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How To Weld Cast Iron: Quality Results

Welding cast iron is possible with our handy guide.

Welding cast iron is one of the most challenging jobs a welder can do. One mistake, and you could make things a whole lot worse. You could end up doing more damage, or worse still, produce a weld that looks solid but, is in fact, weak.

Be it ductile iron, gray, or any other type; the trick is to follow the correct procedure and choose the right filler material when you weld cast iron. Here is our guide to welding cast iron.

Key Takeaways

  • Understand the type of cast iron: Cast iron comes in different types like gray, white, ductile, and malleable. Knowing the type helps determine its weldability and the right approach to take.
  • Choose the right welding rod: Selecting the appropriate welding rod, such as nickel or steel, is crucial for ensuring a strong and durable weld.
  • Preheat and post-heat the cast iron: Preheating before welding and allowing the iron to cool slowly after welding helps prevent stress cracks and ensures a stronger weld.
  • Select the proper welding technique: MIG, TIG, or Arc welding can be used for welding cast iron, but each method has its merits and downsides. Choose the one that best suits your project and skillset.

What Type of Cast Iron Is Not Weldable?

There are several types of cast iron, but some are more challenging to weld than others. More often than not, you will achieve about a 50 percent success rate.

Gray Iron

Gray is the most common type of iron, and it is widely used. It gets its name from the color of the fracture it forms, thanks to high levels of graphite. This type of iron is weldable, but with great difficulty.

White Iron

White iron is hard and brittle. It is similar to gray iron in that carbon is present, but unlike gray iron, graphite does not form during solidification. White iron has uses in applications where abrasion resistance is imperative over brittleness. You find white iron in slurry pumps, cement mixers, flanges and pipe fittings.

White iron is almost impossible to weld.

Ductile Iron

Ductile iron is far less brittle than cast iron, so it bends without breaking. Widely used in the automotive industry and other heavy industrial settings, it is the ideal material for making wheels, pump housings, gearboxes, piping, and many other items.

Ductile iron is difficult to weld, but it can be achieved under the right conditions and with patience and skill. It is not something that should be undertaken by an inexperienced welder.

Malleable Iron

Malleable iron is not weldable because the heating process changes the material’s properties, making it useless. It starts out as white iron, but through heat treatment, it becomes malleable.

How To Weld Cast Iron

Once you’ve determined the type of iron you have, the next step is to decide whether you will preheat or cold weld.

1. Preheat or Cold Weld

There are two schools of thought on how to weld iron. Some say preheating is the best option, while others swear that cold welding is the right approach. Cast iron is brittle and cannot be bent or molded when hot.

Heating cast iron has a deforming effect on the metal, raising the potential that one part of the metal may heat or cool faster than another, causing cracking and stress fractures. At 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit, cast iron changes characteristics completely, potentially weakening the integrity of the metal.

By cold welding, the metal is placed under less strain, reducing the risk of cracking and warping, potentially creating a stronger weld. However, cold welding is not without its risks. Internal stresses may still occur and manifest themselves later, plus cold welding produces a weaker weld.

For this reason, experienced welders prefer the preheating method because they understand how the metal reacts and can control the situation to create a stronger weld.

2. Choose the Type of Welding Rod

The type and material of the welding rod dictate the quality of the weld.

Nickel Rod 99 Percent

These are considered premium welding rods. Nickel-based electrodes are expensive, but they are the best at producing welds with low to medium phosphate content and that is machinable.

Nickel Rod 55 Percent

These are a cheaper option than 99 percent electrodes, and they have a lower coefficient expansion, which produces less stress on the metal and fewer fusion cracks. This makes them better at repairing thicker sections of metal. These rods are also machinable.

Steel Rods

Steel rods are the cheapest of the three options, making them the most economical. They are best suited to simple repair work and fillers. These electrodes are not machinable and require grinding to get the smoothest finish.

Steel rods are more user-friendly and can tolerate castings that are not entirely clean. It makes them the perfect choice when performing on-site repairs where the conditions may not be ideal.

3. Prepare the Cast Iron

Cast iron is temperamental, so make sure you pre and post-heat for the best results. The carbon within the metal causes the material to shrink and expand. For this reason, as much care should be taken with the pre and post-applications of the weld as to the process of welding itself.

Here’s what you need to be mindful of:

  • Pre and post-heating preparation.
  • Heat management when welding.
  • Rod selection.

The process begins as follows.

Beveling the Fracture

Beveling is the process of cutting V-shapes using a cutting torch or a specialist beveling machine. The bevel makes a stronger bond between the metal surfaces and ensures that it won’t shear off at a later date.

Beveled but joints are far stronger than flat but joints.

Preheat the Cast Iron

Preheating can be done by applying a blowtorch to the surface. You can even preheat the metal by placing it in the charcoals of a lit barbecue. The idea behind preheating the cast iron is to slowly increase the metal’s temperature, ensuring a slower transition from room temperature to welding temperature. Think of it like transitioning the metal so it has less of a shock.

