Differentiating Metal Pipe & Metal Tubing

Time to Read: 2 m 54s

To many, steel and aluminum metal pipe and tube products may seem relatively similar; in many ways, they are. However, significant differences separate the two, including unique applications, features, and benefits. If you’re unsure if a metal pipe or tube is right for your project, several differentiating factors will help with the decision-making process.

What is Metal Pipe?

Round tubular metal pipe is primarily designed to transport fluids and gases. It is designated by a nominal pipe size (NPS or DN) representing a rough indication of the pipe conveyance capacity (flow-carrying capacity). Metal pipe can also be described as having a hollow section with round cross sections. Metal pipe is often measured in outer diameter (OD) and wall thickness (WT). Metal pipe is often used to transfer the following products:
  • Fluids
  • Gas
  • Powders
  • Pellets

What is Metal Tube?

Metal tube often refers to round, square, oval, and rectangular sections used for providing structural support, where the measurement of its outside diameter is important in how it is used. Metal tubes can often have more specific sizes and tolerances than pipes and can be manufactured into custom sizes. The outside diameter (OD) and wall thickness define the tube. 

What are the Differences Between Metal Tube & Pipe?

With the naked eye, there are seemingly few differences between metal pipe and tube products. However, the differences are unmistakable to those working within industries that regularly use metal pipe and tube.
The main difference between metal pipe and tube is the way the diameter of the pipe or tube is designated. Pipe is typically defined by a ‘Nominal Pipe Size’ (NPS) based upon the ID (inside diameter) of the most common wall thickness. At the same time, the tube is designated by the measured OD (outside diameter). Tubes are typically cut flat on the ends, while pipes usually have a slight bevel on the stops to make them easier to mount fittings.

How are Pipes & Tubes Classified?

Tubular metal products are generally classified as either pipe or tube. However, these two classifications are often divided into subclassifications. Examples of subclassifications of both metal pipe and tube include the following:

Metal Pipe Subclassifications

  • Standard pipe
  • Line pipe
  • Water well pipe
  • Pressure pipe

Metal Tube Subclassifications

  • Pressure tube
  • Structural tube
  • Mechanical tube

Metal Pipe & Tube Material & Shape Options

Metal pipe and tube products are stocked in several material and shape options to meet a range of specifications. Metal tubing and pipe material and shape options include:



  • Round
  • Square
  • Oval
  • Rectangle

What is Metal Pipe & Tubing Used For?

Metal pipe and tubing products are regularly used for a wide range of applications, including:
  • Construction
  • Oil & Gas projects
  • Shipbuilding
  • Textiles
  • Water treatment
  • Food & beverage processing
  • Chemical transports

The IMS Difference

What separates IMS from other steel suppliers? With an abundance of metal options and customer service that is second to none, IMS has you covered with the following metal stock advantages:
  • Next-day delivery of processed material via our trucks
  • Same-day pick-up in Will-Call
  • No minimum purchase
  • Unprecedented customer service
  • Support of Just-in-Time manufacturing processes
  • Salespeople that act as an extension of your purchasing department (we will get any metal products you need)
  • Material management (stocking and delivery on a scheduled basis)
  • Credit lines with good terms
  • Seven stores are open six days a week (check each location for specific times)
  • Shop by metal alloy

IMS – Your Preferred Destination for Premium Metal Pipe and Tubing Products

Looking for high-quality steel, aluminum, and galvanized tube and pipe products? IMS is your trusted metal pipe and tubing supplier. We stock products in the sizes and styles you need. IMS also provides metal cutting services to make purchasing easy and convenient. Stop by one of our California or Arizona locations or request a quote today.
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