Building a fire-resistant welding space in my garage
September 30, 2010 9:44 PM   Subscribe

How can I weld in my garage without burning my house down or getting slag all over my car?

I've got a little corner of my garage that I want to dedicate to metalworking (in support of a much more ambitious project). The plan is to build a welding table to which I can affix various metalworking tools. The problem is that my garage is wood and has exposed rafters and wall studs. It's also not very big, and my (immobile) car will be parked about 5 feet away. I'm afraid that if I use the little 110A stick welder in close proximity to these things, I'll regret it due to either burning my house down or spraying slag all over the car. I can build the table (mostly) outside, but once it's in the garage, rolling it outside is not possible.

Any thoughts on how I can make this happen? Could I hang sheetrock or something on the nearest walls? Hang shower curtains? Use a big magnet to draw sparks out of the air, Magneto-style?
posted by TheNewWazoo to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If I were you, at the very least I'd use a welding blanket or two to protect the walls, nearby equipment, and/or you car.
posted by RichardP at 9:59 PM on September 30, 2010

I would put Durock on the walls, the stuff won't burn.
posted by lee at 10:12 PM on September 30, 2010

Attempting to draw the "sparks" out of the air with a magnet doesn't work (tried it).
They are above the Curie temperature, and until they cool off to non-incandescence,
they are not magnetic.

You haven't actually touched on the most dangerous part of welding in your garage:
the damage that will be done to your lungs and nervous system by welding fumes.
Read this and heed its warnings.
posted by the Real Dan at 10:14 PM on September 30, 2010

I notice you have "rentersinsurance" as a tag. If this is a rental property, you may want to review your lease and make sure there aren't any specific prohibitions about using the garage for this sort of thing. It sounds like it's only setup for storage, not as a workspace. If it's your property that's one thing, but if it's a rental property you may be less free to use it as you'd like.

Also, does the garage have sufficient power for welding? A lot of older garages don't.

Finally, X 2 on the welding blanket and hanging some sheetrock (even temporarily) in the area of the garage in which you intend to work.

Good luck -- it sucks to want to start a project and be constrained by a bad workshop situation.
posted by mosk at 10:15 PM on September 30, 2010

Another voice for welding blankets/welding screens. And yes, you're right to think twice about welding in a basement with exposed beams. If you own the place, you can put in double-layer sheetrock, although that might end up being as much a project as whatever it is you're working on.
That said, a mig welder will give you way less slag and spatter than an old-style stick welder, and they're surprisingly cheap these days.
posted by zombiedance at 10:44 PM on September 30, 2010

My husband regularly does welding projects in our 1920s era wooden garage (think teeny tiny) which also houses his hobby car. He has a thick protective blanket that he puts over the car when he welds, but he doesn't do anything extraordinary to the walls/rafters. We've lived here 15 years and never had any welding-related mishaps. You'll probably be fine as long as you're taking normal precautions and staying aware of your surroundings.
posted by amyms at 10:50 PM on September 30, 2010

Adding: Just confirmed my previous answer with my husband, and he says to always keep a bucket of water and some wet rags nearby. And, be aware of where your sparks are falling and adjust your position accordingly.
posted by amyms at 11:13 PM on September 30, 2010

Always keep a fully charged fire extinguisher within 10-15 feet of your welding area.

I set the carpet of my car on fire while welding underneath. I didn't know it until I smelled smoke. If I had not had my fire extinguisher, I would have paid a lot more than just replacing some plastic trim and new carpet.
posted by WhiteWhale at 3:15 AM on October 1, 2010

Seconding the fire extinguisher. You never know when you might need it.

About the bucket of water and wet rags, IMHO it might pose an electrical hazard, esp if the fire originates near the welding tool.

Bottom line: don't get a water extinguisher; a dry chemical powder extinguisher should do the trick nicely.
posted by titantoppler at 4:09 AM on October 1, 2010

Why can't you build a welding table that can be rolled outside when you weld? I just bought a 110V welder for my home machine shop and that's what I plan to do. I think you're taking a huge chance even if you have welding blankets, fire extinguishers and a ventilation system. Consider all the other flammables you may have in your work area besides the wood walls.

And if you can't roll it outside then how about building a welding table that you could leave outside and have another workbench inside for your metalworking tools?

BTW, Harbor Freight has fiberglass welding blankets on sale right now. They also have a large selection of casters for your table.

You may find this welding forum useful.
posted by 14580 at 9:40 PM on October 1, 2010

Can you move the car out of the garage when welding?

I am in the process of setting up a nice welding/workshop space in my garage, and while it is large, there are some combustibles at one end I'd like to avoid setting on fire.

Once I get a decent extension cord built for the welder and plasma cutter, I'll be able to use it a little further from the wall the garage shares with the house. I think I'll also be painting or taping a safety line at an 8-10 foot distance from that wall and the combustibles, and hang either a fiberglass or translucent orange welding curtain between the welding area and the combustible zone.

While the translucent welding curtains are a little more expensive than the fiberglass ones, they would at least let you see outside the welding zone, in case a fire somehow does start outside your area.

Also, get a 3M respirator with a 2097 cartridge. They'll fit under a welding helmet.

If you use an extension cord, make sure it (and the circuit you're running it on, for that matter) have wiring rated for the current draw of your welder.
posted by MonsieurBon at 2:23 PM on October 4, 2010

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