Sheet Metal Gauge: What You Need to Know

Sheet Metal Gauge

Sheet metal fabrication is critical in many industries, but choosing the correct sheet metal gauge can be confusing. You may have heard that a thinner sheet metal gauge is better for smaller parts and a thicker sheet metal gauge is better for larger parts, but what does that mean? And how do you know which gauge to choose for your project? We’re here to help! This article will explain the basics of sheet metal gauges and help select the right one for your needs.

What Is Gauge In Sheet Metal Fabrication?

In sheet metal manufacturing, the term “gauge” refers to the thickness of the metal. The thicker the metal, the higher the gauge number. For example, a 12-gauge sheet of metal is thicker than a 14-gauge sheet. Generally, thicker metal is more durable and can withstand more wear and tear. However, it is also more expensive and can be more challenging to work with.

As a result, gauge selection is essential in any sheet metal fabrication project. The right gauge will depend on the specific needs and budget of the project.

4 Steps For Measure Sheet Metal Thickness

To measure the thickness of sheet metals, follow these steps:

1.       Determine the type of metal being measured. Three metals can be encountered while gauging measurements: ferrous, non-ferrous, and precious. Ferrous metals contain iron and are attracted to magnets. Non-ferrous metals do not contain iron and are not attracted to magnets. Precious metals are valuable and include gold, silver, platinum, and palladium.

2.       Clean the area to be measured. Any dirt, grease, or paint on the surface can reduce the measurement’s accuracy. Use a clean cloth or paper towel to wipe down the area.

3.       Choose the appropriate type of gauge for the measurement. For ferrous metals, use a steel rule or feeler gauge. For non-ferrous metals, use a vernier or digital caliper. Finally, for precious metals, use a micrometer.

4.       Take the measurement. Place the chosen gauge against the surface of the metal and take the reading. Be sure to note any irregularities in the surface of the metal that could affect the accuracy of the measurement.

By doing the above, you can ensure an accurate measurement of sheet metal thickness using a gauge.

Tips for Selecting the Right Sheet Metal Gauge

Selecting the right sheet metal gauge is crucial for the success of any project. The thickness of the metal can influence the final product’s durability, functionality, and aesthetics. Here are some essential tips to guide you in making the right choice:

1. Consider Material Properties:

Strength: The strength of the material determines its ability to withstand external forces without deforming or breaking. For projects that require a high degree of resilience, such as structural components, it’s essential to choose a material with adequate strength.

Density: The density of the material can influence its weight, which might be a crucial factor for components in the aerospace or automotive industries where weight savings are vital.

Corrosion Resistance: For projects exposed to harsh environmental conditions, such as marine or chemical environments, selecting a material with high corrosion resistance is paramount.

Cost: While it’s essential to choose the best material for the job, it’s equally crucial to consider the cost. Opt for a material that offers the best balance between cost and performance.

Malleability: Some projects might require the metal to be bent or shaped. In such cases, materials with high malleability, which can be formed without breaking, are preferred.

Conductivity: For electrical projects, the material’s conductivity can be a determining factor. Ensure the chosen metal meets the project’s electrical requirements.

2. Choose a Process:

Bending: If your project involves bending the metal, consider materials that are more malleable and can be bent without cracking. The thickness of the metal can also influence its bend radius.

bending machine

Welding: Not all metals weld with the same ease. For instance, mild steel is generally easier to weld than stainless steel. Also, consider the thickness compatibility when welding different metals together.

3. Define the Necessary Thickness:

Determining the right thickness is pivotal. Consider factors such as:

  • The weight the component needs to support.
  • Whether the component can flex or if it needs to remain rigid.
  • The overall weight

restrictions or requirements of the final product. For instance, in aerospace applications, every ounce matters, so selecting a thinner yet stronger material might be beneficial.

Environmental factors, such as wind or water pressure, that might exert force on the component. For outdoor structures, a thicker gauge might be necessary to withstand environmental stresses.

The aesthetic appeal, as sometimes a thicker material might provide a more robust or premium look to the final product.

4. Reduce Production and Shipping Costs:

Economical Production: Thicker materials often require more energy and time to process, be it in cutting, bending, or welding. By selecting the thinnest possible material that meets the project’s requirements, you can often reduce production costs.

Shipping Costs: Heavier materials result in higher shipping costs. Especially for large-scale projects where thousands of components might be shipped, even a small reduction in material weight can lead to significant savings.

Optimal Thickness Selection: It’s not always about choosing the thinnest material. Sometimes, a slightly thicker material might offer better durability or ease of manufacturing, offsetting the additional costs with reduced maintenance or a longer product lifespan.

In conclusion, selecting the right sheet metal gauge is a nuanced decision that requires a thorough understanding of the project’s requirements and the properties of available materials. By considering the material properties, manufacturing processes, required thickness, and potential cost savings, you can ensure that your project is both high-quality and cost-effective.

Types of Sheet Metal Gauge Thickness Charts

Sheet metal thickness charts are indispensable tools in the metalworking industry, offering a standardized reference for determining the thickness of sheet metals. Their significance cannot be overstated, especially when precision and consistency are paramount in projects.

