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Tube vs Pipe - The Differences Explained in Plain English

This entry was posted on August 24, 2016 by Commerce Metals.

You have probably heard the terms pipe and tube used interchangeably, and
there's a good chance you aren't exactly sure what the difference is between
them. Most people, even experts working in related industries, don't actually
know. After all how different can hollow cylinders get, and who really cares
enough to go and look? Well, I had to know...
Even looking on the internet can lead to confusion, as many websites have
mistakenly misidentified the real differences between them. Well, since I'm a
know-it-all, let me try and explain as best I can what exactly differentiates tube
and pipe. There's a nifty looking infographic you can share at the bottom.
Tubing is generally used for structural purposes and the OD is an important and
exact number. Tubing size is specified by OD and the wall thickness (WT); and
the measured OD and stated OD are generally within very close tolerances of
each other. Tubing is usually more expensive than pipe due to tighter
manufacturing tolerances.
Interestingly, while the stated and measured ODs of tubing are almost exact
most of the time, copper tubing generally has a measured OD that is 1/8 larger
than stated OD. As such, maybe it should be called copper pipe. However,
stainless steel, aluminum, and steel tubing all have measured and stated ODs
that are exact or very close.
Pipes are categorized as tubular vessels used in pipeline and piping systems,
and commonly transport gases or fluids. They are specified by Nominal Pipe
Size (NPS) and Schedule (wall thickness). NPS is a size standard established by
the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), and should NOT be confused
with the various thread standards such as NPT and NPSC.
The manufacturing of Nominal Pipe Sizes from 1/8 to 12 is based on
a standardized nominal outside diameter (OD) that is different from the
measured OD. NPS pipe 14 and up have measured ODs that correspond to the
nominal size.
The reason many people, including plumbers, engineers, and others, mistakenly
believe NPS refers to the ID on smaller pipes is because of how the standard
was originally defined. The standardized OD was originally defined so that a
pipe with a standardized OD and wall thickness typical of the period, would have
a pipe ID that was approximately equal to the nominal size of the pipe. For
example, 3 Schedule 40 NPS has an outside diameter and wall thickness that

very, very roughly gives it an inside diameter of 3. Regardless of the wall

thickness the nominal OD of a pipe will not change.
There you have the differences explained as simply as possible. Of course if
something isn't clear certainly let us know.

Difference between Pipes and Tubes

Pipes and tubes are not exactly the same

The purpose with a pipe is the transport of a fluid like water, oil or similar, and the most
import property is the capacity or the inside diameter.

For a ASME/ANSI B 36.10 Welded and Seamless Wrought Steel Pipe the inside
diameter - ID - of a NPS 2 inches pipe with

schedule 40 is 2.067"

schedule 80 is 1.939"

The inside diameters are close to 2" and the nominal diameter is related to the inside
diameter. Outside diameter are 2.375" for both schedules.
Since the outside diameter of a single nominal pipe size is kept constant the inside
diameter of a pipe depends on the "schedule" - or the thickness - of the pipe. The
schedule and actual thickness of a pipe varies with size of the pipe.
Example - the thickness of a 2" schedule 40 pipe is 0.154" and the thickness of a 6"
schedule 40 pipe is 0.280".
It is common to identify pipes in inches by using NPS or "Nominal Pipe Size". The metric
equivalent is called DN or "diametre nominel". The metric designations conform to
International Standards Organization (ISO) usage and apply to all plumbing, natural
gas, heating oil, and in addition to miscellaneous piping used in buildings. Note - the
use of NPS does not conform to American Standard pipe designations where the term
NPS means "National Pipe Thread Straight".
Nominal Bore (NB) may be specified under British standards classifications along with
schedule or wall thickness.
The tolerances are looser to pipes compared with tubes and pipes are often less
expensive to produce than tubes.
The nominal dimensions of tubes are based on the outside diameter. If we look
at Copper Tubes - ASTM B88 the outside diameter of a 2" pipe is 2.125", relatively close
to 2".

