You go to a hardware store to buy a pipe and grab the nearest hollow cylinder you can find. You pay for your purchase and you are surprised because the price you were told is not what you normally pay for a steel pipe. The cashier explains to you that what you are buying is not a steel pipe, but rather a steel tube and that the latter is more expensive.
Did you get the right item? The answer would really depend on what you would need it for. Knowing the differences between tubes and pipes will guide you on whether to buy steel tubing or piping from providers like Wasatch Steel.
Pipes vs. Tubes
- Use or Application – Pipes are normally used for the transport of gases or liquids from one point to another. The cylinder used in your kitchen sink’s faucet, for example, is a pipe. Tubes, on the other hand, are typically used for structural purposes like steel gates and fences.
- Shape – Pipes are always round, while tubes can be found in round, rectangular and square shapes. The moment, therefore you see a long, non-round shaped steel hollow cylinder, you can be sure that it is a tube.
- Strength – Because of the structural purpose they fulfill, tubes are stronger than their pipe counterparts.
- Available Sizes – Again because they are used for structural purposes, there is a lower limit to tube sizes when compared to pipes. Bigger sizes beyond this limit will burden their structural integrity.
- Inside vs. Outside Diameter – Because pipes are used to transport liquids and gases, the inside diameter is more important than the outside diameter, although with the appropriate wall thickness. Pipes, on the other hand, put a premium on the precise outside diameter and required minimum wall thickness.
Steel tubes and pipes cater to specific needs. Make sure you know the differences between these two hollow cylinders so you can choose the right item for what you need it for. A good rule of thumb to follow is that plumbing works always use steel pipes, while security fences and gates and similar structures always use steel tubing.