Copper Pipes: Types, Sizes and Applications

August 13, 2014 in Pipe by

Copper PipeCopper pipes are popular in plumbing, cooling and heating systems. Here’s some basic information about this reliable, long-lasting material.


There are two types of copper pipes: soft and hard.

Soft copper pipes are annealed to make them soft and flexible, and they can be bent so that they can travel around potential obstacles. Hard copper pipes are not annealed. They’re rigid, so fittings like elbows are needed to change the direction of the fluid flow.


In the U.S., copper pipes often fall into one of four categories, based on their wall thicknesses.

Type K has the thickest walls and is often used underground, beneath streets and sidewalks.

Type L is one step down in thickness, and is often used for water supply in both residential and commercial buildings.

Type M is thinner still and also used for water supply.

Type DMW is the thinnest and primarily used in unpressurized applications, like waste lines or drains.


Copper pipe offers a number of advantages, including:

  • Lightweight. Copper pipes don’t require the heavy thickness of some other pipes, which makes them easy to handle and transport.
  • Formable. Soft copper can be bent, eliminating the need for joints and allowing the tubing to efficiently follow the contours of walls and ceilings.
  • Safe. Copper pipes don’t burn, combust or decompose into toxic gases.
  • Longevity. Their resistance to corrosion, high mechanical strength and high temperature resistance give copper pipes a long lifespan.
  • Recyclable. Copper pipes can be used over and over without deterioration in content or properties.


Copper pipes are most commonly used for water supply and as refrigerant line in HVAC systems, but they also see use in medical gas systems, solar heating systems and other industries.

Copper-nickel pipe–an alloy of copper, nickel and other strengthening elements–has interesting properties that make it suited for an even wider range of applications. It’s very resistant to corrosion in seawater, so you’ll often find copper-nickel pipes in condensers and exchangers in seawater systems, marine hardware, and sometimes in boat propellers, hulls and crankshafts.

If you need a pipe that’s lightweight, formable and reliable, copper pipe might fit the bill. If you have any questions, please get in touch. We’d love to chat about the needs of your next project.

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