The inside diameter of a tube depends on the thickness of the tube. The thickness is
often specified as gauge. If we look at Copper Tubes - ASTM B88 the wall thickness of
0.083"of a 2" pipe is gauge 14.
Tolerances are commonly higher with tubes compared to pipes and tubes are often
more expensive to produce than pipes.
Pipes vs. Tubes Is There a Difference?
Posted on August 30th, 2013 by Marissa

To an outsider, pipes and tubes may seem like they should be synonymous. To a marine
engineer, the measurements, standards and language used to distinguish the two
couldnt be more different. In fact, differences in nomenclature and measurements
could cause quite the headache if tubes and pipes were mistakenly assumed to be
The 7 Main Differences Between Pipes and Tubes
Tubes can come in different shapes like square, rectangular and cylindrical. Pipe is
always cylindrical or round.
While rigid tubes are frequently used in structural applications, copper and brass
tubes can be rather flexible. Pipes are typically always rigid and resistant to bending.
When it comes to classification, pipes use schedule and nominal diameter. For
example, a pipe could have a 250mm nominal diameter and a schedule of 80. Tubes
are classified by their outside diameter measurement and thickness. A copper tube, for
instance, could be 10 mm with a 2 mm thickness.
Pipes accommodate larger applications with sizes that range from a half-inch to
several feet. Tubes are generally used in applications that require smaller diameters.
While 10-inch pipes are common, its rare that you will come across a 10-inch tube.
Tubes are often put to use in applications that require precise outside diameters, like
with cooler tubes, heat exchanger tubes and boiler tubes.
Pipes have a pressure rating and are schedule, which is why they are often used to
carry fluids that must be contained.
The thickness of tubes increases in standard increments such as 1 mm or 2 mm. Pipe
thickness depends on the schedule, so there is no fixed increment.
Joining pipes is more labor intensive as it requires welding, threading or flanges.
Tubes can be joined quickly and easily with flaring, brazing or couplings, but for this
reason, they dont offer the same stability.

Source: JD2
Browse our blog for more advice on choosing the right tubes, pipes or other parts.
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4 thoughts on Pipes vs. Tubes Is There a Difference?


womens church suitsMarch 5, 2015 at 3:50 am

Great information. Lucky me I ran across your blog by accident (stumbleupon).

I have saved as a favorite for later!


KIRAN CHAUHANFebruary 14, 2015 at 7:07 am

My question is what is the difference between pipe & tube?. Is there any dimension
standard for tubes like for CS pipe we refer dimension STD ASME B 36.10 & for SS pipes
For which application it is recommanded to use tubes & for which application it is
recommanded to use tubes?


Kishanlal SomaniSeptember 1, 2014 at 10:29 pm

I do not differentiate word pipe and tube ,its purpose is the same .If I ask for 2 pipe or
tube for my bore-well transportation of water I clearly mean a inside 2 hollow
irrespective of its wall thickness ,that may very as it is classified A B or C class
pipe.similarly 1 1/2 Tube or pipe like wise.All the definations described for pipes and
tubes creates confusion to me as it says tube is for inside dia and pipe means out side


Sharif Mahud BhuiyanFebruary 14, 2014 at 3:04 am

If i say a pipe tube has there any problem?

Leave a Reply
Difference Between Pipe and Tube
Oct 14, 2014
1. Pipe Diameter and Tube Diameter
Pipe diameter refers to a nominal diameter- not actual. Pipe Schedule refers to the
pipes wall thickness (you can find the schedule chart and specification). The actual
physical outside diameter is larger than its nominal OD. The diameter of tubing on the
other hand refers to the actual outside diameter. In other words, the actual physical OD
of a tube is just the same as its nominal OD. For example: The actual outside diameter
of 1¼ pipe is 1.625 while 1& frac 14 tube has a true 1.25 outside diameter.
Pipes accommodate larger applications with sizes that range from a half-inch to several
feet. Tubes are generally used in applications that require smaller diameters. While 10inch pipes are common, its rare that you will come across a 10-inch tube.
2. Wall Thickness Difference
The wall thickness of pipes and tubes is an important factor to tell difference. The
thickness of tubing is often specified by a gauge for thinner thicknesses and for thicker
tubing it is indicated by fractions of an inch or millimeters. The normal range for tubing
is 20 gauge, which measures .035 inch, up to a thickness of 2 inches. The wall
thickness of a pipe is referred to as a pipe schedule, which you can find the relevant
between pipe schedule and thickness in millimeter or inch in specification ASME
B36.10. The most common schedules are SCH 20,SCH 40 and SCH 80. Schedule 40 is
the most common and 80 is extra heavy. Which is needed to be noted, the pipe
schedule is not set for all diameters; it varies.
For example:
Diameter 8inch/219.1 pipe, pipe schedule is SCH 40 = wall thickness is
Diameter 12 inch /323.9 pipes, sch 40 refers wall thickness of 0.406inch/10.31mm.
There is no formula between the pipe schedule and wall thickness, the only is to refer
to the ASME B36.10 or relevant standards.
3. Pipes Tolerance & Tube Tolerance
Pipes are usually used for transporting or distributing, then the properties of pressure or
straightness, roundness are strictly specified, the tolerance for pipes is more loose than

