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Porosity in Welding Defects: Types, Causes, and Acceptable Levels

In the field of welding, porosity is a common defect that can significantly impact the quality and performance of welded joints. Understanding the types, causes, and acceptable levels of porosity is crucial for ensuring the integrity and reliability of welded structures.

porosity in welding

What is Welding Porosity?

Welding porosity refers to the presence of cavities or voids within a weld bead or between weld beads in a welded joint. These voids can vary in size and shape, ranging from tiny pinholes to larger cavities, and they are typically filled with gas (such as hydrogen, nitrogen, or oxygen) or sometimes with liquid metal in the case of liquation porosity.

Porosity is considered a welding defect because it can weaken the weld joint, reduce its mechanical strength, increase susceptibility to cracking, and compromise the overall integrity of the welded structure.

Types and Causes of Porosity in Welding

Porosity in welding manifests in several distinct forms, each with specific characteristics and causes that impact weld quality and integrity.

4 types of porosity in welding

Surface Porosity

Surface porosity in welding refers to the formation of small voids or holes that are visible on the external surface of a weld bead. These defects are typically easily detected with the naked eye and can vary in size and distribution depending on the underlying causes.


  • Shielding Gas Issues: Without proper shielding, gases like oxygen or nitrogen can react with the molten metal, forming gas pockets that solidify into voids upon cooling. This compromises the integrity of the weld bead and can lead to reduced mechanical strength and corrosion resistance.
  • Base Metal Contamination: Contaminants vaporize or react during welding, releasing gases that become trapped in the weld metal. This contamination prevents proper fusion of the filler metal with the base metal, resulting in surface porosity. The mechanical strength and corrosion resistance of the weld can be severely compromised depending on the extent of contamination.
  • Welding Technique: Improper technique can lead to erratic or unstable weld puddles, inadequate filler metal deposition, or improper shielding gas coverage. These factors contribute to the formation of irregularities in the weld bead surface, including surface porosity. Consistent and controlled welding parameters are essential to achieving sound welds without defects.

Prevention and Control

To mitigate surface porosity in welding:

  • Ensure Proper Shielding Gas: Maintain adequate flow rates and appropriate gas mixtures to provide effective protection of the weld pool.
  • Pre-Clean Base Metals: Remove contaminants such as rust, oil, and paint from the base metal surfaces before welding.
  • Optimize Welding Technique: Train welders to follow recommended procedures for arc length, travel speed, and electrode manipulation to ensure stable weld puddles and consistent filler metal deposition.


Cratering refers to the formation of small crater-like voids or depressions at the endpoint of a weld bead. These voids are visible on the surface of the weld and can be easily identified through visual inspection. Cratering typically occurs at the completion of a weld pass when the welding arc is extinguished or the welding electrode is withdrawn.


  • Abrupt Termination: When the welding arc is abruptly stopped, the molten weld metal in the crater area may solidify before sufficient filler metal can be deposited to fill the cavity. This leaves behind a depression that weakens the weld structure. Stress concentration points can form around these craters, increasing the likelihood of weld cracking or failure under load.
  • Insufficient Filler Material: Insufficient filler material leads to incomplete filling of the crater, leaving it vulnerable to stress concentrations and potential defects. This compromises the overall strength and integrity of the weld joint.
  • Welding Technique: Poor welding technique, such as improper crater fill procedures or inadequate control over welding parameters (such as arc voltage or travel speed), contributes to the formation of craters. Inconsistent crater fill techniques can result in uneven weld profiles and compromised bad weld quality.

Prevention and Control

To prevent cratering and ensure high-quality welds:

  • Proper Crater Fill Technique: Implement proper crater fill techniques, such as backstepping or weaving the electrode at the end of a weld pass to adequately fill the crater.
  • Controlled Termination: Gradually reduce welding current and filler metal deposition rate towards the end of the weld to smoothly fill the crater and avoid abrupt termination.
  • Optimized Welding Parameters: Maintain consistent welding parameters throughout the weld process, including arc voltage, current, travel speed, and electrode manipulation techniques.
  • Operator Training: Train welders in proper welding techniques and crater fill procedures to minimize defects and ensure uniform weld quality.