The ideal preheat temperature is between 250 and 650 degrees Celsius (482 to 1202 degrees Fahrenheit). Anything over 780 degrees Celsius will melt the metal.

Heating the Material

Both ends of the plates are heated steadily and slowly so as not to distort the properties of the cast iron. The plates are then joined together when the sufficient temperature for the metal gets reached. If an arc weld is used, slag will form, which needs removing with a hammer.

When MIG welding, no slag forms, thanks to the protective gas insert, ensuring the integrity and purity of the weld.

Post Heating the Cast Iron

Just as you transition the metal to cope better with the rise in temperature, you want it to acclimatize to the cooling process to prevent stress cracks and a weakening of the material.

Once done, you could use the same heated charcoal to post heat the metal, allowing the temperature to decline gradually. A bucket of sand will do the same thing, or placing the piece atop a wood fire oven will allow the metal to cool slowly.

4. Choose the Welding Technique

There are three ways to weld cast iron. Each has its merits and downsides.

MIG Welding Cast Iron

While MIG welding isn’t preferred over any other welding method, it is very effective at welding cast iron. Here are some tips and hints:

  • Choose specialty nickel wire for the best results. It is the most expensive, especially if you choose the 99 percent purity, but you can buy 55 percent purity if you want to save some money. If the budget is too tight, choose stainless steel rods, but expect to have to rework the finishes as steel is not machinable and provides the roughest finish.
  • 80 percent argon and 20 percent carbon dioxide gas gives the best results in most situations. The downside is that the weld will rust eventually. That said, cast iron is naturally prone to rust.
  • Brazing wire will bond the metals, but it creates a weak joint that will not stand up well to impact.
  • Studding is a possibility to add strength to the joint, but that depends on the job and the neatness of finish you require.

TIG Welding Cast Iron

TIG welding is only possible if you use nickel wire. The upside is that you get a strong and clean weld, while the downside is the cost of the nickel wire. You also might be able to skip the pre and post heat process if you use the correct gas, wire and heat settings.

The gas mix should be 75 percent argon and 25 percent carbon dioxide. This mix stops the weld from becoming brittle.

  • Avoid rapid cooling as this places the iron under stress, increasing the chances of fractures. Use the pre and post-heat process for the best results.
  • Avoid weld heat by using short weld beads. This stops too much heat from affecting the cast iron. Avoid one continuous weld line as this could cause cracking, especially if the weld and the cast iron are two different temperatures. Once you’ve created the weld bead, hammer it smooth. It increases the strength of the joint and alleviates shrinkage.

Top Tip

Make sure when you use a TIG welder with a gas mix, that you do so in unconfined spaces. You need adequate ventilation as argon and carbon dioxide can build up, causing suffocation and death.

Arc Welding Cast Iron

Arc, or stick welding, is a favorite among home welders and DIY’ers. It’s affordable, and there are many different electrodes available to suit various tasks. It gives you flexibility and versatility. Most general repair tasks need a bronze rod, acetylene torch and some flux. This is the cheapest option, although you should be aware that brazing rarely bonds as well as other forms of welding.

  • Clean each joint before welding. This ensures the hardest bond. Dirt in the joint creates weak spots that might come back to haunt you later.
  • To get the neatest weld, lower the current to reduce splatter. It doesn’t affect the quality of the joint, but aesthetically, it produces a cleaner finish.

Pro Tip

Stick welding works better when you use steel that has minimal sulfur and silicon content. 1015 and 1025 steels work best because they have a sulfur content of less than 0.035 percent.

5. Finishing

Getting the smoothest finish is the key to a neat and professional job. Using higher quality nickel electrodes does this without the need for grinding.

Post Heating and Cooling

The longer a weld project takes to cool, the better the joint is likely to be. Rapid heating and cooling are the enemies of a strong weld. Iron is brittle, and when heated, it distorts. This causes stress on the material, which weakens the integrity of your structure.

By easing the iron into a cool state after welding, you ensure a natural easing of the metal and a better result. Think of it like letting a juicy steak relax after frying to tenderize it. Metal does the same.


Peening is a way of preventing the shrinking force of the weld as it cools. It helps to remove tensile stresses created when the metal reduces in temperature. Using a small hammer to spread the weld when it is still malleable to work out any air pockets or stress fractures, makes the overall finish a lot stronger.

This method takes great care, because over peening could result in cracking as the weld cools too much, and weakens the joint.

Additional Tips for Welding Cast Iron

There are always hints and tips that make life easier, so here are a few to get you started.

  • Keep the welding rod vertical when welding cast iron. It differs from most stick welding where you weld at an angle.
  • Take it slow and steady. Cast iron does not weld quickly.
  • Limit the amount you weld in one go. Use beads of weld rather than a continuous line.
  • When repairing a crack, run a small amount of beading across each end to stop it spreading.
  • Keep a steady hand and maintain a constant speed while you are working.


Can Cast Iron be Welded Easily?

