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Welding Defects

1. Introduction

Common weld defects include:

i. Lack of fusion

ii. Lack of penetration or excess penetration

iii. Porosity

iv. Inclusions

v. Cracking

vi. Undercut

vii. Lamellar tearing

Any of these defects are potentially disastorous as they can all give rise to high stress
intensities which may result in sudden unexpected failure below the design load or in the
case of cyclic loading, failure after fewer load cycles than predicted.

2. Types of Defects
i and ii. - To achieve a good quality join it is essential that the fusion zone extends the
full thickness of the sheets being joined. Thin sheet material can be joined with a single
pass and a clean square edge will be a satisfactory basis for a join. However thicker
material will normally need edges cut at a V angle and may need several passes to fill
the V with weld metal. Where both sides are accessible one or more passes may be
made along the reverse side to ensure the joint extends the full thickness of the metal.
Lack of fusion results from too little heat input and / or too rapid traverse of the welding
torch (gas or electric).
Excess penetration arises from to high a heat input and / or too slow transverse of the
welding torch (gas or electric). Excess penetration - burning through - is more of a
problem with thin sheet as a higher level of skill is needed to balance heat input and
torch traverse when welding thin metal.

ii. Porosity - This occurs when gases are trapped in the solidifying weld metal. These
may arise from damp consumables or metal or, from dirt, particularly oil or grease, on
the metal in the vicinity of the weld. This can be avoided by ensuring all consumables
are stored in dry conditions and work is carefully cleaned and degreased prior to

iv. Inclusions - These can occur when several runs are made along a V join when
joining thick plate using flux cored or flux coated rods and the slag covering a run is not
totally removed after every run before the following run.

v. Cracking - This can occur due just to thermal shrinkage or due to a combination of
strain accompanying phase change and thermal shrinkage.
In the case of welded stiff frames, a combination of poor design and inappropriate
procedure may result in high residual stresses and cracking.
Where alloy steels or steels with a carbon content greater than about 0.2% are being
welded, self cooling may be rapid enough to cause some (brittle) martensite to form.
This will easily develop cracks.
To prevent these problems a process of pre-heating in stages may be needed and after
welding a slow controlled post cooling in stages will be required. This can greatly
increase the cost of welded joins, but for high strength steels, such as those used in
petrochemical plant and piping, there may well be no alternative.

Solidification Cracking
This is also called centreline or hot cracking. They are called hot cracks because they
occur immediately after welds are completed and sometimes while the welds are being
made. These defects, which are often caused by sulphur and phosphorus, are more likely
to occur in higher carbon steels.
Solidification cracks are normally distinguishable from other types of cracks by the
following features:

they occur only in the weld metal - although the parent metal is almost always the
source of the low melting point contaminants associated with the cracking

they normally appear in straight lines along the centreline of the weld bead, but
may occasionally appear as transverse cracking

solidification cracks in the final crater may have a branching appearance

as the cracks are 'open' they are visible to the naked eye

A schematic diagram of a centreline crack is shown below:

On breaking open the weld the crack surface may have a blue appearance, showing the
cracks formed while the metal was still hot. The cracks form at the solidification
boundaries and are characteristically inter dendritic. There may be evidence of
segregation associated with the solidification boundary.
The main cause of solidification cracking is that the weld bead in the final stage of
solidification has insufficient strength to withstand the contraction stresses generated as
the weld pool solidifies. Factors which increase the risk include:

insufficient weld bead size or inappropriate shape

welding under excessive restraint

material properties - such as a high impurity content or a relatively large shrinkage

on solidification

Joint design can have an influence on the level of residual stresses. Large gaps between
conponents will increase the strain on the solidifying weld metal, especially if the depth
of penetration is small. Hence weld beads with a small depth to width ratio, such as is
formed when bridging a large wide gap with a thin bead, will be more susceptible to
solidification cracking.

In steels, cracking is associated with impurities, particularly sulphur and phosphorus and
is promoted by carbon, whereas manganese and sulphur can help to reduce the risk. To
minimise the risk of cracking, fillers with low carbon and impurity levels and a relatively
high manganese content are preferred. As a general rule, for carbon manganese steels,
the total sulphur and phosphorus content should be no greater than 0.06%. However
when welding a highly restrained joint using high strength steels, a combined level
below 0.03% might be needed.

