Difference Between Pipe and Tube

What is the Difference Between Pipe and Tube?

In the construction industry, contractors, builders, fabricators, welders, sign manufacturers, and machinists use pipe and tube every day. Even the general public or homeowner from time to time has to use these two products. Here is a list of the differences between pipe and tube:

Tube vs Pipe Definition

Tubes Definition

A hollow, usually cylindrical body of steel, stainless steel, or aluminum, used especially for conveying or containing liquids or gases.

Pipes Definition

A hollow cylinder of metal, or other material, used for the conveyance of water, gas, steam, petroleum, etc.

Uses for Tubes and Pipes

What is tubing used for?

The main use for tubing is for structural purposes. They are used in applications that call for precise outside diameters. They are defined by the outside diameter and wall thickness for construction stability. Tubes are always one whole piece from end to end. They can be flexible or orthogonal but continues in any case.

Tubes are used:

  • Gas line or hydraulic line
  • Water transferal
  • Protect fiber optics or wires and electrical cables
  • Liquid & gas transportation
  • Machine components
  • Vacuum tube in electrical circuits
  • Scaffolding

What are pipes used for?

Pipes are used mainly for the transportation of fluids and gases like water, oil, gas, propane, etc. The inside key measurement is the inside and outside diameter and pressure rating is important. Pipe Bollards use pipes because they require rigidity, resistance, and strength to cope with impact pressure. Pipes are the item that you lay in your house. In order to connect them, you weld (or screw) a flange to the end. They always go in straight lines. Pipes are used for:

  • Plumbing systems
  • Liquid & gas transportation
  • Compressed air systems
  • Fluid delivery systems
  • High-pressure storage units
  • Parking Bollards

Shape, Size, and Structure of Pipe and Tubes

Tubes Size, Shape, & Structure

Tubing can be rectangular, square, or round. They are usually seam welded. Tubes are generally used in applications that require smaller diameters.

Pipes Size, Shape, & Structure

Pipes are always round in shape. It cannot be shaped easily without the use of special equipment. Pipes are usually seamless and pressure rated to avoid leakages as they usually carry liquids or gases. Pipes are typically available in larger sizes than tubes. Pipes accommodate larger applications with sizes that range from a half-inch to several feet.


Tubes Diameter

Tubing is usually measured by the outside diameter dimension – or OD with a set range of wall thickness. The wall thickness is vital as the tube’s strength is dependent on it. One might think that a 3.0 inch OD tube would measure 3.0 inches and a 7.5 inch OD tube would measure 7.5 inches. However, machines today cannot hold dimensions precisely to the nominal value, and because of that, there must be acceptable degrees of variations. In other words, every dimension on a blueprint is subject to variations from the nominal value.

Pipes Diameter

Pipes are only provided with an inside diameter and a “schedule” which means wall thickness. There’s an easy way to remember this – since pipe is used to transfer fluids or gas, the size of the opening through which the fluids or gas can pass through is probably more important to you than the outer dimensions of the pipe. The tolerance for pipes is looser than tubes. Pipes are usually used for transporting or distributing, therefore the properties of pressure, straightness, or roundness are strictly specified.

Wall Thickness

Tubes Thickness

The thickness of tubing is often specified by a gauge for thinner thickness and for thicker tubing. It is indicated by fractions of an inch or millimeter. The normal range of tubing is 20 gauge, which is 0.035 inches up to a thickness of 2 inches.

Pipes Thickness

Wall thickness (mm, inch, or gauges). Gauge measures (BWG or SWG) are used for thinner wall thicknesses, whereas larger measures are expressed with fractional or inch indexes. The wall thickness of a pipe is referred to as a pipe schedule thickness. The most common pipe schedules are SCH20, SCH40, and SCH80.

Manufacturing Process


Tubing requires a higher level of processes, tests, and inspections. As a result, the delivery period is longer too. The yield of tubes is comparatively much lower than the pipes.


The manufacturing process of a pipe is easier in comparison to tubes and more often undergoes mass production.


Tubes Material

Tubing is made of mild steel, aluminum, brass, copper, chrome, stainless steel, etc. Tube is available in hot rolled steel and cold rolled steel. The difference in materials is also a reason for the difference in the cost and applications.

Pipes Material

Pipes are usually made of carbon steel or low alloy steel. Pipe is typically black steel (hot rolled). Both pipe and tube can be galvanized.

Some widely used steel pipe standards or piping classes are:

  • The API range – now ISO 3183. E.g.: API 5L Grade B – now ISO L245 where the number indicates yield strength in MPa
  • ASME SA106 Grade B (Seamless carbon steel pipe for high temperature service)
  • ASTM A312 (Seamless and welded austenitic stainless steel pipe)
  • ASTM A36 (Carbon steel pipe for structural or low-pressure use)
  • ASTM A795 (Steel pipe specifically for fire sprinkler systems)


Tubes Cost

The manufacturing of tubing takes much more labor, energy, and material. In the case of the same material, the production cost of tubes is usually higher than pipes.

Pipes Cost

The manufacturing process of pipes is easier and they are manufactured in large lots. This is why pipes can be less than tubes.

Mechanical and Chemical Properties


The key to high quality tubing is the hardness, tensile strength, and high precision.


The yield strength, pressure rating, and ductility properties are more important for pipes. Carbon, Sulphur, Phosphorus, Manganese, and Silicon are the main chemical elements for pipes.



Although brass and copper tubing can be shaped relatively easily, tubing is typically rigid.


Pipes are invariably rigid and cannot be shaped without special equipment.

Surface Finishing


Tubing often goes through sour cleaning or special polish treatment for their particular field uses.


Pipes need to be painted or coated to anti-corrosion or oxidation for outdoor field transporting or underground transporting.



Tubing can be joined quickly and effortlessly with flaring, coupling, or brazing. Tubing assemblies can also take place through tube fittings where high standards of construction are needed.


Connecting one pipe to another is much more of a labor intensive process as it requires welding, flanges, or threading. Pipe welding is safer than tube joining.

Special End Finishes


Tubing generally comes with coupling ends or special end finishes like irregular ends, special screw threads, etc.


Pipe ends are usually in a plain, beveled, or threaded and coupling form.

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