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14 Welding

14.1 Introduction
General information on welds and welding is given in the Steel Construction Handbook
(Ref. 5), which covers welding processes, electrode classifications and strengths, plate
edge preparations, etc.

A more detailed treatment of the structural aspects of welding is included in the book
Structural Steelwork Connections – Limit States Design (Ref. 7).

14.2 Code of practice and standard welding symbols

The code of practice used in South Africa with regard to all aspects of welding processes,
materials, procedures, etc is the AWS D1.1 Structural Welding Code – Steel (Ref. 13).

The standard symbols used on production drawings specifying the type, size, length and
other particulars of welds are reproduced in the Steel Construction Handbook. These
symbols should be used consistently and accurately on all workshop drawings so as to
maintain an acceptable level of information transmittal.

14.3 Electrodes
Electrodes are classified in accordance with American Welding Society (AWS) notation.
The first and second digit (after the letter 'E') indicate the ultimate tensile strength of the
deposited weld metal, in kilopounds per square inch (ksi). The commonly used grades of
electrode produce the following weld metal yield stresses and ultimate strengths:

Electrode Yield stress Ultimate tensile

classification (MPa) strength, fuw (MPa)

E60XX 345 410

E70XX 413 480
E80XX – 550

14.4 Cost of welding
The main components in the cost of making a welded joint are the volume of weld metal
deposited and the time taken to deposit it. In order to achieve economy in welded joints it
is therefore necessary to select a joint configuration that uses a minimum amount of weld
metal and that is easy to carry out. Both these cost components are largely influenced by
the type of welds specified by the designer. The time taken to lay a weld can be optimised
by following certain guidelines, viz.:

• Using welds of minimum volume.

• Using electrodes that have high deposition rates.
• Using downhand welding in preference to overhead or vertical welding wherever
• Using single-run welds rather than multi-run welds where strength permits.
• Avoiding excessive lengths of welds, for example by welding opposite sides only of
gusset plates, angle cleats, etc, instead of all four sides.

The efficiency of a welding operation is measured by the ratio of actual arc time to total
time, i.e. by the time that welding is actually taking place against the overall time to make
a joint, including fitting up, tack welding, final welding, turning over, cleaning and

Some of these aspects are discussed in greater detail below.

14.5 Types of joints and welds

The two main types of weld used in structural connections are the fillet weld and the
groove weld. The former is sometimes referred to as a projection weld because it is
located outside the profile (as seen in cross section) of the parts connected, and the latter
as a flush weld because it is contained within the profile.

Fillet welds
Fillet welds are by far the most commonly used welds because they are easy to lay,
require no special plate edge preparation and do not call for a very accurate fit-up of the
parts. Wherever the loading permits, they should be laid as single-run welds up to 8 mm,
if the manual metal arc process is used. The laying of additional runs of weld adds
considerably to the cost of a joint. The strength of a fillet weld is directly proportional to its
size (i.e., its throat dimension), but its volume varies as the square of its size. Thus, an
8 mm fillet has 1,33 times the strength of a 6 mm weld, but its volume is 1,78 times as
much. Its efficiency in terms of weld metal deposited is therefore only 0,75 that of the
smaller weld.

A further drawback of a large weld is the amount of distortion it produces in the connected
parts. Where this is beyond acceptable limits it will be necessary either to preset the parts
before welding or to straighten them afterwards both operations obviously being costly.

It is thus of the greatest importance not to overspecify the size of fillet welds.

The leg size of a fillet weld can be reduced by using an automatic process instead of a
manual procedure because of the deeper penetration that can be achieved. There will be
a saving in both weld metal and welding time.

In the case of manual fillet welds considerable savings can be made by using intermittent
welds, but the length and spacing of the welds should be according to the designer's
specification. Intermittent welds should not be used in members subject to dynamic
loading because of potential fatigue failure, nor in corrosive situations where moisture
might enter between the unwelded contact surfaces of the components.

Examples of intermittent-welded components are intermediate stiffeners on plate girders,

flange plates or built-up I-columns, and column web stiffeners at beam-to-column moment

Groove welds

These welds, sometimes referred to as butt welds, may be used to connect two plates or
other elements lying either in the same plane or at an angle (usually 90º) to each other.