Weld metal composition is dominated by the filler and as this is usually cleaner than the
metal being welded, cracking is less likely with low dilution processes such as MMA and
MIG. Parent metal composition becomes more important with autogenous welding
techniques, such as TIG with no filler.

Avoiding Solidification Cracking

Apart from choice of material and filler, the main techniques for avoiding solidification
cracking are:

control the joint fit up to reduce the gaps

clean off all contaminants before welding

ensure that the welding sequence will not lead to a buildup of thermally induced

choose welding parameters to produce a weld bead with adequate depth to width
ratio or with sufficient throat thickness (fillet weld) to ensure the bead has
sufficient resistance to solidificatiuon stresses. Recommended minimum depth to
width ratio is 0.5:1

avoid producing too large a depth to width ratio which will encourage segregation
and excessive transverse strains. As a rule, weld beads with a depth to width ratio
exceeds 2:1 will be prone to solidification cracking

avoid high welding speeds (at high current levels) which increase segregation and
stress levels accross the weld bead

at the run stop, ensure adequate filling of the crater to avoid an unfavourable
concave shape

Hydrogen induced cracking (HIC) - also referred to as hydrogen cracking or hydrogen

assisted cracking, can occur in steels during manufacture, during fabrication or during
service. When HIC occurs as a result of welding, the cracks are in the heat affected zone
(HAZ) or in the weld metal itself.

Four requirements for HIC to occur are:

a) Hydrogen be present, this may come from moisture in any flux or from other
sources. It is absorbed by the weld pool and diffuses int o the HAZ.

b) A HAZ microstructure susceptible to hydrogen cracking.

c) Tensile stresses act on the weld

d) The assembly has cooled to close to ambient - less than 150oC

HIC in the HAZ is often at the weld toe, but can be under the weld bead or at the weld
root. In fillet welds cracks are normally parallel to the weld run but in butt welds cracks
can be transverse to the welding direction.
vi Undercutting - In this case the thickness of one (or both) of the sheets is reduced at
the toe of the weld. This is due to incorrect settings / procedure. There is already a stress
concentration at the toe of the weld and any undercut will reduce the strength of the

vii Lamellar tearing - This is mainly a problem with low quality steels. It occurs in plate
that has a low ductility in the through thickness direction, which is caused by non
metallic inclusions, such as suphides and oxides that have been elongated during the
rolling process. These inclusions mean that the plate can not tolerate the contraction
stresses in the short transverse direction.
Lamellar tearing can occur in both fillet and butt welds, but the most vulnerable joints
are 'T' and corner joints, where the fusion boundary is parallel to the rolling plane.
These problem can be overcome by using better quality steel, 'buttering' the weld area
with a ductile material and possibly by redesigning the joint.

3. Detection
Visual Inspection
Prior to any welding, the materials should be visually inspected to see that they are
clean, aligned correctly, machine settings, filler selection checked, etc.
As a first stage of inspection of all completed welds, visual inspected under good lighting
should be carried out. A magnifying glass and straight edge may be used as a part of
this process.

Undercutting can be detected with the naked eye and (provided there is access to the
reverse side) excess penetration can often be visually detected.

Liquid Penetrant Inspection

Serious cases of surface cracking can be detected by the naked eye but for most cases
some type of aid is needed and the use of dye penetrant methods are quite efficient
when used by a trained operator.
This procedure is as follows:

Clean the surface of the weld and the weld vicinity

Spray the surface with a liquid dye that has good penetrating properties

Carefully wipe all the die off the surface

Spray the surface with a white powder

Any cracks will have trapped some die which will weep out and discolour the white
coating and be clearly visible

X - Ray Inspection
Sub-surface cracks and inclusions can be detected 'X' ray examination. This is
expensive, but for safety critical joints - eg in submarines and nuclear power plants -
100% 'X' ray examination of welded joints will normally be carried out.

Ultrasonic Inspection
Surface and sub-surface defects can also be detected by ultrasonic inspection. This
involves directing a high frequency sound beam through the base metal and weld on a
predictable path. When the beam strikes a discontinuity some of it is reflected beck. This
reflected beam is received and amplified and processed and from the time delay, the
location of a flaw estimated.
Porosity, however, in the form of numerous gas bubbles causes a lot of low amplitude
reflections which are difficult to separate from the background noise.
Results from any ultrasonic inspection require skilled interpretation.