tubes comparatively. Here the tolerance refers to diameter tolerance, wall thickness
tolerance, straightness tolerance, roundness tolerance etc.

4. Manufacturing Difference of pipes and tubes

As we mentioned above, tubes will require higher level requirements, consequently,
even from the material producing to the pipe or tube manufacturing process will be
different. Tubes will require much more process, tests, inspection than pipes. The
delivery time will be longer, too. The yield of tubes is comparatively much lower than
pipes. Pipe manufacturing is easier compare to tubes and its in mass production
5. Cost & Price
As per to the above, to manufacture tubes will take much more labor, energy, material
etc, so the production cost is surely higher than pipes. And just because the high level
requirement of tubes, the low yield of tubes will also increase the cost and price. While
the process of pipes is easier. And pipes are manufactured in large lot and cut the cost.
6. Use of Pipes and Tubes
Pipes are used for fluids and gases, such as water, oil, gas or propane or as steam pipe,
boiler pipe etc. Just because of this, the outside & inside diameter is the key
measurement it indicates how much can flow through the pipe. Also thats the
reason why the pressure rating is so important, because the pressure must be under
the transport or distribute pressure range. Tubes, however, are often put to use in
applications that require precise outside diameters, like with medical tubes, weapon
part, industrial parts, cooler tubes, heat exchanger tubes and boiler tubes. Tubes are
usually used in medical area, construction, structure or load bearing etc. This is why the
outside diameter is important because it indicates how much it can hold as a stability
7. Material
Piping is usually made of carbon steel or low alloy steel. While tubing is often made of
mild steel, aluminum, brass, copper, chrome or stainless steel etc. Different material
also leads to different cost and price.
8. Mechanical Properties and Chemical Properties
For pipes the pressure rating, yield strength, ductility properties are more important.
However, for tubes, the hardness, tensile strength, high precision is the key to high
quality. Those elements like C, Mn, S, P, Si are the main chemical elements for pipes,
and there is few microelements requirements. While for tubing, the microelements are
very important to the quality and process.
9 Connection /Join Welding
Connecting pipes is more labor intensive as it requires welding, threading or flanges
and relevant equipments. Tubes can be joined quickly and easily with flaring, brazing or

couplings, but for this reason, they dont offer the same stability. Pipe welding is safer
than tube join.
10. Ductility
Pipe is available in rigid joints, which come in various lengths depending on the
material. Tubing, in particular copper, comes in rigid hard tempered joints or soft
tempered (annealed) rolls. Some tubing also comes in rigid joints or flexible rolls. The
temper of the copper, that is whether it is a rigid joint or flexible roll, does not affect
the sizing.
11. Packing
Pipes to delivered are in bundle or just bulk delivery. Because we just need to protect
the pipes surface from serious damage and no need to protect from any light chafing.
While tubes are usually wrapped with wooden box or thin film for each tube, especially
for medical area tube.
12. Surface Finish
For outdoor field transporting or underground transporting, pipes need to be painted or
coating to anti corrosion or oxidation. Tubes are sour cleaning or special polish
treatment for particular field use.
13. Quantity
For long transport or distributing, piping is often used in mass quantity and for long
distance application. So, the order of pipes are usually large. While tubes may be used
in small quantity.
14. Pipe End and Tube End
Pipe ends are usually in plain or beveled so as to welding. while tubes are with coupling
ends or specially end finish, like irregular ends, special screw thread etc.
15. Application
Pipes accommodate larger applications with sizes that range from a half-inch to several
feet. Tubes are generally used in applications that require smaller diameters. While 10inch pipes are common, its rare that you will come across a 10-inch tube.