As shown in Fig 14.1, the welds in a butt joint may be square butt, single or double V,
single or double U, or partial penetration single or double V welds. The square butt can be
used for plate thicknesses up to about 6 mm without a backing strip and is obviously
much cheaper than a weld requiring edge preparation to the plates. Up to about 12 mm
thickness the single V is used without a backing strip and beyond this the double V. In the
larger plate thicknesses the double V is the obvious choice because it uses about one half
of the weld metal that a single V would and produces considerably less contraction of the
plates along their length. Only in the case of much thicker plates are the U preparations
used – above 20 mm for the single and above 30 or 40 mm for the double weld. The U
preparation, although efficient in terms of weld metal deposited, is more difficult to
execute and this limits the number of fabricators able to undertake the work.

(a) (b) (c)

(d) (e) (f) (g)

Fig 14.1: Butt joints

Table 6.16 of the Steel Construction Handbook lists a range of full-penetration weld
preparations as applicable to manual groove welds, including single and double V, J and
U preparations, and gives the dimensions and preparation angles applicable to various
plate thicknesses.

Fig 14.2 shows how plates forming a T-joint may be either fillet or groove welded. The
fillet weld is usually much cheaper, but also more prone to fatigue failure under repetitive
loading. The bevel and J welds may require backing runs as shown, or these may be
omitted if the outstanding plates do not require to be restrained laterally. The bevel and J
welds shown in details (b) and (c) could be specified as partial penetration if the full shear
strength of the vertical plate does not have to be developed. An exception to the
preference for fillet welds to full-penetration groove welds is when large plate thicknesses
are involved; once it becomes necessary to use multi-run fillet welds to develop the full
strength of the vertical plate the extra cost should be weighed against the cost of the
groove weld.

(a) (b) (c)

Fig 14.2: T-joints

Corner joints
Fig 14.3 shows three ways of making a corner joint. These would be applicable, for
example, to the corners of a box column, where neither full-strength welds nor backing
runs would normally be required. Detail (c) is obviously somewhat more costly and would
only be used where a flush profile to the corner is required. It is important not to
overspecify the amount of welding required in these applications.

(a) (b) (c)

Fig 14.3: Corner joints

14.6 Welding positions
The position in which a weld has to be laid has a direct influence on the cost of the weld.
The usual positions are shown in Fig 14.4 and it will be seen that the downhand or flat
position is by far the most favourable because the molten weld metal is retained in
position by gravity. The other positions are shown in order of increasing operator skill
requirement and cost.





Fig 14.4: Welding positions

It will be clear from this that structures should be designed and detailed so that the
components can be laid out in the shop in a manner conducive to downhand welding for
all major welds. In addition, welds should be located on one side of the assembly only to

avoid having to turn the components over. A turning operation, especially in the case of
heavy plate girders or large lattice girders or trusses, is very time consuming and
disruptive to the free flow of work through a shop.

Examples of members designed to meet this requirement are given in Fig 14.5, where
they are depicted in their flat position as resting on the assembly bench.


(c) (d)

Fig 14.5: Assemblies welded from one side only

The plate girder in detail (a) has the stiffeners located on one side of the web only. This
detail not only avoids the need to turn the girder over, but also results in significant
savings in the direct cost of the stiffeners and their welding as compared with stiffeners
positioned on each side of the web.

This detail can be applied only to intermediate stiffeners or to stiffeners carrying load from
incoming beams on one side of the web. Bearing stiffeners loaded through the top flange
would have to be symmetrical about the web, i.e. be in pairs.

In detail (b) the plated I-section has the top plate narrower and the bottom plate wider
than the flanges to allow welding to be done from the top. This is especially beneficial
when an automatic welding process is used. The top plate would need to be thicker than
the bottom one to maintain equal flange areas.

Latticed trusses and girders can be designed with the web diagonals all on one side of the
chords, as shown in details (c) and (d), provided single angles can be used and
eccentricity can be tolerated at the node points (in elevation). (see Section 9.5 of
Chapter 9). Where the chords are made from T-sections, as in detail (d), they require to
be supported on blocks, as shown, which makes assembly slightly more difficult. The
double-angle web member shown in detail (e) requires very much more labour input – in
most cases it would be cheaper to use a heavier single angle, thus saving in cutting and
welding cost and turning-over time.

