How to fireproof a shop
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  1. #1

    How to fireproof a shop

    Getting back into welding after not doing much for decades. Have an old barn, and was going to convert 4 of the stalls into a welding shop. Barn has all wood walls. Part of the floors are thick oak boards, part dirt/concrete.

    Was wondering what people suggest for fireproofing the area. Going to be doing mig, plasma cutting/ oxy/acetylene, and am worried about the sparks flying.

    Should I rip up the wood floor and try to pour some sort of concrete slab? Should I cover the walls with something like cement board they use behind bathroom tiles? Some other covering comonly used? How high up the walls do you have to go?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
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    SW Az
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    Re: How to fireproof a shop

    Weld outside maybe? keep your gear in that nice old barn as is, make some rolling tables, tool carriers, carts etc. etc... just a thought? We don't know where UR? some places outside won't do, Az, sure.

    good luck
    Lincoln Power MIG 215
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    If all else fails... buy more tools

  3. #3

    Re: How to fireproof a shop

    Sorry. Live in New England. November-March it is pretty cold and wet outside.

    I have been opening the barn door and stick welding outside sporadically with an old buzz box, but the type of stuff I am planning to work on (large mobile metal sculptures) kind of have to be set up and worked on in place over a couple week period of time. I like the barn space because i can get something in there almost 3 stories tall, and then work on it getting the balancing right. Outside with the snow/ice/wind, it would be a little hard/dangerous to work on the stuff. Once a half ton of steel starts spinning in the wind, you want to get out of the way! I was hoping to set up a nice, well-lit shop, maybe even with a little heat, with all the gear in easy reach.

    All the other shops I had any training in were giant concrete pits. Don't know how to keep the wood barn safe. Just got a shinny new millermatic 211, and want to fire that puppy up.
    Last edited by spamz; 09-29-2010 at 03:08 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
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    Re: How to fireproof a shop

    Maybe cover the walls with corrugated galvanized steel (the stuff used for roofing). Not sure what you'd do about the floor though.

  5. #5
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    Re: How to fireproof a shop

    5/8" Drywall is 1 hour Fire rated.
    Ed Conley
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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
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    Re: How to fireproof a shop

    This is just my two bits and nothing more....
    Walls: If you're not directing the spray from a grinder at it for a solid hour or dopey enough to lay your torch down on the bench flame to the wall, yer probably OK with just the wood. If your chop saw is against the wall, some tin roofing,as mentioned would be good. If the wall boards are old and there are lots of gaps or any type of hay dust or debris jammed in them, then I'd cover the walls. Again, tin roof or painted 3/8" plywood, drywall(painted) or, like you said, cheapest cement board you can get. You can always build some screens to surround yourself and contain sparks. Easy and cheaper than doing the whole room and portable.
    Floor: If it's dirt under the boards, take them up and put down concrete patio stones. Might be cheaper than pouring. Or, if the floor boards are level and in decent shape, you could nail down plywood then cement board sheets. Off set the seams and make them tight. These are just kinda dirty fixes. If your really going to get back at it and you have the money, pour 6" of concrete or over lay the wood floor with 10ga. steel sheets.
    It's the little, tinder like stuff, and oil/thinner soiled rags that you have to watch out for. I'm thinking of doing an experiment when my shop is back together. Take a piece of plywood and see how long, if at all, it takes to burn it enough to ignite by aiming a grinder at it at a foot or two away. Give it say a half to a full hour. Just for interest sake. My new shop is all 3/8" plywood walls, painted.
    Anyhoo, I've babbled enough.....time for dinner!
    200amp Air Liquide MIG, Hypertherm Plasma, Harris torches, Optrel helmet, Makita angle grinders, Pre-China Delta chop saw and belt sander, Miller leathers, shop made jigs etc, North- welders backpack.

  7. #7

    Re: How to fireproof a shop

    Thanks for the suggestions.

    It was a working barn at one point, so there are probably hay and combustible dusts in the walls. The fire department guy who gave me my gas storage permit suggested sheetrock with tape/mud and a thin plaster coat over the surface. But it gets pretty damp in there, and I think the sheetrock will just turn to mush after a year or so. So I am thinking a cement type board with the seams taped with mud. Corrogated metal--I'll have to trade off the price, not sure which is cheaper. One benefit to the cement board is that I can probably find a board that is fire-rated.

    As far as cement board on the floor, I thought of that, but the weight of the projects will probably just punch thru. Same problem with putting ceramic tiles on the floor, they will crack from the weight or something heavy dropping on them. I do have some cement 1x1' pavers in one of the stalls now, I guess that would be a cheap way to go at the start. Pavers with sand in between the joints.

    There will be a lot of grinding in there. A friend I had on a fire department warned me to be especially careful of grinding sparks! So, yeah, I will do a good job making sure sparks can not get inside of any cracks anywhere.
    Last edited by spamz; 09-30-2010 at 08:56 AM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Long Island
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    Re: How to fireproof a shop

    Paint can go a long way to increase wood's fire resistance.
    Better than that, you can get additives to add to latex paint that slow flame spread even more.

    I suggested the corrugated metal because the seams require no treatment (just the open tops), and it stands up to more abuse than cement board. It should be faster to install too.
    If sparks get into the enclosed wall space, they can smolder (there's ALWAYS dust in there) and you'd never even notice. So you either want to seal that space up REALLY well, or fill it with a fire retardant insulation (like blown cellulose).

    Grinding won't likely ignite solid wood, but the concern is dust, and thin fibers that make kindling. Keep your trash in a covered metal garbage can and keeping flammable debris away is critical.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
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    Goochland, Va.
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    601

    Re: How to fireproof a shop

    I suspect that the biggest risks are in the cracks where dust has collected. It is hard to light a piece of lumber or plywood with grinding sparks unless they get into a crack and start some dust simmering.

    For the floor, you mentioned that you need to roll heavy stuff around - I don't think pavers, even large ones, are really what you want. Consider getting one of the 4cuft cement mixers from Northern Tool and pouring a slab in your work area. I spent $280 on the mixer and have used it for a number of slabs - you just can't beat being able to mix your own concrete! It is work, but it is well worth the effort - the money in concrete is all in the finishing, do it yourself and consider it a decent hourly rate for your trouble.

    For the walls, the key will be to seal the cracks in your welding/grinding area. Laying some 1/4" plywood over the walls up to 8' and sealing the bottom with silicon caulk will probably be good enough. And cheap. A coat of paint on the plywood will yield significant improvements in fire resistance by reducing the places sparks can rest and smolder.

    Keep the work area swept so that sparks can't camp in a crack on your plywood and I don't think you will have any problem if you are grinding say 4' away. In a barn that size I doubt that you need to be very close to the walls, you are more worried about berries bouncing into a corner.
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