Wormholing is a specific type of welding defect characterized by elongated, tunnel-like voids that run longitudinally through the weld metal. These voids are typically not visible on the surface of the weld and often require advanced inspection methods, such as radiographic examination, for accurate detection. Wormholes can vary in size and distribution within the weld zone, impacting the structural integrity of the weld joint


  • Gas Coverage Deficiencies: Inadequate gas coverage allows atmospheric gases (such as oxygen or nitrogen) to penetrate the weld pool, leading to the formation of gas pockets. These pockets can solidify into elongated voids as the weld metal cools, creating wormhole defects. This compromises the metallurgical integrity of the weld and reduces its mechanical properties.
  • Welding Parameter Control: Improper welding parameters can result in unstable arc conditions or inconsistent weld pool dynamics. This instability can contribute to irregular heat distribution within the weld zone, promoting the formation of wormholes. Maintaining precise control over welding parameters is crucial to achieving uniform weld quality and minimizing defects.
  • Environmental Factors: Environmental contaminants can react with the molten weld metal, releasing gases that contribute to wormhole formation. Moisture, in particular, can vaporize rapidly during welding, generating gas bubbles that become trapped within the solidifying weld metal. Proper cleaning and preparation of welding surfaces, as well as controlling environmental conditions, are essential to preventing contamination-related defects.

Prevention and Control

To minimize the occurrence of wormholing in welding:

  • Optimize Shielding Gas Coverage: Ensure sufficient and uniform distribution of shielding gas around the weld zone to prevent atmospheric contamination.
  • Control Welding Parameters: Maintain precise control over welding parameters to achieve stable arc conditions and consistent heat input.
  • Environmental Control: Minimize exposure to moisture, dirt, and other contaminants in the welding environment through proper storage, handling, and cleaning procedures.
  • Quality Assurance: Implement rigorous inspection protocols, including periodic NDT, to detect and mitigate wormholing defects early in the welding process.

Subsurface Porosity

Subsurface porosity refers to the presence of cavities or voids that are located beneath the visible surface of the weld bead. These defects are not readily detectable through standard visual inspection and typically require advanced examination techniques such as radiographic testing or ultrasonic inspection for accurate detection. Subsurface porosity can vary in size and distribution within the weld zone, potentially compromising the mechanical properties and structural integrity of the welded joint.


  • Gas Shielding Issues: Insufficient shielding gas coverage allows atmospheric gases (e.g., oxygen, nitrogen) to enter the weld pool, forming gas pockets that solidify into subsurface voids as the weld metal cools. Fluctuations in shielding gas flow or improper gas mixture ratios can exacerbate this issue, leading to inconsistent weld quality and increased porosity.
  • Welding Parameters: Inconsistent welding parameters can affect the stability of the welding arc and the molten weld pool. Variations in heat input or arc characteristics may result in irregular fusion of the filler metal with the base metal, creating gaps or voids within the weld zone. Proper control and optimization of welding parameters are essential to achieving uniform weld quality and minimizing subsurface porosity defects.
  • Material Contamination: Contaminants vaporize or react during welding, releasing gases that become trapped within the solidifying weld metal. This contamination prevents proper fusion and bonding between the filler metal and base metal, contributing to the formation of subsurface voids. Proper cleaning and preparation of welding surfaces, as well as ensuring material purity, are critical to reducing the risk of subsurface porosity.

Prevention and Control

To minimize the occurrence of subsurface porosity in welding:

  • Optimize Gas Shielding: Ensure consistent and adequate coverage of shielding gas around the weld zone to prevent atmospheric contamination and gas entrapment.
  • Control Welding Parameters: Maintain precise control over welding parameters, including voltage, current, arc length, and travel speed, to achieve stable arc conditions and uniform heat distribution.
  • Material Preparation: Thoroughly clean and prepare welding surfaces to remove contaminants that could contribute to gas formation and porosity.
  • Quality Assurance: Implement comprehensive inspection protocols, including periodic NDT using radiographic or ultrasonic testing, to detect and mitigate subsurface porosity defects early in the welding process.

What Factors Contribute to Porosity in Different Welding Materials?

Porosity in welding is significantly influenced by the type of material being welded, as different materials are susceptible to various gases that can cause porosity. The table below lists the principal gases that cause porosity in commonly used materials and the recommended cleaning methods to mitigate these issues.

Principal Gases Causing Porosity and Recommended Cleaning Methods
MaterialPrincipal GasesRecommended Cleaning Method
C-Mn steelHydrogen, Nitrogen, OxygenGrind to remove scale coatings
Stainless steelHydrogenDegrease + wire brush + degrease
Aluminium and alloysHydrogenChemical clean + wire brush + degrease + scrape
Copper and alloysHydrogen, NitrogenDegrease + wire brush + degrease
Nickel and alloysNitrogenDegrease + wire brush + degrease
Titanium and alloysHydrogen, Nitrogen, OxygenChemical clean + wire brush + degrease + dry thoroughly
Magnesium and alloysHydrogenChemical clean + wire brush + degrease + preheat

Acceptable Levels of Porosity in Welding Defects

The acceptable level of porosity in welded joints depends on the specific application and the requirements of the relevant standards or specifications. Generally, the presence of any visible macro-porosity is considered unacceptable and requires repair or rejection of the weld. However, for micro-porosity, the acceptable level may vary depending on the material, weld thickness, and the intended use of the welded structure.

