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Job knowledge 68:

Welding Defects and Distortion

A General Review of the Causes and
Acceptance of Shape Imperfections - Part II
This second article on shape imperfections refers mostly to fillet welds but there
are two additional butt weld imperfections that require some comment.
Excessive penetration (Excess penetration bead)

Excess weld metal protruding through the root of a fusion (butt) weld made from
one side only.
With pipe welding this type of imperfection may cause effects in the fluid flow that
can cause erosion and/or corrosion problems.

Common causes
Penetration becomes excessive when the joint gap is too large, the root faces are
too small, the heat input to the joint is too high or a combination of these causes.
The criteria which sets the level of acceptable penetration depends primarily on
the application code or specification.
BS 2971 (Class 2 arc welding) requires that the 'penetration bead shall not exceed
3mm for pipes up to and including 150mm bore or 6mm for pipes over 150mm
BS 2633 (Class 1 arc welding) gives specific limits for smaller diameters pipes, eg
for pipe size 25-50mm the maximum allowed bore penetration is 2.5mm.
ASME B31.3 bases acceptability on the nominal thickness of the weld, for instance,
allowing for a thickness range of 13-25mm up to 4mm of protrusion. However,
ASME notes that 'more stringent criteria may be specified in the engineering
BS EN ISO 5817 (Quality levels for imperfections), which supersedes BS EN 25817,
relates the acceptable protrusion to the width of the under-bead as follows:

Fig.1. Excess penetration

Severity of service Moderate, D Stringent, B
Limit (up to maximum) h 1mm + 1.0 b h 1mm + 0.2 b
Maximum 5 mm 3 mm
For thicknesses > 3mm where: h = height of excess & b = width of root (see Fig.1)
It is important to ensure that joint fit-up is as specified in the welding procedure.
If welder technique is the problem then re training is required.
Root concavity (suck-back; underwashing)

A shallow groove that may occur in the root of a butt weld.
Common causes
Root concavity is caused by shrinkage of the weld pool in the through-thickness
direction of the weld. Melting of the root pass by the second pass can also
produce root concavity.
This imperfection is frequently associated with TIG welding with the most common
cause being poor preparation leaving the root gap either too small or, in some
cases, too large. Excessively high welding speeds make the formation of root
concavity more likely.
The root concavity may be acceptable. This will depend on the relevant standard
being worked to. For example:
BS 2971 requires that:
a) there is complete root fusion
b) the thickness of the weld is not less than the pipe thickness.
ASME B31.3 requires that the 'total joint thickness, including weld reinforcement,
must be greater than the weld thickness'.
Fig.2. Root concavity

BS EN ISO 5817 sets upper limits related to the quality level, eg for thicknesses >
3mm Moderate, (D), h 0.2t but max 2mm for Stringent, (B), h 0.05t but max
0.5mm. Furthermore, a smooth transition is required at the weld toes.
In effect the standards require that the minimum design throat thickness of the
finished weldment is achieved. If the first two conditions of acceptance are met
but the weld face does not have a sufficiently high cap, additional weld metal may
be deposited to increase the throat.
It is important to ensure that joint fit-up is as specified in the welding procedure
and that the defined parameters are being followed. If welder technique is the
problem then retraining is required.
Fillet welded joints
This Section should be read in conjunction with Job Knowledge 66 Fillet welded
joints - a review of the practicalities.
Excessive convexity

This feature is also covered by the definition for excess weld metal, see Part 1, and
may be described as weld metal lying outside the plane joining the weld toes. Note
that the term 'reinforcement', although used extensively in the ASME/AWS
specifications is avoided in Europe as it implies that excess metal contributes to the
strength of the welded joint. This is rarely the case.
Common causes
Poor technique and the deposition of large volumes of 'cold' weld metal.
The idealised design requirement of a 'mitre' fillet weld is often difficult to achieve,
particularly with manual welding processes.
Fig.3. Excessive convexity

BS EN ISO 5817 acceptance is based on a mitre fillet weld shape with a specific
design throat and any excess weld metal is measured in relation to this mitre
surface. The limits for this imperfection relate the height of the excess metal to
the width of the bead with maximum values ranging from 3mm for a stringent
quality level to 5mm for a moderate quality level. Surprisingly, there is no
reference to a 'smooth transition' being required at the weld toes for such weld
AWS D1.1 also has limits relating width to acceptable excess as follows:
Width of weld face Maximum convexity
W 8mm 2mm
W <8 to W<25mm 3mm
W 25mm 5mm
Welder technique is the major cause of this problem and training may be required.
It is also important to ensure that the parameters specified in the welding
procedures specification are adhered to.
Oversize fillet welds (welds with a throat larger than
required by the design)

