Delta type widening


This feature is available in preview in Delta Lake 3.2 and above.

The type widening feature allows changing the type of columns in a Delta table to a wider type. This enables manual type changes using the ALTER TABLE ALTER COLUMN command and automatic type migration with schema evolution in INSERT and MERGE INTO commands.

Supported type changes

The feature introduces a limited set of supported type changes in Delta Lake 3.2 and expandes it in Delta Lake 4.0 and above.

Source type

Supported wider types - Delta 3.2

Supported wider types - Delta 4.0


short, int

short,int,long, decimal, double



int,long, decimal, double


long, decimal, double






decimal with greater precision and scale



To avoid accidental promotion of integer values to decimals, type changes from byte, short, int, or long to decimal or double are not eligible to be applied automatically during schema evolution. You must manually alter the type in that case.


When changing an integer or decimal type to decimal, the total precision must be equal to or greater than the starting precision. If you also increase the scale, the total precision must increase by a corresponding amount. That is, decimal(p, s) can be changed to decimal(p + k1, s + k2) iff k1 >= k2 >= 0.

For example, if you want to add two decimal places to a field with decimal(10,1), the minimum target is decimal(12,3).

The minimum target for byte, short, and int types is decimal(10,0). The minimum target for long is decimal(20,0).

Type changes are supported for top-level columns as well as fields nested inside structs, maps and arrays.

How to enable Delta Lake type widening


Enabling type widening sets the Delta table feature typeWidening-preview, a reader/writer protocol feature. Only clients that support this table feature can read and write to the table once the table feature is set. You must use Delta Lake 3.2 or above to read and write to such Delta tables.

You can enable type widening on an existing table by setting the delta.enableTypeWidening table property to true:

  ALTER TABLE <table_name> SET TBLPROPERTIES ('delta.enableTypeWidening' = 'true')

Alternatively, you can enable type widening during table creation:

  CREATE TABLE <table_name> USING DELTA TBLPROPERTIES('delta.enableTypeWidening' = 'true')

To disable type widening:

  ALTER TABLE <table_name> SET TBLPROPERTIES ('delta.enableTypeWidening' = 'false')

Disabling type widening prevents future type changes from being applied to the table. It doesn’t affect type changes previously applied and in particular, it doesn’t remove the type widening table feature and doesn’t allow clients that don’t support the type widening table feature to read and write to the table.

To remove the type widening table feature from the table and allow other clients that don’t support this feature to read and write to the table, see Removing the type widening table feature.

Manually applying a type change

When type widening is enabled on a Delta table, you can change the type of a column using the ALTER COLUMN command:

ALTER TABLE <table_name> ALTER COLUMN <col_name> TYPE <new_type>

The table schema is updated without rewriting the underlying Parquet files.

Type changes with automatic schema evolution

Type changes are applied automatically during ingestion with INSERT and MERGE INTO commands when:

  • Type widening is enabled on the target table.

  • The command runs with automatic schema evolution enabled.

  • The source column type is wider than the target column type.

  • Changing the target column type to the source type is a supported type change

  • The type change is not a promotion from integers to decimal/double: byte, short, int, or long to decimal or double.

When all conditions are satisfied, the target table schema is updated automatically to change the target column type to the source column type.

Removing the type widening table feature

The type widening feature can be removed from a Delta table using the DROP FEATURE command:

 ALTER TABLE <table-name> DROP FEATURE 'typeWidening-preview' [TRUNCATE HISTORY]

See Drop Delta table features for more information on dropping Delta table features.

When dropping the type widening feature, the underlying Parquet files are rewritten when necessary to ensure that the column types in the files match the column types in the Delta table schema. After the type widening feature is removed from the table, Delta clients that don’t support the feature can read and write to the table.