Reviewing the 4 Different Copper Pipe Types

Reviewing the 4 Different Copper Pipe Types

Copper pipes are just one type of pipe that has continued to be the reliable option for many applications, including in residential and commercial plumbing, HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), and natural gas distributions.

While the first usage of copper pipe plumbing dates back to ancient Egypt, copper pipes have been the primary method of water distribution in the US since the 1960s. 

Copper pipes have grown in popularity due to their durability (in its ideal conditions, copper pipes can last for over 50 years). However, you can still see failure in your copper tubes within 5 to 10 years of its installation.

Of course, the lifespan of your pipes depends on various factors, such as where it’s located, the environmental conditions, the material flowing through it, and the thickness of the pipes.

While copper pipes are more resistant to corrosion compared to other metal pipes, copper pipes can still corrode. Corrosion in copper pipes often happens because of several factors: 

  • Water chemistry
  • High flow rate
  • Improper electrical grounding
  • Improper installation

The Different Types of Copper Pipes

Based on its thickness, there are four types of copper pipes, each with its own use case. If you’re not a veteran plumber and can’t differentiate a copper pipe based on its thickness, the text printed on the pipe is also color-coded. 

From thickest to thinnest, copper pipes are classified as follows: 

  • Type K (green)
  • Type L (blue)
  • Type M (red)
  • DMW copper pipes (yellow)

The thickness of the copper pipe also determines its price, pressure rating, and durability, among other things.

Type K, L, and M are most commonly used to distribute water, while the DWV copper pipe is mostly used for waste management.

 

Type K

Type K copper pipe.

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Type K copper pipes have the thickest wall out of the four. Since it also contains the most amount of copper, it’s also the heaviest and the most expensive. However, these features make Type K copper pipes extremely durable.

Unfortunately, its high price often turns away many homeowners. Instead, Type K copper pipes are often used for commercial buildings, city water mains, or industrial use cases. Type K copper pipes come in both hard pipe and flexible rolls.

The thickness of a Type K tube depends on its size. A ¾ inch tube has a thickness of 0.065 inches, while a ½ inch pipe has 0.049-inch thick walls.

 

Type L

Type L copper pipe.

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Type L and Type M copper pipes are more popular among homeowners and small commercial buildings. Type L pipes are cheaper than Type K copper pipes, but still have high durability that makes them last longer under optimal conditions.

Even if they’re lighter than type K copper pipes, Type L pipe is still suitable for underground use. 

Type L copper pipes come in hard pipes or flexible rolls. Hard Type L pipes are commonly used indoors to supply potable water, carry hot water, and supply water to sprinkler systems. 

On the other hand, soft Type L copper tubing is used for underground and outdoor use since they’re easier to work with and don’t need fittings (which increase the chance of a leak).

Type L copper pipes are also the go-to choice when there are concerns about the water supply wearing the pipe down (if the pressure on the water supply is too high). Because these can withstand high water pressure, these are the good middle-ground for most residential properties.

 

Type M

Type M copper pipe.

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Among these three main types of copper pipes used to distribute water, Type M pipes have the thinnest pipe walls.

This may sound like a disadvantage, but this actually makes Type M the best choice for many homeowners for a few reasons. Since it uses less copper than the other two, it’s much cheaper, lighter, and easier to install in comparison.

However, since it’s not as durable, you may need to keep an eye on many factors if you use Type M copper pipes on your plumbing system. Some examples of things you need to monitor are:

  • The water pressure going through your pipes 
  • The chemical composition of the water. 
  • The weather and landscape conditions. (Type M pipes aren’t very suitable for outdoor or underground use like Type L.)

If you want to install type M copper piping in your building, make sure to check your local building codes beforehand to see if it’s allowed. Additionally, check the water pressure running through your pipes. 

 

Copper DWV Pipes

Copper DWV (Drain, Waste, and Vent) pipes are pipes that are used to remove waterborne waste from your property. 

Unlike water supply lines, which need to use pressure to deliver water, DWV pipes use gravity to operate. This application is perfect for copper DWV pipes, as its walls can’t stand a high-pressure flow, even in the thickest DWV pipes.

It’s more likely that you’ll encounter DWV pipes in older homes, as most others will already have been replaced by PEX pipes or PVC pipes. DWV pipes are bigger than pipes used in most water supply systems (a 2-inch DWV pipe has a wall thickness of 0.042 inches).

 

*Disclaimer: ePIPE does not currently work on drain pipes. Please reach out to us if you need a referral or further assistance regarding copper DMW or your drain pipes.

 

Restore Your Copper Pipes with ePIPE

Copper pipes are used across various industries, such as in fire protection systems, air conditioning and refrigeration (ACR), and, most often, plumbing. 

Copper pipes are still a popular choice to deliver potable water to residential and commercial buildings alike. 

Despite its widespread reputation as a durable material, you can see failure from your copper pipes as soon as 5 years.

To prevent major leaks, make sure that you regularly inspect your copper pipes and take preventive measures, such as using ePIPE to coat your copper pipes. Our patented epoxy coating acts as a protective barrier that protects your copper pipes against leaks and corrosion. The patented ePIPE barrier coating also helps reduce lead, copper, and other contaminants from leaching into your drinking water. Our epoxy method is quick, simple, and hassle-free. You won’t be displaced from your home or have to deal with expensive remediation costs. 

Contact us today to find out how we can help you ensure your plumbing system is in the best shape!