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How to start a Chrome Plating shop

u.s chrome

Q. I am interested in starting up in a brand new electroplating business in South Africa. I am currently a chemistry student in New Zealand, and have investors in business secured. My previous electroplating experience is fairly limited but I am quite familiar with basic technical aspects. One problem is I have little idea how much a business would start to cost including initial set up for a gold, silver, copper, nickel, chrome and zinc capabilities (about a ton of product a day). I have some contracts in mind and would have no problem finding custom. What I want to know is how do I start a business from scratch. With my limited experience I am slightly anxious about letting down my investors. I am currently 23 and have limited business experience but am confident that I can start a successful business in this area. If any of you are interested in helping me please reply. Thank you.

chris morton
- new zealand

Ed. note: Please read on, Chris.

Q. Sir,

I want to start my small business in chrome plating. Can you give me an advice or certain procedures or information to lessen my expenses. Is the electroless nickel plating is also best for the small motorcycle parts and accessories?

Thank you!

Erwin Mendoza
computer technician - San Rafael, Bulacan, Philippines

Ed. note: Electroless nickel is a very expensive finish and usually not a proper substitute for chrome. For more info on that, please search the site for "electroless nickel plating".

Q. Sir,
In connection with Mr Erwin Mendoza's query from San Rafael Bulacan, I am also interested in putting up a chrome plating business. Is there anyone who can give me an advise about this matter and what particular equipment do I need? Thank you very much. God bless you all.

Edgardo S. Ligisan
hobbyist - Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija

A. We recently expanded our "Chrome Plating Tutorial" and I think it will be what you are looking for, Edgardo.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. Hi,

I'm 28 years old and I'm seeking a career in chrome plating, I've always been interested in opening my own shop however I have no idea where to start, what advise would you give someone with no experience for me to start? How much investment do you think would be required? I want to keep my full time job and start this as a weekend gig and eventually do this full time. I know it's something I can't do out of a garage or home. Every time I ask people who have experience on this they seem to not want to share the info, I guess it's a competitive thing? Anyway if you could just give me your input on this would be highly appreciative. Thanks for all your support!

Fernie Campos
Hobbyist - Addison, Texas

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A. Hi Fernie. Although there are limits to the proprietary knowledge that people feel they can afford to freely share, plating shops have zero fear of an inexperienced competitor. If at all practical, try to land a part-time job (but preferably a full-time one) in a plating shop and learn at someone else's expense. If that isn't doable, at least thumb through a couple of plating books -- you don't have to read every word, but at least see the forest before you study a tree. Then join NASF (NASF), attend a few meetings, maybe take an electroplating course, then people will be better able to help you. Trying to tell someone how to start a chrome plating business when they've never even been in a plating shop is difficult. People's reluctance to explain may not be secretiveness so much as frustration -- it's incredibly tedious to try to explain stuff to people who have no vocabulary in the trade and can't even picture what you're trying to describe, and the presumption that what they've been working decades to learn can be conveyed in a few paragraphs can be insulting :-)

I'm NOT saying that chrome plating is rocket science; to the contrary, I knew a fellow with a 6th-grade education who successfully ran a plating shop -- but competing successfully in a field as the boss when you don't have enough knowledge or experience to land a position as a journeyman is hard no matter what field :-)

But to answer your question very specifically, a good step one is to study our FAQ on Chrome Plating and try to understand it, and a good step two is to browse the Metal Finishing Guidebook cover to cover (here's a link to the free version) -->

Best of luck; this industry wants and needs new blood! And if you become a reasonably competent plater, then people certainly will worry about competition from you!

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. Hello My name is Ray (for short)

I have a few questions about starting a plating business.

I understand that most people warn off Home brew set ups which I can understand. I'm not here to argue setting one up at home, but I was wondering is there safe alternate chemicals to work with? I was reading on some of these home starter set up sites where you could buy environment safe products like an imitation chrome. Is this really safe for us and the environment or is it a smoke screen? I'm just needing something right now to plate on plastic parts as far as chrome is concerned. Then I read where there is Gold plating kits without poisonous gases to deal with or is that BS also? Now if I set one up whether at home or a shop is there an economy version of a waste management system? I mean if I have to open a shop in order to plate I think I should start small and see if it will catch on. I don't want to sink $100,000 into something that may not catch on and be out a ton of money. I understand there are no guaranties in starting a business but I just think losing 5-10k is better than 100,000.00.