Many welding standards and specifications provide guidelines for the acceptable levels of micro-porosity. These guidelines typically specify the maximum pore size, pore density, and pore distribution that are considered acceptable for a given material and weld thickness. It is important to consult the appropriate standard or specification to determine the acceptable levels of porosity for a specific application.

How Can Different Methods Detect Porosity in Welded Materials?

Porosity in welded materials can compromise the integrity and strength of a weld, making its detection crucial for ensuring quality and safety. Several methods are available to identify porosity, each suited to different types of porosity and varying levels of complexity.

Visual Inspection: Is It Sufficient for Detecting Porosity?

Visual inspection remains the most straightforward and economical method for identifying surface porosity. This technique involves carefully examining the completed weld under adequate lighting conditions. Welders and inspectors pay particular attention to the starts and stops in the weld pass, as these areas are more prone to porosity.

Small voids or holes on the surface of the weld can often be detected without the need for specialized equipment. Despite its simplicity, visual inspection is limited to surface defects and cannot reveal subsurface porosity.

What Role Does Destructive Testing Play in Detecting Porosity?

Destructive testing methods provide a deeper understanding of the weld’s internal structure by physically breaking or cutting the material. These methods are particularly useful for qualifying welders and welding procedures. One common destructive test is the nick-break test, where a notched strap specimen is subjected to tensile force until it fractures.

The resulting cross-section is then examined for internal porosity. Another method involves preparing fillet weld specimens, cutting them with a saw, polishing the cut surface, and applying an acid solution to enhance the visibility of any porosity within the weld. While destructive testing provides detailed information about internal defects, it also results in the destruction of the test specimen.

How Effective is Non-Destructive Testing in Porosity Detection?

Non-destructive testing (NDT) methods are essential for examining welds without causing damage, making them suitable for both surface and subsurface porosity detection. Radiographic testing, for instance, is widely used in pipe welding and offers a comprehensive view of the weld, highlighting porosity throughout all weld passes. This technique is highly effective for detecting internal porosity that is not visible on the surface.

Dye penetrant inspection is another NDT method used to detect surface and slightly subsurface porosity. The process involves applying a dye to the weld surface, which penetrates any cracks or voids. When exposed to UV light, these areas become visible.

Similarly, magnetic particle inspection detects surface and near-surface porosity by applying magnetic particles to the weld. Any defects cause the particles to gather, indicating the presence of porosity.

Which Method Should Be Used?

Below is a comparative table highlighting the advantages and considerations of different NDT methods for porosity detection:

NDT MethodAdvantagesConsiderations
Visual InspectionSimple and cost-effective. Immediate detection of surface porosity. Limited to surface defects. Not suitable for subsurface or internal defects.
Radiographic TestingProvides detailed internal view of welds. Effective for all weld passes.Requires radiation safety precautions. Higher cost and specialized equipment.
Dye Penetrant InspectionDetects surface and near-surface porosity. High sensitivity to defects.Requires cleaning and preparation of weld surface. Limited to accessible areas.
Magnetic Particle InspectionDetects surface and near-surface defects. Good for ferromagnetic materials.Requires magnetic field and particle application. Surface preparation needed.
Ultrasonic TestingProvides full thickness evaluation. Detects internal defects accurately.Requires skilled operators for interpretation. Surface condition affects results.

How Does Shielding Gas Impact Weld Quality and Porosity Prevention?

Shielding gas management is pivotal in welding operations to achieve flawless welds devoid of porosity and other defects. Here’s a detailed exploration of how selecting the right gas, regulating its flow, and ensuring proper equipment setup are critical for maintaining weld integrity.

  • Selecting the Correct Shielding Gas: For instance, inert gases like argon are preferred for non-ferrous metals due to their stability and minimal interaction with the weld pool. In contrast, gas mixtures containing CO2 are effective for carbon steel welding, enhancing arc stability and weld penetration.
  • Regulating Shielding Gas Flow: Insufficient gas flow jeopardizes coverage, allowing atmospheric contaminants to infiltrate the molten metal and induce porosity. Conversely, excessive gas flow can disrupt the weld pool dynamics, leading to turbulence and potential weld defects. Maintaining a flow rate typically between 25 to 35 cubic feet per hour (CFH), depending on the specific welding conditions, strikes a balance between adequate shielding and operational efficiency.
  • Gas Hose and Torch Configuration: The diameter of the gas hose must facilitate consistent gas flow without restriction or pressure loss. Undersized hoses impede gas delivery, compromising shield effectiveness and increasing porosity risks. Conversely, oversized hoses can lead to unnecessary pressure drops, diminishing shielding efficiency and wasting consumables.

