If you’ve never had to weld galvanized steel before, I gotta tell you, it can be a real pain in the butt. I used my personal experience, plus I did extensive research, to write this article which not only shows my favorite welding rods for galvanized steel but will also help you understand the process of welding galvanized steel and the hazards it poses.
Before we start talking about the welding rods, we must learn a thing or two about galvanization. Galvanization, or galvanizing, is the process of applying a zinc coating to iron or steel. The most common method of galvanizing is called hot-dipping, and it’s quite self-explanatory: the iron or steel bits are dipped into molten zinc.
However, it’s a bit more complicated than that. The entire process involves five stages, each as important as the next. The first step is degreasing the metal. Oil and other grease must be removed completely in order for the zinc to stick to the surface. Etching is the next stage. This completely removes any rust that has already accumulated. Next, the metal is washed so that no particles are left from the etching process. The fourth stage is drying the metal. Ovens or similar machines are used to dry the steel to prepare it for the final stage, the dipping. Once dry, the metal parts are submerged in hot, molten zinc. When taken out, the metal will have a zinc layer over it, which gives it corrosion resistance.
Welding Galvanized Steel
Before you start welding, make sure to grind off the zinc layer exactly where you need to weld, and about a ¼ inch on each side. When grinding, make sure to protect yourself from inhaling any of the dust if you don’t want to spend the next two days in agony.
Grinding off the zinc coating is important for two reasons. One, when welding, the heat will evaporate the zinc and inhaling the fumes will cause zinc poisoning (the above-mentioned agony). Two, the resulting weld will not be up to standard. Not only will there be a lot of excessive spatter, but lack of fusion also is very possible, resulting in cracks and increased porosity.
Once the zinc coating is removed, you’re basically left with clean steel, and you can use your preferred welding rod. Once you’re done welding, you should use a zinc spray or paint to apply a coating on the bead and the area around it.
Nevertheless, even when the coating is completely ground off, most welders agree on the point that the 7018 or the 7014 electrodes are the best ones to use. The main reason for that is the thick slag they produce, which contains the impurities that were burned off during the welding. The thick slag can be removed with ease. In fact, it practically peels off on its own.
However, you may find yourself in a situation where you don’t have a grinder on you, or you just ran out of sanding disks, and can’t grind the coating off. In that case, a welding rod with a hotter arc and a deeper penetration capability is required. The 6011 is exactly the type of stick electrode with such specifications. It’s the type of electrode that will burn through anything, penetrating deep enough to melt the clean metal, thus creating a strong weld.
If you need to use a 6011 electrode, make sure you use the whipping technique. The key of the whipping technique is to form a puddle, then move away from it in the direction of travel to let the puddle freeze, then going back to the edge of the puddle where you’ll start a new puddle. This technique is very useful when welding galvanized, or any unclean steel because by doing so, you will leave all the impurities in the puddle to freeze instead of spreading them.
In this article, I will show you my top picks for each of these electrodes: the 7014, 7018, and 6011.
7014 is a 70,000 PSI tensile strength, all-position welding rod that runs on AC and DC, and has an iron powder coating. The 7014 is designed for fast welding, so you can practically just run a straight line without having to ship or weave the puddle.
The thick slag is what makes this electrode ideal for welding galvanized steel. The easy-peeling slag should contain most of the zinc and other contaminants that can be found in the steel itself.
US Forge was and remains to be a welders’ favorite for many reasons. The arc starts very easy and it can be re-struck just as easily. It runs smoothly both on AC and DC, and will never fail you.
The cardboard box they’re shipped in is a bit of an issue since the rods can get damaged during transport. Luckily, the 7014 rods don’t require strict storage measures and aren’t as susceptible to moisture as the 7018.
The 7014 stick electrode by Blue Demon runs very smooth and uninterruptedly which is ideal for a speedy weld. The iron powder in the coating gives it really high deposition and makes it ideal for mild steel as well as galvanized steel.
On this product page, you can choose between 6 different rod sizes in 1-pound tubes, 5=pound plastic boxes, and 40 and 50-pound cartons.
Hobart always offers high-quality products, and some of them, like these welding rods, are made in the USA. Designed for high deposition while creating an attractive bead, these 7014 electrodes will help you achieve a perfect bead, even when welding galvanized steel.
This link is for the 1-pound tube of three different-sized rods, 1/8″, 1/16”, and 3/32”. If you’re looking to buy a bigger batch, this link will take you to a page where you can choose between a 5-pound and a 10-pound box.
The digits in 7018 infer that the electrode produces a weld with a tensile strength of 70,000 PSI, that it’s an all-positions electrode, and that the coating is made of potassium and iron powder, with low levels of hydrogen. The 7018 welding rod can run both on AC and DC current.
The reason that the 7018 is a great electrode for welding galvanized steel is the slow freezing puddle which creates a thick slag. The thick slag will contain all of the zinc that might have been left behind after you’ve ground it off.
When you see the name Lincoln Electric printed on a welding product, you know you can expect quality. The Excalibur 7018 MR might be the best 7018 electrode money can buy.
The MR stands for “moisture resistance”, which means that there are no strict requirements for storing the electrodes. They also meet the API 751 standard for chemical compositions and the AWS standards for toughness.
The electrodes are packed in a sealed steel can which will protect them during transport. This link is for the ⅛”, 10lbs box, but you can usually also find 50lbs boxes in different sizes.
These electrodes work surprisingly well. Hy-Weld is not a high-end brand but sure does deliver some high-end welding products.
