Home > Design, Fabricate, General Contractors > Ten Things Designers Should Know Before Working with a Custom Fabricator

Ten Things Designers Should Know Before Working with a Custom Fabricator

Your vision is clear. You’ve sketched a hundred variations of your design – you have a pile of trace to prove it. You finally have it: the perfect concept. You’re excited about it. Ready to see it built. Everyone will marvel. Covet. Tell their friends.

But…you’re not finished. Fabricating details still need to be finalized. Making your dream become reality can be shocking when you aren’t prepared for the fabrication process or the price tag. Don’t be shocked. Be prepared. Save yourself time. Save yourself worry. Get your dream realized as quickly as possible for the least amount of money.

No matter the material or design, there are (at least) ten things to consider before you call the fabricator:

1. Be detailed in your specifications. The more complete your specifications are (materials, size, timeline), the more accurate the price. It’s that simple. Consider asking for ‘value engineering’ suggestions before the specifications are complete. You’ll be glad you did.

2. Get to know materials. Make an appointment with your fabricator and suppliers to familiarize yourself with the wide range of materials and products available. Understand their uses, strengths and weaknesses in order to create a more viable design and keep cost down.

3. Decide on a finish. Don’t forget the details like grain direction. It matters.

4. Realize the difference between stock material sizes vs. oversize materials. If oversize materials aren’t available for your design, a seam will be required. You’ll want to design the seam into the design specs.

5. Choose a joining method. Welding spots can remain raw or ground smooth. Do you want screws, nails, or rivots? Determine the level of finishing detail you expect. Assume the fabricator will provide the least finished joining method unless you ask for otherwise.

6. Plan a transport method. Shipping, delivery, installation or customer pick-up? Realize that there may be additional costs to cover the transport.

7. Request a mid-fabrication meeting to view the work in progress. Communicate issues at this point. Don’t wait until the fabricator has completed the job to ask for something different. Be open to a change order if specifications are altered.

8. Decide if you expect a warranty. How long? What will it cover?

9. Communicate effectively with all involved to cut down on time. Do you require more than one bid? If so, all details should be conveyed to each contractor. If possible, invite all contractors to a pre-bid meeting to discuss details and their specific roles in your project. Send out drawings and specifications before the meeting. Field questions at the meeting so everyone is informed and on the same page.

10. Be considerate by comparing ‘like’ fabricators. Quality is subjective.

Remember, the most efficient use of the team’s time is to ask detailed questions before construction is completed. Develop a relationship with your fabricator, so when you present a napkin sketch, they understand the level of quality you expect. They get to know your price points and will offer solutions in materials to suit. Soon, with approximate dimensions and a quick conversation, you could be on your way to realizing your dream design. Otherwise, construction documents are a must, and your only assurance that you’ll receive a product that is as or better than expected.

Lastly, be a good client. Their time is as precious as yours. If you ‘source’ them, use them. If you like someone’s work, use them again. Tell your friends.

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