Magnetic Particle Inspection

This process can be used to detect surface and slightly sub-surface cracks in ferro-
magnetic materials (it can not therefore be used with austenitic stainless steels).
The process involves placing a probe on each side of the area to be inspected and
passing a high current between them. This produces a magnetic flux at right angles to
the flow of the current. When these lines of force meet a discontinuity, such as a
longitudinal crack, they are diverted and leak through the surface, creating magnetic
poles or points of attraction. A magnetic powder dusted onto the surface will cling to the
leakage area more than elsewhere, indicating the location of any discontinuities.
This process may be carried out wet or dry, the wet process is more sensitive as finer
particles may be used which can detect very small defects. Fluorescent powders can
also be used to enhance sensitivity when used in conjunction with ultra violet


Arc Strike Cracking

Causes Remedies

Improper welding technique Use proper welding technique

Rapidly Cooling of welding area Proper Cooling of welding area

Cold Cracking

Causes Remedies

Preheat as per Welding Procedure

high thermal severity

Welding consumables must be

Hydrogen in the weld metal
hydrogen controlled

Presence of impurities Remove impurities

Proper weld of sufficient sectional

Weld of insufficient sectional area

High welding speeds and low current As per requirement Use of welding
density speeds and current density

Crater Cracking

Causes Remedies

Unfilled Crater Filler crater with proper technique

Crater crack in sub-merged arc

Utilize run out tab

Hot Cracking

Causes Remedies

high welding current Medium welding current

poor joint design that does not diffuse
Proper weld joint design

impurities (such as sulphur and

Remove impurities

Preheating Dont Preheating

speed fast & long arcs Speed medium & medium arcs

Base metal contamination Avoid contamination of base metal

Hat Cracking

Causes Remedies

Not enough speed Increase welding speed

Much voltage Proper voltage

Under Bead Crack

Causes Remedies

More presence of Hydrogen Reduce presence of Hydrogen

Unequal contraction of base metal & Equal contraction of base metal &
weld metal weld metal

Longitudinal Crack

Causes Remedies

Rapid cooling of weld Use Proper or matched electrode

Improper joint preparation Reduce Rigidity of weldment

High restraint of joint Use higher ductile welding filler metal

Use Preheat or Reduce cooling rate

Reheat Crack

Causes Remedies

Less cooling rate Increase cooling rate

Improper Preheating Proper Preheating


Causes Remedies

Improper coating on the electrode. Use low hydrogen welding process

Improper Preheating Use preheat

Longer arcs Increase heat input

Too low and too high arc currents Clean joint surfaces and

Faster arc travel speeds Reduce arc travel speeds

Incorrect welding technique Use proper welding technique

Unclean job surface Adjacent surfaces

Improper base metal composition Reducing excessive moisture


Causes Remedies

Excessive layers & faulty joint Tack weld parts with allowance for
preparation distortion

Improper bead sequence Use proper bead sequence

Improper set-up and fixture Tack or clamp parts securely

Excessive weld size Make weld of specify size

Over-heating of base metal (thin


Gas Inclusion

Causes Remedies

high sulphur content in the work

Reduce sulphur content
piece or electrode

excessive moisture from the

Avoid moisture
electrode or workpiece

too short of an arc Use proper welding current or polarity

wrong welding current or polarity

Slag Inclusion

Causes Remedies

Improper cleaning Proper cleaning

Presence of grease & dirt Avoid grease & dirt

Incomplete slag removal from Complete remove slag from previous

previous bead bead

Gap & Improper preparation of

Avoid more Gap

Lack of Fusion

Causes Remedies
Improper manipulation of welding
Minimum heat input to be maintained

Weld joint design. Avoid molten pool flooding the arc

Improper heat input Proper cleaning of oxides slag

Correct Electrode angle

Surface contamination which leads
slag formation prevents fusion

Lack of Penetration

Causes Remedies

Improper joint ( U joint give better

Use proper joint geometry
than J butt joint )

Follow current WPS ( welding

Less welding current
procedure specification )

