils can create water stains, premature rust, leftover PVC residue, etc., on the surface if it gets wet or is exposed to UV for more than 72 hours. This might cause the adhesive to break down and gum up on the panel. While most adhesive and water marks can be cleaned off, it’s still a potential added cost that the installer may have to deal with before the building owner will “accept” a roof as finished.  
  • Preventable damage to the material – Any time material is damaged during storage, it’s a time and money loss that is ultimately preventable. 

Best Recommendations & Method(s) of Storing Metal Coil

  • Always store the coil in a cool, dry environment with relatively stable temperatures (even when there’s a covering or stretch wrapping on the coil).
    • It’s best to avoid prolonged exposure of any coil to wet or humid conditions, which can cause paint blistering or substrate corrosion, especially at cut edges. 
    • Always store the coil in areas (preferably indoors) where temperatures and humidity can be more controlled. Indoor storage avoids UV exposure and protects the metal from dirt, debris, and other contaminants.
    • Coil can get wet; however, the moisture generally has no easy way to escape. When pre-painted metal is coiled, water can creep between the laps of the coil and stay there for prolonged periods. Even with the best paint and coating technology (i.e., PVDF), the substrate metal can corrode if this water is there long enough. We recommend that if any coil gets wet, it needs to be dried within 72 hours.
    • Significant temperature differences and fluctuations can also cause condensation/moisture to develop on the coil.
    • Protective PVC films/coatings, which are discussed later in this section, are designed to protect sheets and coils in the fabrication process. PVC left on coils, finished panels, or trim pieces could break down when exposed to moisture or UV.  It’s universally recommended that protective plastic coating not be exposed to moisture or UV and be removed prior to installation. Again, if coils, sheets, or finished panels need to be left outside they should still be stored under a covering in a cool, dry, and shaded space. 
    • Any coils delivered by Sheffield Metals with film applied should be manufactured and used within six months. The film applied to metal coils has its own shelf life — if not used within six months, the film could lose adhesion or adhere too tightly to the surface of the metal coil, causing damage to the material. If you’re looking to store coils long-term, contact the team at Sheffield Metals to discuss the best options for preventing any future issues.
  • Store coils in a spot where there is adequate airflow and ventilation.
    • Airflow is vital for metal, especially if the metal becomes wet from condensation or other phenomena, as airflow and proper ventilation allow water to dry.
  • Be sure to store coil safely away from people and high-traffic/commonly utilized areas.
    • As we discussed, storing coils in a bad spot can cause several issues. First, it can create a hazardous working environment for people because coils can be a hazard (if it falls or someone trips over it, etc.). Second, if someone or something bumps into the stored coil, stacks something heavy on top of it, hits it with a forklift or vehicle, etc., it can damage the material. 
    • Constantly moving stored coil opens the door to damage and wastes manpower. It’s best to locate a designated storage area and keep the material there until ready for use.
  • Know how coils can or should be stacked.
    • Slit coils can be stacked no more than three high (eye-to-the-sky/vertical).
    • Master coils can be stacked no more than two high (eye-to-the-sky/vertical).
    • Coils cannot be stacked in an eye-to-the-side or horizontal orientation. However, if you have a coil rack or other racking system to store your material, you can likely store the material horizontally (or according to the recommendations).
    • Always stack the coil with the larger diameter on the bottom, as this will keep the stack more balanced.
    • Do not set/stack anything on or beneath the coils; this can damage the material and cause a tip-over hazard.
  • Ensure skids are adequate for prolonged storage.
    • When you’re storing coil, it’s best to evaluate the state of the skid. If you notice that it’s broken or is showing signs of wearing out, remove the coil from that skid and replace it with one in proper shape. 
    • Using a broken skid is dangerous and can worsen over time.
  • Always take the PVC film off when necessary.
    • If you’re in a dry, well-ventilated, and temperature-controlled environment, you can keep the PVC film on during storage of the coil to act as an extra layer of protection. However, that protection is limited to protecting the finish during fabrication, not storage or handling. 
    • Specifically, you should remove PVC film before any UV light or extreme heat exposure. PVC on metal that is exposed to UV light, moisture, or both can break the PVC down, making it difficult to remove and/or leaving adhesive residue on the painted metal surface.
    • If you’re questioning whether to keep the PVC film on or take it off, it’s best to call the manufacturer for verification. And, at the very least, err on the side of caution by leaving all materials in a cool, dry place that is not exposed to moisture or UV. 
    • As mentioned earlier, coils delivered by Sheffield Metals with film applied should be manufactured and used within six months to defend against damage to the material.
  • Store the coil in a space you can easily access later.
  • Do not store the coil for extreme periods of time.

Final Thoughts on How to Properly Handle & Store Metal Coil

It’s true: Properly handling and storing coil is essential to your business.

To reiterate, if coils are not handled and stored in the correct way, they can become damaged or unusable, the integrity of the material will suffer, crew members can hurt themselves, and overall money can be lost.

But these issues can easily be avoided from the start if you handle and store your coils according to the recommendations we discussed.

Our primary goal at Sheffield Metals is to help our customers be successful in their projects — from start to finish. Whether you’re moving a coil, rollforming panels, or installing a specific profile, we can guide you to get the best results possible. 

Have a question about coil moving or storage practices? Or want to know more about how Sheffield Metals supports our customers and their projects? Contact one of our helpful specialists today!

Download the Panel Profile Quick Reference Guide here!