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What To Look for In a Custom Architectural Metal Fabrication Partner

If you're involved in a construction or building restoration project, it's critical to find the right custom architectural metal fabrication partner to handle the metal components - especially for restorations. This could include features such as railings and light fixtures, as well as external decorative metal components.

Doing work that looks good and is fully up to local building codes is difficult, requiring a specific expertise which is rare even in the metal fabrication industry. A poor partner could ruin the look of a restoration job, or even install fixtures that fail to pass city inspection. Such projects could add considerable time and cost to a project and must be avoided.

What are the most important factors to consider when evaluating custom architectural metal fabrication companies? This is what you should look for.

Six Key Must-Haves in a Custom Metal Fabrication Partner

1 - Experience, experience, experience

More than anything else, you want a metal fabrication shop with years - or decades - of experience doing architectural work. This is not a field for newcomers. Proper architectural metal fabrication requires deep knowledge of the metals, fabrication techniques, expected stresses and usage, and more. These are not skills that come easily.

Any potential partner you evaluate should have an extensive portfolio of past work which includes projects that were at least as difficult as your current job. Also, don't discount longevity. Broadly speaking, the longer a metal shop has been in business, the more trustworthy they are likely to be.

2 - Access to high-quality materials

The quality of the metal that goes into your building always matters! Metals can have varying levels of impurity, and a great metal fabrication shop knows how to obtain high-purity materials that will be fully suitable for your purposes. This is particularly important in metal pieces that will be responsible for human safety, such as walkways and railings. You must know the work being done is safe for everyday use.

This also extends to the finishes they use, and their finishing techniques. Do they have the facilities for more difficult types of finishing, such as anodizing and electroplating? If not, they may not be able to provide the right look for your project, or properly protect outdoor elements from the weather.

3 - A focus on communication

Custom architectural metal fabrication revolves around meeting your needs and creating pieces that match the exact look you need. This means your metal fabrication partner must place a priority on customer communication, backed up by effective project management that keeps your desires at the top of the to-do list.

In addition, they will need to interface with other elements of your construction/renovation crew, necessitating strong coordination skills. Ideally, they utilize resource planning software that allows full team access to critical information, while ensuring materials and finished pieces are delivered on schedule.

Proper communication can go a long way in preventing costly mistakes or delays!

4 - Robust client-focused customization

Communication also plays a big part in ensuring the work is properly customized to your needs. The best custom metal fabrication shops utilize CAD design software to pre-visualize all design elements before committing, so you can comment on the designs in progress. Some shops have even begun incorporating 3D printing into their pre-vis workflow so that you can see and handle scale models of the work to be done.

You should be in the loop at all stages of the project and given ample opportunity to adjust designs so that they're perfect for your needs, before committing to the final end product fabrication.

5 - An excellent safety record

Safety is a serious consideration in metal fabrication work, in multiple ways. The pieces they produce must be fully up-to-code and, when appropriate, fully rated for daily usage. This can often be evaluated by looking at their ISO standards certifications. The more ISO standards a shop can meet, the more likely they are to produce solid work.

However, internal safety also matters. You want a metal shop that takes serious steps to protect their own workforce, and more than meets all relevant safety regulations. A shop that isn't concerned about the health and safety of their workers probably won't be that concerned about your safety either.

6 - Transparent pricing

Due to how exclusive this market is, it's relatively rare to find custom metal fabrication shops that play games with their pricing and billing... but you still have to watch out. As with most forms of contracting, you want a partner who produces highly detailed estimates and is willing to stand by their bid in most situations.

The earlier they can provide accurate pricing information, the better it is for you since it allows for precise budgeting on your project.

Heather & Little Are Your Experts for Custom Architectural Metal Fabrication

Since 1925, we have been North America's top service providing custom architectural metal fabrication services, with a focus on building preservation and restoration. We've worked on beloved landmarks and historical properties across the continent. Our goal is always to properly preserve the look and feel of the property, while still adhering to all necessary modern building standards.

Contact us to begin consulting on your next project.

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And if you are looking for a second opinion on your project or have a particularly complex issue that needs a fresh eye, we’re here for that too. Tackling tricky challenges is our specialty and we welcome the opportunity to provide consulting advice, with the same exacting attention to detail we bring to all our commissions.
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