Whether you’re an avid home-based welder or starting a business, setting up a welding shop takes some work.
However, with the right planning and preparation, you can build a shop your friends and colleagues will be envious of.
Here are some important things to consider when you start putting your own welding shop together.
How to Put Together Your Own Welding Shop
A lot more goes into building a shop than just picking a space and moving your equipment into it.
From zoning permits to ventilation and everything in between, there are a lot of factors to consider, and you want to get the most bang for your buck while also completing projects safely.
Create a Floor Plan
Long before you start looking at welding machines or planning what projects you’re going to build, create a floor plan for your welding shop.
This is arguably one of the most important steps in the process of building a shop. Without a detailed floor plan, you might find that all tools, materials, and other equipment won’t fit into the space. Even worse, if you sign a lease and then find out afterward that your shop is too small, you’re just creating more headaches for yourself.
It doesn’t matter if you’re planning to rent space or setting up a shop at home in the garage or backyard, start with the floor plan.
Even before you look at places to rent, figure out exactly how much space you’ll need. Remember you’re going to want room to store materials, tools, and equipment, but you will also need room for a proper ventilation system and, of course, room to work.
By designing a floor plan and laying out how you want your shop to operate, you can ensure that wherever you choose to build your welding shop, the space will meet your needs and limit any potential issues.
Your floor plan doesn’t need to be exact, but the more detailed you are, the better. Even just using a piece of graph paper to roughly scale-out the area will help you better visualize the weld shop.
If you already have a place to build your shop, this exercise will help you understand what equipment you have room for and what you don’t. If you haven’t secured a space just yet, it will help you know what square footage you need when looking at spaces and comparing your options.
Basic Tools and Welding Stations
Depending on the size and location of your space, the tools and workstations you can set up may vary.
However, there are still a few necessities that every welding shop should have. Once you have established your floor plan, you can look at adding extra tools and stations to make your shop bigger and better.
But, if you are just starting out or space is limited, these are the tools that every shop needs to have:
- Welding Machine
- Bottles for Shielding Gas
- Metal Welding Table
- Wire Brushes
- Power Source
- Tape Measure
- Protective Gear
- Fire Extinguisher
These are the basic tools you’ll find in any welding shop. If you have the space and want to build out your shop a little more, there are plenty of other tools to include. Popular options include an oxy-acetylene torch, chop saw, car lift, additional welding stations, and more.
Powering Your Welding Shop
It doesn’t matter how spacious your shop is or what tools you have to use if you can’t power them correctly.
When you’re setting up your shop, don’t overlook your power sources. The last thing you want is to have to run extension cords across the shop. Not only does this create a safety hazard for yourself and others to trip over, the longer the cord is, the less the amperage will be that reaches the welding machine. This, by itself, can create some problems for you. The main one being you’ll have poorer quality welds. AMPs are what impact how much heat is put out by your machine. Less heat means less weld penetration and ultimately weaker quality welds.
The types of metal you work with will also determine your power requirements. Most households have a current of around 120 volts and 15 AMPs. This is enough to weld steel up to 1/8th of an inch thick.
If you plan to weld thicker materials, though, you’ll need to go up to a higher capacity circuit like 230 volts and 30 amps. If you go thicker, the volts and amperage will continue to increase.
This is why it’s so important to start with a floor plan. Once you know what stations you’ll have set up and what your electricity requirements are, you can hire an electrician to come and make sure you have the right circuit in place and enough outlets to limit extension cords.
Ventilation and Fumes
If you’re going to be welding and working with shielding gases, there will be gases, vapors, and contaminants in the air. Having proper ventilation in place is absolutely non-negotiable when building a welding shop.
The three main purposes of welding ventilation are:
- Protecting the worker from breathing in air contaminants
- Preventing oxygen-rich or oxygen-deficient environments
- Removing the buildup of combustible gases and vapors in the workspace
When it comes to having proper ventilation, there are three main categories—natural dilution, mechanical dilution, and local exhaust ventilation.
At the very least, you’ll want to make sure that you can open doors and windows to create some airflow. This method allows fresh air to enter your workspace and helps to limit the concentration of airborne contaminants and fumes in the shop.
While an important thing to have in your shop, this method is the least effective way to ventilate your shop.