Welding cast iron can be tricky, but it is certainly possible with the right techniques and tools. The key to successfully welding cast iron is understanding the metallurgy involved and taking the time to properly heat-treat the weld area before welding.

When welding cast iron, use appropriate tools like special electrodes or gas torches. Specialized flux-cored wires are also available designed specifically for welding cast iron which can help reduce porosity.

It’s important to understand the metallurgical properties of cast iron to determine the ideal heat treatment before welding. This includes preheating, post-weld heating, etc. Proper preheating helps reduce cracking and improve overall weld quality.

As with any other type of metal, attention to detail is critical when welding cast iron. Take your time and ensure that all areas are properly cleaned and prepped before beginning work.

Is Welding Cast Iron Toxic?

Welding cast iron can create fumes and smoke that contain toxic substances such as carbon monoxide and hexavalent chromium. Take the necessary safety precautions when welding cast iron, including using proper ventilation and protective equipment.

Setting up a ventilator or exhaust system while welding is essential to draw away toxic fumes and prevent them from lingering in the air. A DIY version of an open window with fans will do the trick if a professional ventilator is unavailable.

While welding, wear appropriate protective gear (PPE) such as respirators, face shields, fire-resistant clothing, steel-toed boots, etc.

This protects your skin from the heat and sparks produced by the weld and keeps harmful fumes from entering your body.

To stay safe while welding cast iron, it’s also important to adhere to basic safety practices like keeping children away from the work area and avoiding contact with any hot surfaces. Regular breaks and drinking plenty of water are also recommended to prevent fatigue.

Do You Weld Cast Iron on AC or DC?

For ductile iron, use Direct Current (DC) for welding because it produces less spatter and provides better penetration. But, an Alternating Current (AC) setting is preferred for brittle grey iron because it can form a stable arc and prevent cracking.

When welding cast iron, the direct current should be used with as low an amperage setting as possible to reduce porosity and spatter levels.

A 1/16-inch diameter electrode is ideal since it can produce small beads and deep penetration. Plus, adding a small amount of Reverse Polarity (RP) may be beneficial if some extra penetration is desired.

Is It Better to Weld or Braze Cast Iron?

When working on cast iron projects, two common methods of joining are welding and brazing. Both have advantages and disadvantages, so understanding which one is best for your particular situation is important.

Welding is typically the preferred option for cast iron because it can create strong structural bonds in various positions.

Also, welding doesn’t require additional filler material and can be done quickly with minimal cleanup afterward. But, it can be difficult to work with thicker sections of cast iron since a lot of heat must be generated to make a good weld.

Brazing, however, is more suitable for thinner sections as it requires less heat than welding and produces less distortion. It also introduces flexibility into the joint due to its lower melting point.

But, brazing needs additional filler material and extra steps for cleaning up any flux residue after the job is done.

What Is the Main Problem in Welding Cast Iron?

Welding cast iron can be difficult, mainly due to its high carbon content. High carbon content can lead to increased brittleness and decreased impact strength during welding.

High levels of thermal stress can cause the weldment to crack as soon as it cools off. The high amount of carbon also often creates temperature extremes that cause major distortion during welding.

So, welders must use accurate temperature control and specialty filler materials like nickel-based alloys when working with cast iron. This will ensure a high-quality welded joint is not vulnerable to cracking or disruptions in structural integrity due to the high carbon content.

What Is the Best Rod to Weld Cast Iron?

Welding cast iron requires a special welding rod, and ferronickel rods are one of the best choices. These rods have been developed specifically for welding cast iron and offer superior performance compared to other types of electrodes.

Ferronickel rods have several advantages when welding cast iron, like their ability to produce hot and deep penetrating welds with minimal heat input, good arc stability, and low spatter levels.

They need a very little cleaning up after use, and the weld finish looks neat and professional. Another advantage is that these rods can be used on both AC and DC settings, making them even more versatile in certain applications.

The main disadvantage of ferronickel rods is their cost. They tend to be slightly more expensive than other welding electrodes, making them an impractical choice for some budget-minded projects.

They may not always be readily available due to their specialty nature, so this could add another layer of complexity if you are in need of them quickly.

Ferronickel rods are the best choice for welding cast iron due to their superior performance and versatility in various applications.

Even though they’re more expensive than other types of electrodes, they provide excellent results, so it’s worth paying a bit extra if you want quality welds every time!

Cast Iron Conclusion

Be under no illusions that some metals don’t like to be welded, and cast iron is one of them. That said, it isn’t impossible. The watchwords are slow and steady because you cannot rush cast iron thanks to its brittle qualities.

Get the preparation right, and the rest will follow. Also, make sure you allow the iron time to cool after working with it. If you do these things, you should have a successful outcome.

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About the Author

Mark Weir

Mark spent 24 years working in real estate, so he knows his way around a home. He also worked with contractors and experts, advising them on issues of planning, investments, and renovations. Mark is no stranger to hands-on experience, having renovated his own home and many properties for resale. He likes nothing better than seeing a project through to completion.