Root gap too small Use small electrode in root

Too large root face Increase root opening

Faster arc travel speed Reduce arc travel speed

Large electrode diameter Medium electrode diameter

Misalignment Proper alignment

Lamellar Tearing

Causes Remedies

Use the base metal which has higher

Poor ductility of weld metal

High Sulphur content of the base Low sulphur & Low inclusions in base
metal metal

Hydrogen in the weld Use low hydrogen in welding

Tensile stresses in thickness direction Decrease the stress by Modification

Under Cut

Causes Remedies

Use the right adequate welding

Excessive welding current

Wrong electrode angle Proper electrode angle

Excessive side manipulation

Welding Defects #1: Incomplete Penetration
Incomplete penetration happens when your filler metal and base metal arent joined
properly, and the result is a gap or a crack of some sort. Check out the Figure below for
an example of incomplete penetration.

Welds that suffer from incomplete penetration are weak at best, and theyll likely fail if
you apply much force to them. (Put simply, welds with incomplete penetration are
basically useless.)
Heres a list of the most common causes of incomplete penetration welding

The groove youre welding is too narrow, and the filler metal doesnt
reach the bottom of the joint.

Youve left too much space between the pieces youre welding, so they
dont melt together on the first pass.
Youre welding a joint with a V-shaped groove and the angle of the
groove is too small (less than 60 to 70 degrees), such that you cant
manipulate your electrode at the bottom of the joint to complete
the weld.
Your electrode is too large for the metals youre welding.
Your speed of travel(how quickly you move the bead) is too fast, so
not enough metal is deposited in the joint.
Your welding amperage is too low.If you dont have enough electricity
going to the electrode, the current wont be strong enough to melt the
metal properly

Welding Defects #2: Incomplete Fusion

Incomplete fusion occurs when individual weld beads dont fuse together, or when the
weld beads dont fuse properly to the base metal youre welding, such as in below.

The most common type of incomplete fusion is called overlap and usually occurs at the
toe(on the very top or very bottom of the side) of a weld. One of the top causes is an
incorrect weld angle, which means youre probably holding the electrode and/or your
filler rods at the wrong angle while youre making a weld; if you think thats the case,
tweak the angle a little at a time until your overlap problem disappears.

Here are a few more usual suspects when it comes to incomplete fusion

Your electrode is too small for the thickness of the metal youre welding.
Youre using the wrong electrode for the material that youre welding.
Your speed of travel is too fast.
Your arc length is too short.
Your welding amperage is set too low.
If you think your incomplete fusion may be because of a low welding amperage, crank
up the machine! But be careful: You really need only
enough amperage to melt the base metal and ensure a good weld.
Anything more is unnecessary and can be dangerous.
Contaminants or impurities on the surface of the parent metal(the metal
youre welding) prevent the molten metal (from the filler rod or elsewhere
on the parent metal) from fusing.

Welding Defects #3: Undercutting

Undercutting is an extremely common welding defect. It happens when your base metal
is burned away at one of the toes of a weld. To see what I mean, look at Figure.

When you weld more than one pass on a joint, undercutting can occur between the
passes because the molten weld is already hot and takes less heat to fill, yet youre
using the same heat as if it were cold. Its actually a very serious defect that can ruin the
quality of a weld, especially when more than 132 inch is burned away. If you do a pass
and notice some undercutting, you must remove it before you make your next pass or
you risk trapping slag (waste material see the following section) into the welded joint
(which is bad news). The only good thing about undercutting is that its extremely easy
to spot after you know what youre looking for.

Here are a few common causes of undercutting:

Your electrode is too large for the base metal youre welding.
Your arc is too long.
You have your amperage set too high.
Youre moving your electrode around too much while youre welding.
Weaving your electrode back and forth is okay and even beneficial, but if
you do it too much, youre buying a one-way ticket to Undercutting City
(which is of course the county seat for Lousy Weld County).

Welding Defects #4: Slag Inclusions

A little bit of slag goes a long way . . . toward ruining an otherwise quality weld. Slagis
the waste material created when youre welding, and bits of this solid material can
become incorporated (accidentally) into your weld, as in Figure . Bits of flux, rust, and
even tungsten can be counted as slag and can cause contamination in your welds.