The rods are packed in a metal can which will protect them during transport. You can choose between 1/8″, 3/32” and 5/32” sized rods in 10 and 50-pound boxes. These welding rods run on AC, DCEP, and DCEN, and do an excellent job welding high tensile steel as well as galvanized steel.
An American brand for welding products with over 40 years of experience, US Forge electrodes are known for the reliability of their mid-range priced products.
These 7018 rods run both on AC and DCEP, and they’re excellent for welding low-alloy steel, carbon steel, and, of course, galvanized steel.
This is a link for the ⅛”, 10lbs package, but can usually find 5lbs and 50lbs packages with different sized electrodes.
The only issue with these rods is the cardboard package they’re shipped in. That means there’s a possibility that the electrodes will get damaged during transport.
The 6011 electrodes are known for burning through anything in their path. This is precisely the reason why they’re good for welding galvanized steel and are considered some of the best all-purpose welding rods.
As the name suggests, the 6011 produces a weld with a tensile strength of 60,000 PSI and is an all-position welding rod. The last digit means it can run on AC and DCEP and that the flux is from cellulose potassium.
Because it’s a fast-freezing rod, the 6011 should be run straight, without whipping or weaving. The slag isn’t very thick, and some of the contaminants remain in the bead itself, but because of the deep penetration, it fuses with the base metal much better.
As I’ve said before, Lincoln makes some of the best electrodes on the market, and the Fleetweld 180 are one of their best-sellers. The arc starts very easily and runs aggressively, just the way it’s supposed to.
The welding rods are packed inside a tough plastic 5-pound container which will protect them during transport but can also be used regularly. If you’re looking for a bigger batch, you can order a 50-pound metal can of ⅛” rods here.
Hy-Weld’s 6011 is a seriously reliable stick electrode. It runs very aggressively with a steady arc, all the way through. The deep penetration ability contributes to a very strong weld every time.
The tin can they’re in is very practical and durable. It has a good lid so it can be used regularly, and you don’t have to buy a separate container. On the product page, you can order 10 or 50-pound boxes, from all three sizes.
Just like the rest of the welding rods made by US Forge, the 6011 are very stable and reliable. They run on DCEP just as well as they do on AC, and produce a strong weld each time.
However, the cardboard box they’re shipped in leaves them vulnerable during transport, so there’s always a chance of receiving damaged goods. If such a thing does occur, you can contact the seller, and ask for a replacement.
Exposure to fumes from welding galvanized surfaces can cause some very unpleasant effects, commonly known as “zinc shakes” or “zinc chills”. Galvanize poisoning will have you laying in bed, shivering and regretting ever taking on welding as a job. Some welders swear that it’s the worst fever they’ve ever experienced, and even wishing for death.
A high fever, nausea, chest pain, and even joint pain are some of the symptoms of zinc poisoning. Other symptoms include cramps, vomiting, and an excruciating headache. And the worst part is, this can last anywhere between 24 and 48 hours.
Get a Respirator
To avoid these symptoms you should take the recommended precautions. First of all, wear a respirator! Even when grinding the galvanized steel, the zinc particles will enter your body through breathing, and then you’re screwed. If you don’t have a respirator, this article will help you find one.
Next, open all the windows in your shop, and if you don’t have any, open the door. If possible, consider taking the metal parts outside, and weld them there, you don’t want any of that smoke to linger in your workspace. If you have a portable fan of any kind, put it next to you and turn it so it blows all the smoke away from your face.
Does Milk Help?
And now, some myth-busting time! There’s an old story that claims drinking milk before, or after welding galvanized steel will help you prevent zinc poisoning. NOT TRUE. In fact, it could do just the opposite. Some studies have shown that milk actually increases the absorption of toxins.
So instead of grabbing the milk in your fridge before going to the shop, take the scientifically recommended measures. If you don’t have a respirator, buy one. If you don’t have a portable fan, buy one of those too. If you don’t have a ventilation system in your shop, please make one. Even a hole in the wall with a small fan will be useful, not just for welding galvanized steel, but for any welding process. None of the fumes created by welding are good for your health, so you should always have a well-aired workshop. Finally, if possible, take the welder and the galvanized bits outside, and finish the job there.
To select the right stick electrode for welding galvanized steel, you should keep an eye on a few things.
Deep penetration is particularly useful when the zinc layer can’t be ground off properly. Deeper penetration means that the welding rod will create a better fusion with the clean metal that’s underneath the coated surface.
A thicker slag means that more of the contaminants will be in it, and less in the weld itself. A zinc coating is considered a contaminant.
Best Welding Rod For Galvanized: Conclusion
I will keep this short and simple. If you have some experience in welding, get either the 7014 or 7018. You can move faster with them and you’ll get a satisfying slag that’s easy to peel.
If you don’t have much experience, or you can’t grind off the zinc, use a 6011, as you would for any dirty or rusty metal. The aggressive arc and deep penetration of the 6011 will literally burn through anything, zinc included.
Any of the rods listed above meet the required standards and will get the job done properly, so don’t hesitate to order any of them.
Can you weld galvanized steel with 7018?
Yes, you can. In fact, it’s one of the best welding rods for that purpose. If you scroll up and read the article, you will understand why.
What is the 6011 welding rod used for?
The 6011 is really an all-purpose stick electrode. The deep penetration makes it useful practically for any surface, whether it’s clean, rusty, or galvanized.
Is it hard to weld galvanized steel?
Not really. It’s just regular steel (usually mild) coated with zinc. Grinding the zinc layer off before you weld is the best way to go. In that case, you’re left with just clean steel. If, however, for some reason you can’t grind it off, it’s best to use an aggressive welding rod like the 6011.