Choosing the best shop to fabricate your sheet metal is a decision that many project managers may not spend much time considering. You may assume that a large shop that fabricates oval and spiral duct can also produce quality welded work. However, the “one stop shop” approach may not make the most sense for your project. It is important for anyone who is purchasing specialty welded stainless or black iron to consider how much time and money can be saved if you quote out your welded work to a shop that specializes in welding.
In order to get the best quality welded sheet metal for the best price, you need to work with fabricators who have custom expertise and who specifically prioritize quality control.
Here are the three most important factors to consider when purchasing welded sheet metal:
Employ certified MIG and TIG welders
American Welding Society’s (AWS) Certified welders are specialized tradesmen who can consistently produce quality welds that meet or exceed industry standards. Certified welders have extensive hands-on experience with a wide variety of materials. All certified welders have been inspected by an AWS inspector who determines their ability to adhere to nationally recognized Welding Procedure Specifications.
In addition, you should ask your fabricator if their welders smoke test all assemblies. Smoke testing will ensure that there are no leaks in the connections. Often, gas pores can only be found in the weld bead after it has solidified. Therefore, the smoke test is essential to quality control.
Work with Shops that Specialize in Custom Welding
Unlike shops that primarily fabricate rectangular duct and spiral, custom welding shops maintain equipment to ensure that you get a product made to the perfect specs for your job. Shops that also focus on spiral and oval duct work will often be unable to efficiently customize each fitting with the same quality control as a more specialized shop. If a shop is using the same equipment to mass produce duct, it is unlikely that they will be able to control the quality of each welded fitting.
Specialized shops will often use heavier gauge standards. For example, Madon Sheet Metal consistently uses 14-gauge black iron, 16-gauge stainless steel, and 16-gauge galvanized steel for welded items. Therefore, the products are significantly easier to install.
You may also consider working with a welding shop to determine which fittings can be welded in the shop rather than in the field. Eliminating the need for welding in the field can save significant time and money.
Talk to your field installers about why quality matters
Anyone who has ever worked in the field knows what it is like to fight poorly fabricated duct. When installers have quality welded fittings to work with, they can be much more efficient. Ensuring that your fittings are actually fabricated to your exact specifications will save you time and money in the field.
Here are some questions you may consider asking:
- How can I make better purchasing decisions?
- What about the material makes your job easier? What frustrates you?
- What is most likely to slow you down as you install?
- How do quality welded fitting make your job easier?
- Which fabricators do you prefer working with?
- How much time do you spend making adjustments to fabricated material in the field? What would you estimate the cost of that time to be?
- Which fittings can be welded ahead of time so that you do not need to weld in the field?
- Which fabricators make you feel respected?