As discussed in Job Knowledge 66, oversize fillet welds can represent a significant
additional cost and loss of productivity.
Common causes
There are some welding related causes, eg high welding current, slow travel
speeds, and some supervision related ( eg 'to be safe make this fillet bigger by x
Fig.4. Oversize fillet weld

BS EN ISO 5817 has limits related to the actual throat (eg for stringent quality
levels, the actual weld throat [a] may exceed the nominal (design) weld throat [h]
by 1+0.15a with a maximum of 3mm. For the moderate quality level (D) the
excessive throat thickness is unlimited.
Adhere to the specified welding procedure and parameters and do not add to the
specified weld size. Where possible mechanise the welding operation.
Undersized fillet welds (fillet welds smaller than those
Common causes

The welding related causes are associated with high welding speeds and low
welding currents.
Therefore, it is normally assumed that fillet welds will be at least of the size
specified. BS EN SIO 5817 states that limits to insufficient throat thickness are not
applicable to processes with proof of greater depth of penetration, therefore a
fillet weld with an apparent throat thickness smaller that that prescribed should
not be regarded as being imperfect if the actual throat thickness with a
compensating greater depth of penetration complies with the nominal value. That
is if we can be sure there is good penetration the smaller fillet may be acceptable,
however, this should be discussed with the designer of the fabrication. The limits
set by the standard.
Relying upon deep penetration to provide the required minimum design throat
thickness can be difficult to justify. Penetration is a weld characteristic that is hard
to measure directly and reliance must be placed on the stringent control of both
Fig.5. Undersized fillet weld

the welding process and the welder. Manual welding can rarely be relied upon to
provide the required consistency but it is an option with mechanised welding

Quality levels
Moderate D Intermediate C Stringent B
Long imperfections NOT permitted NOT
Short imperfections (see Fig.5) h
0.3mm+ 0.1 a

Imperfection: fillet
having a throat
thickness smaller
the nominal value
max 2mm max 1mm
Adhere to the specified welding procedure and parameters. Use sufficient current and
appropriate travel speed. Where possible mechanise the welding operation.
Asymmetric fillet weld (a fillet weld where the legs
are of unequal length)
Common causes

Due to incorrect electrode positioning or to gravity pulling the molten pool
towards one face of the joint. It is an mainly a problem with fillet welds made in
the horizontal/vertical (PB) position.
There are instances where asymmetry may be specified ( eg to place the toe
stress concentration in a particular region).
Fig.6. Asymmetric fillet weld

BS EN ISO 5817 would, for a 10mm leg length fillet weld ( ie 7.1mm throat) allow
a difference in leg lengths of about 2.5mm at the stringent quality level and
3.4mm at the moderate quality level. Acceptance is related to the throat thickness.
The consequence of this imperfection is a significant increase in weld volume.
Provided the leg length requirement is achieved there would not be a loss of
strength. Perhaps this is why, in other standards, a requirement is not specified
and the acceptability is left to the inspection personnel to make the 'engineering
Poor fit-up

The most common imperfection is an excessive gap between the mating faces of
the materials.
Common causes
Poor workshop practice, poor dimensioning and tolerance dimensions on drawings.
A major problem with fillet welds is ensuring the gap between the components is
within defined limits. BS EN ISO 5817 specifies the acceptance criteria as follows:

Quality levels
Moderate D Intermediate C Stringent B
h 1mm + 0.3 a h 0.5mm + 0.2 a h 0.5mm + 0.1 a
max 4mm max 3mm max 2mm
Where h = fit-up gap and a = fillet weld design throat

Figure 7 shows that the gap results in a reduction in the leg length on the vertical
plate and this, in turn, results in a reduction in the throat thickness of the joint. A
Fig.7. Poor fit-up

10mm leg length fillet with a root gap of 3mm gives an effective leg of 7mm (a
throat of 4.9mm instead of the expected 7mm).
When the application of BS EN ISO 5817 is not requried. The guidance of BS EN
1011-2 can be followed, which recommends a maximum gap of 3mm. This
standard also states that the size of the fillet weld can be increased to
compensate for a large gap.
This discrepancy is addressed within AWS D1.1. which permits a root gap of up to
5mm for material thickness up to 75mm. However, 'if the (joint) separation is
greater than 2mm the leg of the fillet weld shall be increased by the amount of
the root opening, or the contractor shall demonstrate that the effective throat has
been obtained'.

This Job Knowledge article was originally published in Connect, January 2004. It has
been updated so the web page no longer reflects exactly the printed version.
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