Speaking of waste systems--

Is a system that evaporates the water worth a flip? It's left with a sludge type material stored in drums that is picked up by a waste disposal company?

I also hear this Odessa, Texas spill a lot in regards to a home brew set ups, is there a link, etc., to this? My town gets its water basically from the same place as Odessa and I've never heard of this before. Since I'm in Odessa a lot, is there some sort of records office I could pop in and take a look at the case? I just would like to know as much about what I'm up against if I choose to start my own plating business.

I also have been thinking of Anodizing and wondered how I go about finding someone who could safely dispose of the old acid? I hear people say that a local disposal company wouldn't relieve you of any responsibilities as far as the EPA is concerned? Also can't the acid just be neutralized and not cause any damage when disposing of it?

Thanks for your time and replies whether it's good or a flamer.

Raymond Hayes
Student - Midland, Texas

A. Hi Ray. Yes, avoiding real chrome is always a good idea if the chemicals will not be managed by trained professionals, but any electroplating that you sell as a service or as a plated part may make you subject to EPA 40 CFR 433 waste disposal and permitting requirements. It's on line if you want to read it. Evaporation is probably okay as a rule, but still requires permits. Further, it is best not to mix wastes, so you might need a bunch of different evaporators.

Real plating on plastic is a complicated procedure, however, so you might consider a "chrome-look paint" for your plastic, such as offered by Gold Touch [a supporting advertiser]. These have come a long way in the last few years, and some OEM automobiles now come with chrome-look paint on the wheels rather than real plating. Other than local business permits, you might be unregulated :-)

The Odessa Superfund site was not quite a "home brew set up", but it was a chrome plating shop operating out of a large double garage. The liability for cleanup costs case was tried in the Federal courthouse in Midland there; I was one of the witnesses. Here is one article about the Odessa case that I found on-line.

Just as it was once thought safe to take drums of chemicals and bury them, and the people who did it 50 years ago are paying the costs of those wastes, today's disposal methods may not suit the citizens of tomorrow. One problem is that you are responsible for plating waste forever, and here's why: plating companies used to contract disposal companies to take care of their waste and like all businesses they looked for the lowest cost; but some of those disposal companies were actually 'midnight dumpers' who disappeared, leaving the public with the cleanup cost ... so the EPA changed the rules and if you produced the waste you remain responsible for it no matter who you pay or how much.

Let me reinforce it by saying it a second time though: chrome look paint is an entirely different thing than real chrome plating, and if it's acceptable to you, it will be much much simpler and much less capital-intensive than real plating, and will involve far less regulation. Good luck!

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

A. No plating system is environmentally safe! Some are worse than others, namely chrome and cyanide based systems. Evaporation only slightly works. Eventually you get so much "salt" in it that it virtually will not evaporate and is a miserable mess to clean. They are more functional where you only need to reduce the liquid level and plow back the filtered concentrate into the plating tank. This will eventually kill the plating tank though (unless and except). Plating is fully as much an art as a science. Who do you plan to learn from? You will require a lab of sorts to control your tanks. Are you a chemist or an experienced lab tech? Read the fine print of any "hobby" system! It will say "dispose of all material in accordance with local, state and federal regulations". You will be fine until someone finds out about your operation or you have an angry customer that turns you in. Fines typically are from $500 to $5,000 per offense, per day, plus costs. Something as simple as an unlabeled haz waste tank or a label without a start date or a disposal record can bring many days fines if they chose. And multiple levels of government can levy fines. Lastly, it is a dirty nasty business.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

Q. Aloha,

My name is Monte and I was very interested in starting up a chroming business in the state of Hawaii. So now I'm browsing around looking for advice on how to go about starting up the business, judging by some of the stories I've read here it sounds like it's very complicated to start up? Is there any positive advice out there? I've worked in the environmental scene for about 3 1/2 years so I'm aware of the EPA issues and I'm good friends with a gentleman who just so happens to own a hazardous materials disposal company. So what would be my next move? I mean I don't want to start off big, I just want to run small to medium scale operation. Any advice would be much appreciated.