How Alloy Elements Influence Porosity in Welding?

Alloy elements present in the weld zone can significantly impact weld quality, either mitigating or exacerbating porosity defects depending on their presence and concentration.

Nitrogen’s Role in Porosity Formation

Nitrogen, often inadvertently introduced through inadequate shielding gas coverage, poses a critical risk in austenitic stainless steel welding. Its presence can lead to the formation of gas voids within the weld pool, which solidify to form porosity. Proper shielding gas management is crucial to prevent nitrogen infiltration and ensure weld integrity.

Oxygen and Its Porosity Effects

Oxygen is another detrimental element in welding, known for its ability to enter the weld pool due to environmental factors like high winds or drafts, or insufficient shielding gas coverage. Its presence creates gas pockets within the molten metal, which, upon solidification, manifest as porosity. Effective control of welding environment and meticulous shielding gas application are essential to mitigate oxygen-induced porosity.

Hydrogen’s Contribution to Porosity

Hydrogen is a common culprit in porosity formation, entering the weld zone through moisture in base metals or filler metals, as well as from oils or other contaminants. In molten weld metal, hydrogen dissolves and forms gas pockets that lead to porosity upon solidification. Proper material cleaning and drying, along with controlled welding parameters, are critical to minimizing hydrogen-induced porosity.

Recognizing Porosity-Prone Alloys

Certain alloys exhibit higher susceptibility to porosity due to their inherent properties and composition:

  • Aluminum: Known for its porous nature, aluminum readily absorbs contaminants such as grease and oils. Effective cleaning procedures are essential to prevent porosity during welding.
  • Cast Iron: High carbon content in cast iron makes it prone to porosity, as carbon monoxide gas can form during weld solidification. Pre-heating and careful selection of filler metals are effective strategies to mitigate porosity risks in cast iron welding.

Utilizing Pre-Heating to Reduce Porosity

Pre-heating metals before welding serves as a proactive measure to eliminate moisture, which is a significant source of hydrogen and potential porosity. By raising the metal’s temperature to a predetermined level, pre-heating reduces the risk of hydrogen absorption and subsequent porosity formation in the weld.

Identifying Porosity-Prone Welding Processes

Certain welding processes are inherently more susceptible to porosity, requiring careful management to prevent defects:

  • Dual Shield Flux Core Welding: This method can be particularly prone to porosity if not shielded properly from environmental influences like wind or drafts. Controlling the wire “stick-out” distance from the MIG gun nozzle is crucial to avoiding wormhole-type porosity, which can appear both on the surface and subsurface.

Considering Post-Weld Heat Treatment Options

Post-weld heat treatment offers a potential solution to reduce porosity by facilitating the diffusion and escape of trapped gases from the weld metal. However, it’s essential to exercise caution, as heat treatment can also exacerbate existing porosity or induce new defects. Consultation with welding codes, engineers, or metallurgical experts is advisable to determine the suitability and parameters of post-weld heat treatment for specific welding applications.

What Are the Harms of Welding Porosity?

Porosity, characterized by the presence of gas pockets or voids within the weld metal, undermines the structural strength and reliability of welded joints. These gas pockets act as stress concentrators, reducing the weld’s load-bearing capacity and resistance to mechanical forces such as tension or compression.

Moreover, porosity compromises the weld’s cosmetic appearance, potentially leading to aesthetic concerns in applications where visual appeal is important. In critical industries such as aerospace, automotive, and construction, where weld integrity is paramount for safety and performance, even small instances of porosity can lead to catastrophic failures under operational stresses.


Porosity remains a significant challenge in welding processes, impacting structural integrity and performance. By understanding its types, causes, and acceptable limits, welders can implement effective mitigation strategies to minimize defects and ensure high-quality weldments in various industrial applications.



How is porosity in welding detected?

Porosity is typically detected through visual inspection and non-destructive testing (NDT) methods. Visual inspection involves examining the weld surface for the presence of pores, their size, distribution, and density. NDT methods such as ultrasonic testing (UT) or radiography (X-ray) are used to detect internal porosity without damaging the weld.

What are acceptable levels of porosity in welding?

Acceptable levels of porosity vary depending on welding standards, material specifications, and application requirements. Visual inspection criteria and NDT techniques provide quantitative measurements to assess porosity against specified limits.

Catalog: Sheet Metal Fabrication Guide

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