Data Warehousing Tip: T-SQL Script to Create DEFAULT Constraints by Data Type

There is an ongoing discussion/debate regarding the handling of NULLS in a data warehouse, however, the following article by Michelle Poolet summarizes it beautifully – “consider the data warehouse business requirements” (see

Beyond consideration, there are some data types that should get the DEFAULT treatment (bit, char, nchar, nvarchar, and varchar) and the following script can assist in creating these across every applicable column in your database.

SELECT Object_schema_name(T.[object_id], Db_id()) AS [Schema], 
       T.[name]  AS [table_name], 
       AC.[name] AS [column_name], 
       TY.[name] AS system_data_type, 
       'ALTER TABLE dbo.' + T.[name] 
       + ' ADD CONSTRAINT ' + AC.[name] + ' DEFAULT(' 
       + CASE TY.[name] 
            --WHEN 'int' THEN '0' 
          --WHEN 'bigint' THEN '0' 
          WHEN 'varchar' THEN '' 
          WHEN 'bit' THEN '' 
          WHEN 'char' THEN '' 
          WHEN 'smalldatetime' THEN '' 
          WHEN 'datetime' THEN ''
          --WHEN 'tinyint' THEN '0'
          --WHEN 'smallint' THEN '0' 
          WHEN 'nvarchar' THEN '' 
          --WHEN 'money' THEN '0.00'
          ELSE '' 
       END +') FOR ' AS sqlstring 
   FROM   sys.[tables] AS T 
       INNER JOIN sys.[all_columns] AC 
               ON T.[object_id] = AC.[object_id] 
       INNER JOIN sys.[types] TY 
               ON AC.[system_type_id] = TY.[system_type_id] 
                  AND AC.[user_type_id] = TY.[user_type_id] 
WHERE  T.[is_ms_shipped] = 0 
       AND T.[name] LIKE ('DIM%') AND AC.[name] NOT LIKE ( '%SrgKey%' )  AND 
TY.[name] in ('varchar', 'bit' , 'char', 'smalldatetime', 'datetime' , 'nvarchar')

I’ve taken the approach of defaulting values for all columns (less those affected by the WHERE clause) in my STAGING Database.  The thought is that the non-NULL values inserted into my staging tables will persist to the TARGET database and I won’t experience one of a variety of issues (OLAP, T-SQL, or otherwise) that a development and/or user team will encounter due to having NULL values in the data warehouse.


About Sal De Loera
I have been involved in Information Technology, specifically Data Warehousing and BI, for over 8 years. Over these years I have assumed the following roles: Software Engineer Intern, Programmer/Analyst, Sr. Data Warehouse Engineer, Data Architect, Director of Information Technology, and as most recently as a Data Warehouse / BI consultant. Additionally, my IT experience spans the following industries: Insurance, Restaurant, Mass Media, Education, and Local Government. I have created this blog primarily as a means to not only share information and case studies regarding Business Intelligence, Data Warehousing, and Data Modeling, but also receive input from the community on some of the topics that I'l cover. Looking forward to your feedback and to the exciting opportunities that come with new people and technology!

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