A further point to be considered is the accessibility of a weld. Fig 14.6 gives examples of
assemblies where adequate electrode access is not available. They are shown as
positioned for downhand welding.

(a) (b) (c)

min = 300 (450 preferable)


Fig 14.6: Accessibility of welds

In detail (a) the column web cleat should perhaps be made narrower, or be welded across
the top and bottom. The gusset in detail (b), say a horizontal bracing gusset on a floor
beam, should be placed further down from the top flange. The combined channel and I-
section in (c) is popular for crane gantry girders and crane beams and the welding would
normally be intermittent; a sufficiently wide channel should be used to allow electrode
access. In detail (d) the spacing of the column or beam web stiffeners would probably be
determined by the location of the incoming load, but could perhaps have smaller
outstands. In the haunch to rafter connection of a portal frame, as shown in detail (e), the
welding along length 'a' is omitted since electrode access here is in any case impossible.

14.7 Procedure qualification

The AWS D1.1 Welding Code lays down requirements in Section 5 for qualification of
welding procedures and welding personnel. Exemption from tests or qualification is
granted, however, to procedures conforming to the provisions of Sections 2 to 4 and the
pertinent provisions of Sections 8 to 10 of the code. These are defined as prequalified
procedures. Part C of Section 2 sets out the requirements for prequalified joints in
considerable detail, including dimensional, welding process and welding position
parameters for fillet welds, and in tabular form (Fig 2.5), for a wide range of groove weld
types. The weld types detailed cover the great majority of welds used in day-to-day
welding practice.

As stated, welds complying with these requirements are exempted from the welding
procedure qualification tests prescribed in Section 5.2. It is desirable that designers and
detailers be familiar with these requirements so as to be able to prescribe welds that will
fall within the 'prequalified' category.

14.8 Inspection
The AWS D1.1 code requirements for inspection are given in Section 6, where two
classes of inspection are defined, viz.:

a) Fabrication erection inspection and tests, performed as necessary prior to assembly,

during welding and after welding to ensure that materials and workmanship meet the
contract document requirements. This inspection function is normally the responsibility
of the contractor.

b) Verification inspection and testing by an independent inspector acting for and on

behalf of the owner or engineer to ensure compliance with the requirements of the
contract, with the results being reported to the owner and the contractor. The owner
may take responsibility for this inspection function, or he may waive independent
verification, or he may stipulate that both inspection and verification be performed by
the contractor.

In the interest of economy it is clearly to the advantage of the contractor that a regular
progress inspection routine is maintained so as to avoid the re-working that is necessary
when defects are shown up by the verification inspection.

On the engineer's or designer's side it is wise not to call for unnecessarily stringent
inspection levels. Very few, if any, of the welds in a typical structure call for special
inspection or testing procedures and it would be good policy simply to specify the use of
the AWS D1.1 code since this is the accepted document within the steelwork industry. For
critical regions within a structure where closer inspection might be required it would be up
to the engineer to define a reasonable level of inspection.

14.9 Summary of welding economics

• Adopt simple details for welded attachments.
• Avoid excessive weld volume, i.e. do not overspecify weld size.
• Use fillet welds in preference to groove welds, provided the size is not too large (i.e.
in excess of 8 mm for a single-run manual weld).
• Remember that longer, smaller fillet welds are cheaper than shorter ones of larger
size. However, on a lapped-end connection of a member the length should not
exceed about 70 times the size.
• In prepared butt joints use partial penetration welds in preference to full penetration
welds when the force on the joint will allow.
• Avoid expensive plate edge preparations (i.e. J and U) for groove welds, except
where the fabricator is equipped for such preparations.
• Arrange for as much welding to be done in the shop and as little as possible at site.
• Use the downhand welding position.
• Avoid having to turn members or assemblies over to weld the other side.
• Ensure adequate accessibility of the electrode to all welds.
• As a designer do not specify in too great detail the manner of making a weld; the
fabricator is in a better position to decide on the most economical joint preparation
and welding procedure.

• Use bent or folded plates for corner joints in preference to welding.
• Use pre-qualified joints and welding procedures to avoid qualification testing.
• Do not call for unduly stringent inspection.