Common causes of slag inclusions include

Flux from the stick welding electrode that comes off and ends up in the
Failure to clean a welding pass before applying the next pass
Be sure to clean your welds before you go back in and apply a second weld bead.
Slag running ahead of your weld puddle when youre welding a V-shaped
groove thats too tight
Incorrect welding angle
Welding amperage thats too low

Welding Defects #5 Flux Inclusions

If youre soldering or brazing (also called braze welding), flux inclusions can be a real
problem. If you use too much flux in an effort to float out impurities from your weld,
you may very well end up with flux inclusions like those in Figure . (Head to Chapter 13
for more on brazing and soldering.)

If youre working on a multilayer braze weld, flux inclusion can occur when you fail to
remove the slag or glass on the surface of the braze before you apply the next layer.
When youre soldering, flux inclusion can be a problem if youre not using enough heat.
These inclusions are usually closely spaced, and they can cause a soldered joint to
leak. If you want to avoid flux inclusions (and believe me, you do), make sure you do the
Clean your weld joints properly after each pass.This task is especially
important when youre brazing.
Dont go overboard with your use of flux.
Make sure youre using enough heat to melt the filler or flux material.

Welding Defects #6: Porosity

If you read very much of this book, you quickly figure out that porosity(tiny holes in the
weld) can be a serious problem in your welds (especially stick or mig welds). Your molten
puddle releases gases like hydrogen and carbon dioxide as the puddle cools; if the little
pockets of gas dont reach the surface before the metal solidifies, they become
incorporated in the weld, and nothing can weaken a weld joint quite like gas pockets.
Take a gander at Figure for an example of porosity.

Following are a few simple steps you can take to reduce

porosity in your
Make sure all your materials are clean before you begin
Work on proper manipulation of your electrode.
Try using low-hydrogen electrodes.

Welding Defects #7: Cracks

Cracks can occur just about everywhere in a weld: in the weld metal, the plate next to
the weld metal, or in any other piece affected by the intense heat of welding. Check out
the example of cracking in Figure.

Here are the three major types of cracks, what causes them, and how you can prevent

Hot cracks:
This type of crack occurs during welding or shortly after youve deposited a weld, and its
cause is simple: The metal gets hot too
quickly or cools down too quickly. If youre having problems with hot cracking, try
preheating your material. You can also postheat your material, which means that you
apply a little heat here and there after youve finished welding in an effort to let the
metal cool down more

Cold cracks:
This type of crack happens well after a weld is completed and the metal has cooled off.
(It can even happen days or weeks after a
weld.) It generally happens only in steel, and its caused by deformities in the structure
of the steel. You can guard against cold cracking by
increasing the thickness of your first welding pass when starting a new weld. Making
sure youre manipulating your electrode properly, as well as pre- and postheating your
metal, can also help thwart cold cracking.
Crater cracks:
These little devils usually occur at the ending point of a weld, when youve stopped
welding before using up the rest of an
electrode. The really annoying part about crater cracks is that they can cause other
cracks, and the cracking can just kind of snowball from
there. You can control the problem by making sure youre using the appropriate amount
of amperage and heat for each project, slowing your
speed of travel, and pre- and postheating.

Welding Defects #9: Warpage

If you dont properly control the expansion and contraction of the metals you work with,
warpage(an unwanted distortion in a piece of metals shape) can be the ugly result.
Check out an example in Figure.

If you weld a piece of metal over and over, the chances of

it warping are much higher. You can also cause a piece of
metal to warp if you clamp the joints too tightly. (If you
allow the pieces of metal that make the joint to move a
little, theres less stress on them.)
Say youre welding a Tjoint. The vertical part of the
Tsometimes pulls itself toward the weld joint. To account
for that movement, simply tilt the vertical part out a little
before you weld, so that when it tries to pull toward the weld joint, it pulls itself into a
nice 90-degree angle!
The more heat you use, the more likely you are to end up with warpage, so be sure to
use only the amount of heat you need. Dont overdo it. Opting for a slower speed of
travel while welding can also help to cut down on warpage.

