If you are a newbie welder, your welding experience is probably limited to indoor welding projects. Welding indoors is much safer than welding outdoors. But you can see metal structures, buildings, rail lines, ships, planes, and other constructions made outside every day. Now, you are thinking of practicing some outdoor welding. So, can you weld outside?
Welding outside is possible. In fact, welders do that every day as they work on various infrastructures and repairs. However, few welding methods are easy to perform outside as the conditions are not controllable as welding indoors.
In this article, I will talk about the issues you may face while welding outdoors. You will also learn how to face these issues following safety measures.
What Issues Can Occur From Welding Outside?
When you weld indoors, the conditions and elements are often manageable. You do not have any sudden wind; you can control the humidity level and the temperature. For outdoor welding, controlling these elements is not always possible.
Now, let us consider some of the common issues that make outdoor welding difficult.
Finding a Suitable Ground
The first concern for outside welding is not just the climate. It is the foundation or flooring. Indoor setups for welding always have concrete floors that are not conductive. When you decide to weld outside, you need to find a stable solid ground that is not conducive.
Try to avoid grass and wood flooring as both are flammable and conductive when they get wet. Fire can spread fast in such flooring, and even a fire extinguisher can hardly put off the fire.
The next concern is the climate. As I have mentioned before, welders are helpless when the weather conditions get stormy and too windy. In a storm or heavy rain, you have a high chance of getting electrocuted from the welder and electrode.
Then the wind will blow off the shield gas and can jeopardize the welding by polluting the welded metals. Another problem welders face during outdoor welding is excessive heat. Maintaining the correct temperature is essential for welding. Besides, excessive heat can make you sweat. Thus, your chance of getting electric shocks increases.
Risky Elements in the Surrounding Environment
The outdoor setup should be free of hazardous elements. There should not be any gas-powered appliances or other flammable items. Also, there should be fewer people around you.
Unfortunately, you cannot always find the surrounding of outdoor welding favorable. You may have to work beside a permanent gas tank or in a crowded space. Therefore, you must stay extra alert to prevent accidents.
Not all types of welding are manageable outside, especially for people new to welding. Arc or stick welding and flux Core MIG welding are best for outdoor welding. These two methods are called SMAW. In both methods, the shield gas is produced very close to the weld pool. Thus, the methods are still effective during windy or dusty conditions.
On the other hand, TIG and MIG welding will not perform well outside because the wind can blow away the inert gas required for these welding methods. The external elements like dust and dirt can affect the quality of welding when you use MIG and TIG methods outdoors.
Problem with Metal Handling
You need to be careful about handling metals outdoors. Thin sheets of metals can be blown away by winds. These can also become really hot under the sun’s heat. Moreover, some metals like aluminum are sensitive to getting polluted by dirt and dust. An insufficient amount of shield gas and pollutants can make the welding process difficult outside.
Safety of the Welding Equipment
Welding requires a lot of tools and equipment. When you work outside, you have to bring all the essential equipment to the spot. It can suddenly rain, and the tools can get wet. You may even lose some things while welding.
You may not have a shade or outdoor storage to keep things safe. Thus, you will have to carry everything back to your indoor workshop.
A great problem is finding a power source at the right distance from your outdoor welding setup. You may not find a power source nearby. So, you may use extension cords to connect the welder from a source located a bit far.
But using extended power cords can lower the level of ampere or AMPs the machine will produce. Also, you have to find a power circuit to plug in your welder that should provide sufficient voltage and amperage.
How To Weld Outside?
Despite all the issues, welders have to work on projects outside. How can you do that?
The major problem for welding is the climate and the flooring outside. So, your first task will be finding a ground that has a minimal possibility of causing shock. Then there is the matter of controlling the exposure of sunlight, wind, and moisture.
For that, you can use welding walls or screens. There are many welding walls in the market to protect bystanders from the heat and radiation of welding. You can set up a portable welding wall on the spot to shield your welding from the wind.
These screens also protect your eyes from UV flash burns. You can also set up temporary welding tents to shield your tools from wind, heat, and rain.
With such a setup, you can use TIG and MIG welding methods outdoors. However, stick welding and flux welding are much safer and easier for outside welding.
10 Safety Tips For Outside Welding
You should give top priority to your safety and others near your working area. Even a simple mistake can cause a serious fire or electric accident.
Here are some safety tips you need to follow for outside welding:
- Read the instruction manual of your welder machine. Check if there is any specific safety measure you need to follow for outside welding.
- Before performing any welding outside, check the spot and surrounding area. Identify all the safety precautions you need to take. Get rid of flammable objects or things that can cause electric shocks.
- Consider the climate. When you have to weld outside, check the forecast of the day. Take measures for windy, sunny, and rainy conditions. If it is going to be stormy and thunderous, do not plan to weld outside.
- Set up welder walls, screens, or tents to shield your welding area and equipment from heat, moisture, and wind.
- Wear all the protective clothing. Go for a coverall that is both fire and electricity-resistant. Put on gloves and boots that are insulated.
- Put on a high-quality helmet that has filter options. That is crucial for the safety of your eyes. It should be able to protect your eyes from UV rays and arc flash.
- Constant exposure to welding fumes is dangerous for your health. Yes, there is plenty of air outside to blow away the fumes, but you still get exposed to the contaminants. Therefore, wear a respirator during welding.
- Be aware of possible electric shocks. Do not let your bare skin touch any electrically hot metals, wire, or the welder machine.
- Avoid working in excessive heat as it can make you sweat. Your clothing can get soaked, and you will get electrocuted. If you get sweaty, stop welding immediately. Dry yourself and your clothing. Then start welding again.
- Always turn off your welder and unplug it from the power source. Finally, clean up all the mess and residues produced during the welding.
Can You Weld Outside In Rain?
Having a clear sky is the best condition for welding outside. But in extreme cases, you may need to perform some welding in wet conditions. Welding is possible during rain, but it is extremely dangerous. Again, postpone welding if you see thunder and storms. There is no point risking your life.
When you weld in rain or wet conditions, do not let the welder machine get wet. Electricity and water do not go well together. The welder will malfunction and even short circuit. So, use a plastic covering and tent on top of electric equipment. Also, keep yourself dry. Wearing a raincoat over your clothing can shield you from rain.
Can you weld outside? Yes, you can, and all the experienced welders do it. If you are welding outside for the first time, be alert of all the issues discussed in this article. When you follow all the safety protocols, welding outside is not so daunting.