Mahalo and Aloha

Montgomery Meyer
- Honolulu, Hawaii, USA

A. Simple- get a job in a chrome plating facility of the type you want to do--Decorative or hard chrome. You will find it very hard to go both ways as a tiny shop.

Go to small business classes at night. Colleges or junior colleges normally provide them for about cost $20 -50 per class.

Write a business plan. Then rewrite it. Then rewrite it being very critical of it. Then let a business person critique it. Then have the small business office critique it. Then have a banker critique it.

For decorative chrome, you are going to require a buffing facility. These are nasty and gross. Then you will need a copper strike and a heavy build copper plating capability and back to buffing. Then you need it to be chemically clean and active to give it two different kinds of nickel and then chrome.PS, it is difficult to clean parts after buffing- It burns the carrier (grease) into the surface of the metal. Then you need waste treatment and waste shipping. This should require having taken a class for each at about $1,000 each-every 2 (or three) years

Advertising, competent hired help, competent tax accountant service to help keep the city, county, state and feds happy. A number of permits are required. Nasty fines if you are caught and do not have all of them.

An educated guess- about $100,000 to start a small facility. If you are abnormally good, possibly 25K for a tiny facility. PS- Zoning laws will not let you do it in your garage or shed.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

A. If the price is right I doubt you would have any trouble getting a consultant to come over and help you set up your company. The most important thing to remember when starting a plating shop is accountability. Nothing puts a company out of business faster than not doing things "right". You, and you alone are responsible for every drop of hazardous material you buy or generate. That old saying aptly applies here: "If it's worth doing, it's worth doing right". There are lots of people in this industry who can and will give you very good, practical answers to help you shorten your learning curve. It just may be the difference between success and failure.

jim conner
Jim Conner
Anoplex Software
supporting advertiser
Mabank, Texas USA
Anoplex logo

A. 100,000 $ is not bad at all, It would cost approx. the same in India, including the price of real estate in a far far away Industrial area.

Near a big city probably thrice as much.

Khozem Vahaanwala
Khozem Vahaanwala
Saify Ind
supporting advertiser
Bengaluru, Karnataka, India
saify logo

Q. Well my question is how do I go about starting my own business? I know how to do chrome plating and I'm really good at it so I've been doing it for a few years and my buddy's father told me I should get on here to find out how I can start my own little business. so if you can please send me any info I would really would appreciate it. Thank you and have a nice day

Brad K [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Girard, Ohio, United States

A. Tough field to break into! Start by reading all of the past archived letters on the subject (say 4 years worth) at this site. Ignore the parts about work in the business for a year as you say you are well over that. Being an owner is a whole bucket of worms that the line plater rarely sees.

Just go into it with your eyes wide open.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida

Q. I would like to know what I need, and how much money it would take to get started with opening a business for powder coating, nickel plating, and chrome plating. Any info will help

Todd Manasco
hobbyist but want to do for a living - Byron, Illinois
September 19, 2010

A. If you have about $ 125.000 to $220,000 and a building you might be able to start doing parts in very low volume. Expect to lose money the first 2 to 3 years. You will make less than $20,000 year and be hated by a lot of impossible to please customers. If you are willing to spend 10 to 15 hours a day working tediously detail repairing and polishing at about $6 an hour. You just might make it.
It helps to have at least 3 partners minimum who are willing to work long hard hours and share the profits and losses.
A small well-run shop like you are thinking about would work as long as all individuals involved are willing to work like a dogs and never make $30 thousand a year.

Frank DeGuire
- St. Louis, Missouri, USA

A. Frank's sunny response aside, starting a plating business from the ground up is now an extremely expensive proposition. Local, state and federal laws have erected large barriers to market entry. It can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to start even the small plating shop. You might want to work in a plating shop for a while to see if it's the business for you. It is kind of fun to take chemicals bought at Home Depot and plate pennies but running a plating shop subject to environmental regulations, demanding customers, financial covenants, etc. will prove to be a daunting task. Do a lot of research and be prepared to spend a lot of money.

Daryl Spindler
Daryl Spindler, CEF
decorative nickel-chrome plating - Greenbrier, Tennessee

Q. Hi,

I have a hydraulics business for 8 years and require hard chroming regularly. However, the chroming aspect is sub-contracted to other companies. I would like to start my own chroming business - please would you advise on how I go about it?


