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Arming ‘metal men’ with the right tools to become artisans

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The rising demand for metal accent features on new housing in Toronto’s suburbs has prompted the College of Carpenters and Allied Trades (CCAT) to develop a course in metal work for roofers and “metal men” inexperienced in the often complicated installation process.

"We’re trying to fill the training gap with our members and make sure they are able to do this artisan type of work," says Darren Sharpe, sector co-ordinator of the shingling and siding division with Carpenters’ Local 27. "The demand for metal work is huge. We can’t find enough people to do it."

Many new subdivision homes in Toronto feature roofs with metal architectural accents. Metal is typically installed on porch roofs, around bellcast, flat-top bay and eyebrow windows and on turrets and doghouse dormers, says Sharpe.

As complicated as the work can be, metal applicators don’t require certification or formal training.

The new course is held at the CCAT’s training centre in Woodbridge, Ont. which has full-scale mockups of houses with various roof features. Instruction covers how to bend, cut and install different metal shapes, explains instructor Jim Anderson, who has 37 years of experience as a metal installer.

Anderson teaches students to think through the whole installation process prior to starting a job.

While the course is only five days long, it gets students — many are experienced roofers — on the right track and it can break bad habits they might have picked up over the years.

Anderson says metal installation methods can vary, depending on where they are going. The procedure of applying metal on an eyebrow window is "very different" from a metal application on a bay window, for example.

He adds that some elements of installation, such as how to join standing in valleys, can be tricky.

"If you don’t get it right, you will get a water leak," he says.

In worst case scenarios, poorly installed metal must be completely replaced. When applied properly, it can last forever, the instructor says, noting as students complete the class he will take the time to visit them on jobsites to ensure they are on the right track.

The course will be repeated consecutively for several weeks at which time it will be presented on an as-needed basis.

Mike Yorke, president of Carpenters’ Local 27, says adapting skilled training courses such as the metal roofing class quickly to meet demand is paramount for training centres.

"We always have to be listening to what the industry needs," he adds.

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