Differences in Gauge Size Charts for Various Materials:

Many different types of metal can be processed into sheet form, including aluminum, brass, copper, steel, titanium, tin and stainless steel, to name some common ones.

Stainless Steel: Stainless steel, known for its corrosion resistance and strength, has its own gauge chart. For instance, a 10-gauge stainless steel might measure around 0.1345 inches in thickness. It’s essential to refer to the specific stainless steel gauge chart to ensure accurate measurements.

stainless steel gauge chart

Mild/Carbon Steel: Mild or carbon steel is a common material in many applications due to its weldability and malleability. Its gauge chart differs from that of stainless steel. For example, 12-gauge mild steel is approximately 0.1046 inches thick.

mild steel gauge chart

Galvanized Steel: Galvanized steel is steel coated with a layer of zinc to prevent rusting. Its gauge chart is distinct because the galvanization process adds to the metal’s overall thickness. A 14-gauge galvanized steel might be around 0.0785 inches thick.

galvanized steel gauge chart

Aluminum: Lightweight and resistant to corrosion, aluminum is widely used in various industries. Its gauge chart is notably different from steel. A 16-gauge aluminum sheet, for instance, might measure around 0.0508 inches.

aluminum sheet metal gauge

In conclusion, while the gauge system provides a standardized way to refer to metal thickness, it’s the gauge charts that offer precise measurements. Given the variations in gauge charts across different materials, it’s imperative always to refer to the specific chart for the material in question to ensure accuracy.

Why Is Determining Sheet Metal Thickness Important?

When working with sheet metal, thickness is one of the most important considerations. The thickness of the metal will determine the number of factors, including its durability, corrosion resistance, and overall strength.

In some cases, a thicker sheet of metal may be required to meet certain safety standards. In other cases, a thinner sheet may be sufficient. It is crucial to take the time to determine the appropriate thickness for each specific application. The thickness of sheet metal can be measured in various ways, including using calipers or micrometers.

In addition, many manufacturers offer guidelines on how to select the right thickness for different applications. By taking the time to determine the proper thickness, you can ensure that your sheet metal project meets all of your requirements.

The Importance Of Gauges To Sheet Metal Fabrication

The importance of choosing the correct gauge when working with sheet metal cannot be overestimated.

The gauge is the thickness of the metal, and it determines how strong the final product will be. If the gauge is too light, the metal will be easily damaged. If the gauge is too heavy, the metal will be difficult to work with, and the final product will be unnecessarily bulky.

Generally, a thicker gauge should be used for products that will be subject to a lot of wear and tear, while a thinner gauge can be used for products that will not be subject to as much stress.

Choosing the correct gauge is essential for getting the best results from sheet metal fabrication.

Company Strength

As a leading sheet metal fabrication company, our experienced team is equipped to handle projects of any size or scope. We put the latest technology and equipment to use so that our customers can receive the highest quality products and services. Our pursuit of excellence has earned us a reputation as one of the industry’s most reliable and trusted companies. We can meet your needs if you need a few custom parts or a complete production run.

Contact us today to learn more about what we can do for you.


1. Which is thicker, 18 or 20-gauge sheet metal?

In the world of sheet metal, the gauge system is a bit counterintuitive. The lower the gauge number, the thicker the metal. Therefore, 18-gauge sheet metal is thicker than 20-gauge. This system traces back to the wire-making origins, where the gauge number represented the number of times a wire was drawn to reduce its diameter.

2. What are the gauges of sheet metal?

Sheet metal gauges refer to the standardized thickness of the metal sheets. The gauge system is unique for different types of metals. For instance, 10-gauge stainless steel has a different thickness compared to 10-gauge aluminum. It’s essential to refer to specific gauge charts for each material to ensure accuracy in measurements.

3. Which is thicker, 14 or 16-gauge metal?

Following the gauge system’s conventions, 14-gauge metal is thicker than 16-gauge metal. The gauge number corresponds to the number of wire drawing operations historically used to produce wires of varying thicknesses. As the number of operations increased, the wire became thinner, hence the inverse relationship between gauge number and thickness.

4. What gauge is 1/2 inch sheet metal?

Typically, metals that are 1/4 inch or thicker are not measured using the gauge system but are instead referred to as plate metals. These are measured using decimal or fractional thicknesses. So, a 1/2-inch thick metal would be considered a plate and not typically referred to by a gauge number.

5. How thick is 12 gauge steel?

The thickness of 12-gauge steel can vary slightly based on the type of steel (e.g., stainless, mild, or galvanized).


Gauge is essential to the fabrication process because it affects the strength and thickness of the metal. The gauge you choose will determine how your finished product looks and how long it lasts. Thinner gauges are more susceptible to damage, while thicker gauges may be too heavy for some applications. When selecting a gauge, consider the function and appearance of your final product. It’s unnecessary to compromise on quality or style with so many choices available. Start your sheet metal fabrication with a sheet metal gauge today!