John Smith
- Johannesburg, South Africa
September 5, 2012

A. Hi John. Please start with the previously referenced FAQ and book, but not knowing where to begin a plan is always a huge chasm to leap.

Back when I did consulting and got questions like this I would suggest that I come visit you for 2-3 days armed with books, journals, photographs, vendor address files, tape measure, sketch pads, drawings of similar installations, etc.; and I'd leave you with general sketches, a couple dozen hand written pages of notes, helpful hints, suggested vendors, rough cost estimates, etc.

In other words, even understanding your actual situation (available floor space, part size, production rates, etc.), it would still take a couple of days for an experienced consultant to convey enough info to you for you to continue to make progress on your own. You can ask a representative from a plating process distributor to come out and meet with you for free and answer some questions, but I don't think you'll make significant progress until someone has held your hand on this for a couple of days. But best of luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

RFQ: I was in the plating business for about ten years, about 15 years ago. I understand the issues that I have read in some other posts. My question is the costs and suppliers. I would build a new facility for a shop, with pollution control. I have been out of the loop for quite some time, so my contacts are no good for tanks, copper bus bar, rectifiers, solutions. What I am looking for is chrome, nickel and probably anodizing and hard coating. The anodizing I would have a few color dyes. This would all be new construction. Looking for a push in the right direction. Location of this new shop has the potential for a mass amount of business. Not sure of the permits that need to be pulled. Have plenty of property for this facility. Largest items are bumpers, so not looking for really large tanks. Any help on this would greatly be appreciated. Thank you

Scott Cormier
- Poplarville, Mississippi, USA
April 18, 2013

A. Hi Scott. What I would probably do in your situation is find a couple of reasonably local plating chemical distributors and ask that their sales engineer come out to see you. They will help you decide an overall approach, and will have suggestions for vendors for the equipment. The National Association of Metal Finishers ( used to have a great book "Guidance Manual" on permitting requirements; you could see if it's still available. If not, an introductory course on Haz-Mat issues from Lion Technologies or others could be very helpful.

Then I'd contact a plating consultant and expect him/her to spend about 2 days hammering out a strategy with you: general size and number of tanks, rectifiers, filters, heating and cooling system, exhaust ventilation system, wastewater treatment approaches, estimated costs, etc. If it still seems feasible, you can continue. But if you're expecting it to be under a half million dollars even with low production manually operated plating lines big enough for bumpers, I think you're optimistic. Starting a professional industrial plating shop is a pretty big deal, although it most certainly can be done. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
April 19, 2013

How to get necessary permits to start a chrome plating shop

Q. I purchased a complete chrome shop off of a now deceased gentleman's wife. I moved the shop to my commercial garage. How do I go about getting permits through DEP so I can purchase chemicals and get my vats analyzed. If anyone can help me with any information it would be greatly appreciated. I am going to run the shop as my own use as a restorer of motorcycles; it will not be opened to the public.

Richard Crowley
Plating shop - Johnstown, Pennsylvania
April 22, 2014

A. Hi Richard. We appended your inquiry to a similar thread. First thing to do is probably see if the NASF still offers the "NAMF Guidance Manual" I mentioned, and sign up for an appropriate course through Lion Technologies or similar training company. I foresee another very large issue besides the permits, which is achieving successful plating. If this is a one-man shop and you're planning on doing the plating yourself, it's not easy to learn what you need to know. I think you'll need help.

But to the specific question of permits, in addition to normal business permits from the city, you get the waste discharge permits from your local publicly owned treatment works (sewer sytem operator). You probably also need air permits from the state of Pennsylvania. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
April 2014

Q. Hi,
I am Scott Cormier, I am looking to open a metal finishing shop in southern Mississippi. I am an experienced plater, as I worked in Tulsa OK in a number of shops in the past. I feel that I am in a good area to start up a shop. I would like to do chrome, nickel, copper. Maybe some hard chrome for some industrial applications. Also looking into hard anodizing and color anodizing and some powder coating as well. Looking for some advice on starting up. I have a line on equipment, rectifiers, copper bus bar, etc. I guess my question is the chemistry, as it may have changed in the years that I have been out of the industry. Any advice you may have for me would be greatly appreciated. Any books, articles or papers that you could turn me onto I would be in your debt. Also, I know of some places online to get some tanks, but I have questions about pollution control for the chrome and brite dip for the aluminum. Hoods, scrubbers and that sort. Thank you for your time.

