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Old 02-21-14, 10:58 PM   #1
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Setting up basement for frame building

I'm planning to make my first frame, with Oxy/Propane. I'll be in my full basement with cement floor and walls, but exposed rafters and some pipes/wires above.

What should I do to make it safe for brazing and building? Is one box fan enough? Should I come up with walls or dividers to make the building area more contained?

I have a couple kids upstairs so I clearly want to make sure nothing nasty gets up there.

That said, I won't be doing this all day, but building in my spare time.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 02-22-14, 05:01 AM   #2
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Propane and basements are a bad mix. Propane settles on the floor as it is more dense than the air. You will need to be absolutely sure no propane can get to any ignition source such as the pilot lights on the furnace and water heater.
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Old 02-22-14, 11:21 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by rellis View Post
Propane and basements are a bad mix. Propane settles on the floor as it is more dense than the air. You will need to be absolutely sure no propane can get to any ignition source such as the pilot lights on the furnace and water heater.
+1 this. Maybe rig up a floor-intake exhaust fan?

Is there a reason you don't want to use acetylene? Acetylene is less dense than air, and thus will disperse rather than pool in low spots like propane.
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Old 02-22-14, 12:10 PM   #4
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Glad I asked!

I'm open to acetylene, especially if it's safer in this case.

Where else do people do this that don't have a garage or dedicated shop? Could it be done outside, or would it simply be too much to move and set up every time?
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Old 02-22-14, 02:19 PM   #5
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Propane is hazardous, but I wouldn't say acetylene is safer?

I'd say the risk increases for longer hoses and for multiple connections. For a brazing set up you'll have 15 feet and 2-3 connections, so the risk of a leak should be pretty low. Propane is used on boats and RVs with lines running to the water heater, stove, etc. Get a good propane sensor/alarm.
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Old 02-22-14, 03:07 PM   #6
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I've had over a dozen shops, besides the few commercial ones, that I've built in. Most all were basements, one garage and one outside brazing space. All with an OA torch. Even the early ones that didn't have any real venting there has never been a problem. But i do take full care and considerations for my tanks, hoses, connections and practices.

The outside space was the most difficult to work in. between the wind and lighting (and this is within an event tent yet) the temp control and metal color changes were challenges. As soon as I could I moved indoors. Andy.
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Old 02-26-14, 05:14 PM   #7
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Acetylene creates a lot of soot while lighting/adjusting the torch, soot gets over everything.
Acetylene is also inherently unstable and mishandled tanks have been known to explode, definitely a consideration if working in your family house, some insurance policies and building codes prohibit acetylene in residential buildings. With either fuel, good idea to at least store the tank in an shed or outbuilding when not being used. A tank stored in basement is bad news in event of a house fire.
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Old 02-26-14, 06:28 PM   #8
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there is always soot when lighting an acetylene torch, but if it continues to produce soot, you are flowing gas at the wrong rate (too low). I think the smell of flux is something I wouldn't want in my house. When I'm done in my garage, I open the door for a second and replace the air.
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Old 02-26-14, 09:33 PM   #9
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I would never do that, it is crazy dangerous to work with that stuff in a basement. You will almost certainly invalidate your insurance if you own the place, and you are probably violating all kinds of ordinances, including fire egress door type stuff. If you have gas in the home you have a fair chance of blowing several houses off the block, and if you kill members of your family you would be fair game for criminal prosecution. Obviously you are a responsible person to have brought this up.

I have a detached workshop, though the far end which is 40 feet away has a gas pipe coming in. I work at only very restricted times during the year, so I am willing to restrict what I do to keep myself and my neighbours safe (ish). I am certainly glad I don't live next door to me.

It would be interesting to know what the requirements would be to do this if one were setting up an industrial setting. I would think it would include some kind of real fire extinction system, like CO2; no exposed framing with fire dams in place. Fully dry walled and sealed to keep fire and gasses contained. Fireproof doors, and an egress door. Fire blankets. Explosion proof fans. Of course people use propane torches or have kitchens in their basements, it would be a mater of degrees. All the houses I have lived in had gas furnaces in the basement, an none of the above.
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Old 02-26-14, 09:55 PM   #10
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I like the light touch this guy brings to the subject, from the Polytech forum:

Way too small for eventual uses, but it's a good start if that's all
you have. But there are a lot of considerations. I have to go to
work so I'll touch on the points and they can be hashed out later, but
here's the basics:

If you do any welding, you need a fresh air makeup source
(preferably heated or with a heat exchanger if you live anywhere north
of Florida - and even there it gets chilly. Or air conditioned in the

And you MUST provide a vent hood over your welding table that
exhausts to the outside. Even if you have a variable speed fan so you
turn it down while doing relatively clean TIG welding, you still
produce fumes of nasty stuff that have to be removed. Oxy-Acetylene
MIG Fluxcore or Stick all make varying levels of bad stuff in the
smoke that has to be removed, and the metal fumes in the weld smoke
can cause severe health problems - zinc fume fever is just one.

