Request a quote

Sheet Metal Fabrication and Ironwork: What’s the difference?

Author: Rich Marker | Updated April 22, 2024 | September 28, 2017

It may seem that sheet metal fabricators and ironworkers have similar jobs. Both are highly skilled trades but they actually have different skill sets and utilize different tools and materials. Typically, ironwork is more structural and sheet metal fabrication is more functional. Both types of metal fabricators work with a variety of metals, machinery and equipment.

Historically, ironworkers fabricated with wrought iron, but today’s skilled craftsman work with a variety of ferrous and non-ferrous metals on heavy-duty projects. There are three main types of ironworkers.

  • Structural ironworker
  • Ornamental ironworker
  • Reinforcing ironworker

As you might guess, structural ironworkers erect the framework of bridges, buildings, stadiums, amusement park rides, bank vaults and other large-scale industrial metal projects according to engineer blueprints. They may also load and unload equipment, operate hoists and forklifts, place pre-cast concrete slabs, and perform industrial maintenance.

Ornamental ironworkers, or finishers, are responsible for the more architectural metal metal elements such as window frames, stairways, catwalks, railings, fencing, gates and building entranceways. These projects can be fabricated from a variety of different types of metals and are usually welded or bolted to the main structure. Ornamental ironworkers are highly skilled at arc welding.

The main job of reinforcing ironworkers, a.k.a. rodbusters, is to strengthen structures. These are the workers who place and tie rebar, and reinforce concrete footings, slabs, bridge framework and building structures.

Some people say the biggest difference between ironworkers and sheet metal fabricators is the height they work from the ground!


Sheet metal fabricators
These skilled tradesman frequently work in metal fabrication shops or at manufacturing plants. They may specialize in fabrication, installation or maintenance, but may perform tasks in all three areas. Sheet metal workers may fabricate metal roofs and rain gutters, heating and cooling systems, handrails, auto parts, and more. There are as many types of sheet metal as there are types of metal, including aluminum, steel, stainless steel, zinc, copper and a variety of alloys. Sheet metal fabricators take into consideration metal thickness, tensile strength, manufacturing method and quality.


All Metals Fabrication in Utah is an industry expert, working with all types of steel, stainless steel, aluminum, copper, brass, composites and other metals. Our methodology is focused on supporting each client with estimating, engineering, project management, shop fabrication and field installation. Contact us to learn how we can make your project vision take shape.


About the Author


Rich Marker

All Metals Fabrication Owner and CEO

Rich Marker is an 18 year, skilled professional in metal fabrication and manufacturing. Co-founder, owner and principal of All Metals Fabrication, Rich has helped to sustain the company’s success over a variety of economic conditions. He has extensive background in continuous improvement, training and process improvement, and emotional intelligence—among other specialized proficiencies. He loves to learn, fly fish, watch college football and devour NY style pizza! He has the best family on earth, loves a good plan, great teaching and the opportunity to get better.

Learn More

Request a Quote Today!

Get a Quote