Welding Defects #10: Spatter

Spatter(small particles of metal that attach themselves to the surface of the material
youre working on.) is a fact of life with most kinds of welding; no matter how hard you
try, youll never be able to cut it out completely. You can see it in all its glory in Figure
11-5 in Chapter 11.
You can keep spatter to a minimum by spraying with an anti-spatter compound
(available at your welding supply store) or by scraping the spatter off the parent metal

Not all weld discontinuities are weld defects, but all weld defects are discontinuities. Understanding the
difference will let you know if you need to scrap a part, repair it or simply add more weld. There are many
codes depending on what type of product you are welding on. The codes are used as guidelines by manufactures
to write their own specifications. Just because a certain Code allows for a certain amount of porosity, a
manufacturer may not allow its suppliers to have any.
Porosity is one of many weld discontinuities that we must avoid.

The list of weld discontinuities below can all be detected visually. Visual inspection is the easiest and least
expensive of all non-destructive inspection methods. The tools necessary to carry out a visual inspection are
few and not expensive. Tools such as rulers, weld gages and magnifying glass are pretty much all you need. It is
key that weld inspection takes place before, during and after welding.

A weld discontinuity is a flaw in the weld. Discontinuities, as stated above, are not necessarily weld defects.
They become weld defects when they exceed specified maximums of the code or customer specifications. This
means that you can have weld discontinuities and still have an acceptable weld. However, we always want
welds free of discontinuities whenever possible.

Here are the types of weld discontinuities:

1. Porosity Cavities in the weld caused by trapped gas during solidification of the weld metal. Common
causes are lack of shielding gas, excessive arc length, or dirty base material. Another no so common cause can
be arc blow, where magnetic fields cause an erratic arc. By codes or manufacturer specs porosity may be
present but each individual hole should not exceed a certain length and the total length of all holes cannot
exceed a certain value per inch of weld.

2. Lack of Fusion Also called lack of penetration or cold lap. Lack of fusion refers to the base material not
being fused properly to the other piece or weld metal itself. This is caused by having welding parameters that
are too low. Although this cannot be detected, at least not easily, after welding, the welder himself can see this
while welding. A trained welder is able to recognize if the arc is digging properly into the base material.

It is difficult, but not impossible, to detect lack of fusion while welding.

3. Undercut This is a grove that appears at one of both toes of the weld. This is caused by
lack of fill. The lack of fill can be due to excessive voltage or too low wire feed speed. Can
also be caused by incorrect welding technique. As with porosity, some undercut
may be acceptable.

4. Incorrect Bead Placement As the name states, this discontinuity occurs when the weld bead is not in the
right location. It can mean missing the joint completely or not having equal legs in a fillet weld. Incorrect bead
placement can be a weld defect if the root is missed or if the smallest leg size does not meet the specification
Undercut is a groove that is melted into the base material at the toe or toes of a weld.

5. Spatter This are small drops of weld metal that escape the arc and land on the adjacent base material
fusing themselves to it. Spatter is not a weld defect, but again the maximum allowable is per the customers
specification. Spatter is caused by incorrect welding procedures, including amps, volts, welding speed, travel
and work angles, and even shielding gas.

Spatter does not decrease weld strength but it may create clearance
issues and it looks awful.

6. Incorrect Weld Size This can be either a weld that is too big or
too small. Although big welds are preferred over small welds it is still detrimental at times to have a big weld
due to excessive heat input, weld stresses and distortion. Weld size is affected by travel speed and welding
procedures, specifically wire feed speed. It can be easily measured by the use of weld gages.

7. Slag Inclusions This consists of slag trapped between passes. This is impossible to detect via weld
inspection after welding is complete and very hard to detect while welding. Causes are inadequate cleaning of
weld surface between passes. It can also occur in single pass welds when slag gets trapped in the root and toes
of the weld.

8. Excessive Reinforcement This is a weld that is too big or has too much convexity (too much build up).
Usually caused by low travel speeds or incorrect procedures.

Excessive reinforcement does not add strength to the weld.

9. Melt Through This occurs when welding procedures and/or technique

provide too much penetration and metal comes out of the back of the joint.

It will be welding specifications that determine whether any of the above are acceptable and to what degree.
However, keep an eye out specially for lack of fusion, slag inclusions and incorrect bead placement. Even in
small amounts these have the potential for weld failure.

Do you weld? Which one of the above discontinuities gives you the most trouble?