How to choose the correct type of copper pipe

Copper piping is extensively used in both domestic and industrial installations. Prized for its durability and resistance to corrosion, it now comes in many forms. Here we examine the types and their typical usage.

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Sizes, thicknesses, and uses.

While most of us have seen copper pipes in various sizes, what we may not understand is that the walls of the pipe come in various thicknesses too. A full technical guide is available here: Clearly, thicker walls mean extra durability, but with that comes the increasing cost of a material that is already quite expensive, so it is important to use the right one in the right place.

The thickest of all the regular copper pipes is Type K which, depending on diameter, can have a wall thickness from just under half an inch to almost three-quarters of an inch. Type K will be mainly found in underground mains water supplies where high durability and the ability to resist freezing is critical. Next is Type L, with not quite as thick walls as Type K. Typically, Type L will have a thickness of about half an inch on a three-quarter inch diameter pipe. Type L has many uses, but it’s commonly found in internal water pipe systems.

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Type M has thinner walls which, while making it less durable than the others, gives it the advantages of ease of use and cost savings. Type M will be typically used in the internal domestic water supply. Finally, there is DWV copper piping, which stands for drain, waste, and vent, which can be mainly found in older homes. This has largely been replaced by PVC pipes. Sites such as copper pipe fittings stock a full range of copper pipes and copper pipe fittings.

Fitting types.

The main methods of joining copper pipes are soldering, compression joint, push-fit, and slip-joint. Most of these methods require special skills and tools and should be only undertaken by professionals, the only exception being the push-fit connectors, which a competent DIYer should be able to handle.

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