The next option is mechanical ventilation. This is done by using wall fans or roof exhaust fans to clear air from the workspace.
This is an effective way to prevent breathing in fumes and is a good option if you’re just building a shop in your garage for personal use now and then.
If you do go this route, it never hurts to have windows and doors open as well because this can help facilitate the exchange of clean air in the space.
Local Exhaust Ventilation
The most effective way to prevent fumes is through local exhaust ventilation. This type of system removes gas, vapors, and airborne contaminants before they get the chance to mix with the air in the room.
A few popular options for local exhaust ventilation include using a downdraft bench, moveable hood, or fume extraction welding guns.
Storage and Space
Unless you want to be running to the store to buy materials each time you start a project, it’s a good idea to include some room for storage within your shop.
This will allow you to have a variety of materials on hand to work with. This includes new materials and leftover cuts from past projects. After all, every project will be different, and you never know when a piece of scrap can be reused or repurposed.
Besides just storing materials, it’s nice to have space for your tools and equipment. While there are certain tools you might use every time you enter the shop, there are others you will only use now and then. By having enough space to store all your tools and keep them out of the way, you’ll be able to take on different projects as you wish.
Space is also important for working on your projects. You want to have room to move around as you need. Plus, you won’t complete a project every time you step into the shop. Part of building your initial floor plans should include extra space to store projects as you work them.
If you do so, it means when you decide it’s time to take on a bigger project like building a rat rod, you won’t be forced to store things outside or figure out how you’re going to make space in the shop.
Be Mindful of Your Surrounding Environment
Whether you’re building your welding shop at home or in a commercial space, be mindful of your surrounding environment.
Make sure you aren’t storing or working near any gas-powered appliances like a lawnmower or gas grill. You should also remove any flammable chemicals or materials like engine oil, gas containers, and starter fluid, among others.
For those who are building a shop at home, you need to be even more cautious. Any commercial shop or garage will likely have a concrete floor that can stand up to sparks and hot splatter. If you don’t have this in your workspace, it poses a potential fire hazard.
Any outdoor backyard shops should have a dedicated pad of concrete poured to help limit these risks. Backyard welding is great, but all it takes is one spark hitting some dead grass or dried wood to ruin your day and possibly your home.
Pouring a concrete slab and having a dedicated work area also helps protect your family and pets when welding at home. When you’re grinding, cutting, and welding materials, it can leave behind tiny metal shavings. If your welding shop is next to a high traffic area, this can be a big problem for bare feet or a pet’s paws. Being mindful of these areas and setting up your shop in its own special area can limit any potential trips to the hospital or vet’s office.
Permits, Zoning, and Insurance
Building a welding shop requires more than just finding a space and moving your tools into it. Depending on the use and location, you’ll likely need to acquire proper permits and insurance coverage. If you’re renting space to run a business, you’ll want to make sure that the area is zoned for that type of work. If not, you’ll have to go through your local municipality to make sure all the proper permits and zoning bylaws are in place. Otherwise, you could be putting your business at risk of unnecessary fines or closures.
Permits, zoning, and insurance are also something homeowners need to consider. The last thing you want is an accident that causes substantial damage and the insurance company saying you’re not covered. You may need to adjust your insurance policy to make sure you have the proper coverage in place. Likewise, if you’re going to be doing electrical work and having new and more powerful circuits installed, you may need a permit to complete the renovations.
Every area and business is different. For the most accurate answers to your particular circumstances, it’s best to contact your local government or insurance provider for the most up-to-date information.
Keeping Your Shop Safe
Shop safety should always be your number one priority. As mentioned above, at the very least, you need to have some sort of ventilation in place and a fire extinguisher on hand. However, that doesn’t mean that’s all you need.
It’s a good idea to have a first-aid kit nearby and plenty of personal protection equipment. This includes:
- Welding helmet and eye protection
- Welding apron or jacket
- Welding gloves
- Steel-toed boots
You may also want to consider installing an eyewash station or drench shower. These will be required in any commercial setting, but it’s a good idea to include them in your home shop if you have space and can afford them.
As you can see, there’s a lot of work that goes into building a welding shop, whether it’s at home or for commercial use. By taking the time to properly plan and ensure you have enough space for all of your equipment, you’ll be able to get more work done and enjoy having a shop to complete all of your welding projects.
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