Scott Cormier [returning]
- Poplarville, Mississippi
October 29, 2014

A. Hi Scott. As long as you're not into plating on plastics, the chemistry hasn't changed a great deal; but some changed areas include: most chromating of zinc is now trivalent; zinc alloy plating as an alternative to straight zinc is now common, trivalent chrome plating continues to slowly grow, some people are doing white bronze as an alternative to nickel plating, and vapor degreasing is pretty much out.

Bright dipping of aluminum is not a process I would start up with unless you have a contract from a customer, as it is one of the really nasty ones, maybe the worst of all. Pollution control for chrome must be done, but is not tricky.

With your knowledge of the industry and technology, two or three days with a consultant specializing in plating equipment should have you well on your way towards scoping out and estimating the cost of your plant.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

RFQ: Do you have some specific consultants that I can contact, or company contacts that I can get a hold of to try to schedule something up? Thank you.

Scott Cormier [returning]
- Poplarville Mississippi

Ed. note: Please see our Directory of Consultants. Hopefully you can find a match.

Q. Mr Mooney,
You have answered a couple of my posts on here. I have acquired a building and started to find my plating lines and equipment and solution distributors. My question to you is, who would I get in contact with for the regulations in Mississippi to be able to have this business. I know they vary state to state. Just wondering where to start. I know that you urged me to talk to a consultant. I have made a few calls and they all seem to lead to ECI out of Broken Arrow Oklahoma. Been waiting for two weeks for them to get back to me. Do you have any more recommendations to get me on the correct path. Really trying to have my doors open by the end of this year. Any information you could give me will be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Scott Cormier [returning]
- Poplarville Mississippi, USA
January 14, 2015

A. Hi again, Scott. Discharge permits come from the local POTW (sewer system), air permits from the state's DEP. You might try the closest university for help. Here in NJ a "non-profit" got grants from the state to set up shop at the university and offer free help to businesses with their permitting and pollution control issues. The unintended consequence was that no independent consultants who offered those services were able to survive against 2 years of highly publicized free help (ask me how I know); when the grant ran out, expert help was simply unavailable in NJ anymore -- but maybe the grants haven't run out in MS yet :-)

You might try contacting Lorna Velardi at Environmental Strategy Consultants, Philadelphia 215-731-4200. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

A. The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality is a place to start. If you get lucky, you may find someone there who will walk you through the complicated stuff. Be aware that there may also be city regulations, particularly if you discharge wastewater to a city treatment plant. There will also be air discharge regulations from the EPA, and possibly locally too.

And it all can get confusing in that some states have their own unique regulations, and some rely on the Federal regs.

I think you'll be best off using a local consulting engineering firm since they will be familiar with the requirements in your state.

It's much more fun to be working on designing your shop, selecting equipment and laying out processes,'s at least as much work, and often more complicated complying with all the environmental and safety regs.

Many competent metal finishers have been done in by failing to comply with environmental regs.

A quick search gives several environmental engineering firms in MS.

jeffrey holmes
Jeffrey Holmes, CEF
Spartanburg, South Carolina

Q. How can I, and what do I need for setting up a SMALL chroming business? In Uganda there is no environmental issues ... so just the cheapest way.

John Petter Gaustad
- Kampala, Uganda
October 4, 2015

A. Hi John. Did you get a chance to complete my suggested Step 1 and Step 2 yet? Those first two steps will cost nothing. Step 1 will only take 10 or 15 minutes, whereas step 2 could take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks depending on how much you already know or don't know about this particular field. Any questions from that? Are you still sure that you want to start with chroming rather than some other type of plating?

While many of us believe that environmental restrictions are overdone, and that industrialization beats starvation, we also don't think that it's okay to give yourself or your neighbors cancer. So the paper-pushing can be reduced, but you still need to handle hexavalent chrome and other plating chemicals with a lot of respect. Good luck, wishing you progress, and get back to us.


pic of Ted Mooney
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

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