Any ventilation blowers should have another control switch outside,
so they can be used by the FD for smoke ventilation in case of a fire.
The fan needs to be remotely mounted and the power and control wires
all run outside the extreme fire hazard area, so it keeps working.

Yes - but you'll need to do so much prep work to build a welding or
machining workshop under the house and do it safely that it would be a
WHOLE lot easier to sell that house and buy one further out of town
that does not have the restrictions on a shop outbuilding in the back
yard, or to build a new house from scratch (or a total
almost-ground-up remodel) that was planned for that use in the first
place. I'm thinking a concrete slab floor between the basement and 1st
floor as the ultimate firestop.

To get around the codes somewhat, you can just build an addition to
your existing garage to make it a 4-car, or add a second two-car
garage on the other side. After it's all built and the permits are
passed as a garage, then you can turn it into a workshop. (Creative
Interpretation.) ;-) Or go up - make it a 2-story detached garage
and you have the whole upstairs.

With a separate shop building 100 feet from the house you don't have
to be nearly as paranoid about life safety, because you don't have
people sleeping upstairs. If it burns down or blows up it can be a
serious annoyance, not a tragedy when a few people die.

Fire Safety: You need outside windows from all main basement rooms
for ventilation so the fire can go out instead of only up - or worse,
the heat builds until the floor above flashes over.

You need automatic fire sprinklers inside all basement rooms, a
water-curtain sprinkler head over the windows so the flames pouring
out the basement windows don't catch the house on fire. And an
outside sprinkler booster hookup for the pumper. This way if they
decide it's too dangerous to go inside, they can let the sprinklers
keep working on it.

Lots of extinguishers, including a bucket of Class D powder on hand
in case you ever machine magnesium or other highly reactive metals.
And a few strategically placed 1-1/2" hose racks with a fog nozzle by
the doors might prove useful if you can jump on a fire while it's
still small.

NOTE: You always put the fire stuff near the Exit door - that way
you have the exit behind you when you decide to fight or flee. Or you
try to fight then change your mind as it gets worse.

And you need an outside walk-up or storm door access to the basement
(two ways to get in would be even better) so the FD can get inside
safely to fight the fire without going through the house. And at
least one large access door helps when you want to get equipment and
supplies in and out, too.

You need a 2-hour rated ceiling and walls in all the basement rooms
(double 1/2" drywall or better), and a 2-hour commercial fire door to
the upstairs so the fire doesn't spread. You need proper fire dampers
in all vent and duct penetrations, and firestop collars on all
conduits and pipes.

You need heat (rate of rise) type fire detectors in the shop rooms,
and smoke detectors in the hallway headed upstairs - that way the
smokes shouldn't give false alarms as often, they are a door away from
the welding or paint spraying. The alarms need to be linked to a
burglar alarm with a dialer, so even if you work in the shop and leave
for the evening and something is smoldering, the FD gets called while
it's still small.

You need to keep all larger quantities of flammable gases and
liquids outside the house in a steel storage shed, including your
welding gas bottles - The odds are very low, but Google the terms
'acetylene deflagration' sometime and you'll get an eye full - the
bottle just decides to go BOOM!... There shouldn't be any more
flammable stuff stored inside than you plan to use that day.

And on a general basis, you will always have potential moisture
control problems in a basement - you may need a dehumidifier that can
run 24/7, and you may (depending on the water table and the
waterproofing of the basement walls and floor) be fighting a
never-ending battle against water intrusion and dampness.

You'll need to do a lot of soundproofing in the basement ceiling.
And any ductwork or pipes can still carry the noise upstairs.

Fine aluminum and steel shavings and dusts can catch fire all by
themselves, especially if you mix in a little sawdust. Add in some
oily rags...

This is why you normally do that work in a garage at home - because
by all modern building codes an attached garage is isolated from the
rest of the house by fire rated walls and a fire rated solid door,
there are ventilation ports at the floor and ceiling levels to prevent
fume buildups, there is a big door for easy access...

I gotta go, more tonight. I'll put out the verbal flames then -
probably just as many from the people who think I'm being overly
paranoid as from the people thinking I haven't gone far enough in my
safety considerations, but that's to be expected. It's that "There
are Old pilots, and Bold pilots, but few Old Bold pilots..." thing.

--<< Bruce >>--
Bruce L. Bergman, Woodland Hills (Los Angeles) CA - Desktop
Electrician for Westend Electric - CA726700
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