Monday | 16 July, 2012 | 1:13 pm

Budget builder

By Gretchen Salois

A welder customizes a metal building into a charming home and workspace

July 2012 - Relishing a bargain Patty Cater, a daytime caterer for a Central Market, a local supermarket in Austin, Texas, and after-hours welder, purchased a metal building from Allied Steel Buildings Inc., Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Cater had plans to customize the structure. “I always wanted to build or live in a giant building that wouldn’t catch on fire. I’m a welder, and it’s so hot in Texas,” says Cater. “I went online to see what metal buildings were available before I spoke with a designer or engineer, and I looked at Allied Steel’s buildings and was able to find one on sale. I love a bargain.”

welding-budget071612-lead2The good value turned out to be a worthwhile investment as Cater took steps to modify the building and make it her own. She sent the pre-engineered Allied Building plans through the Austin Planning and Development process and got all the building permits needed. Getting city approval was the most difficult part of the project because the city of Austin had the building slated as a metal commercial building but used as a residence. Cater “set the precedent on this one,” she says.

Cater welded lighting fixtures and components to the kitchen and job shop areas. She used parts of discarded elevators and railroad tracks for hinges and other parts of lighting fixtures. The railing for the staircase is reused galvanized pipe from a chain-link fence. Sinks and tubs are farm-supply standard horse tanks and buckets. The faucets are hose bibs, and she used exposed copper pipe for all shower needs.

“I used copper for the plumbing mostly because I like the look of it but also so I don’t have to dig in the walls if something breaks,” she says. “I left all the I-beams and support columns exposed because I want to see how this place works, how it stands up, how it’s put together and how to do it again.”

Custom made
“Cater completely modified this building to put in a living quarters,” says Mitch Bagger, manager, building services department for Allied Steel. “The one building had a moderate roof slope on it and one part had a major sloping roof—completely different from what we [Allied Steel] provided her.” Bagger says Cater’s ability to incorporate her creative vision “to an otherwise pretty ordinary pre-engineered building,” made it a very unique structure.

The original metal building had a continuous roof pane, which Cater modified. The building is 30 feet by 48 feet by 26 feet. Cater used the structural members included within the building’s design, including red iron steel and the outside exterior, 26-gauge cladding. Allied also provided the doors and windows.

Her vision was to use all materials, building her house of steel with minimal waste. When she changed the roof, the excess metal material was applied to the walls of the welding shop. After she cut down the side wall from the front half of the building, the leftover pieces of I-beam became stringers for the staircase.

“I realized as we went along how much steel was left over because of the many modifications I had to do. When all was said and done, there was only one 12-foot trailer of debris,” she says, adding much of the leftover material was sheetrock. Any metal scraps were used elsewhere throughout the building. “Nothing was put to waste,” Cater says.

The home, doubling as her welding workshop, also has served as a venue for other events, such as fundraisers and concerts. The giant barn doors and windows allow Cater to work on large welding projects. She just finished a queen-size folding steel bed in her welding shop so now it can be used for a guest room and storage garage for her “48 International Pickup, or a big bar for fundraisers and house parties—or welding, of course,” she says. MM

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