How to Measure the Diameter of Galvanized Pipe

When you buy or order galvanized pipe, you must specify the pipe you need by its nominal size. Nominal size is closely related to the inside diameter of the pipe but is not precisely the size it actually measures. To find the nominal size, you can measure the inside diameter of your pipe directly, or you can estimate the inside diameter by measuring the pipe's outside diameter. When measuring from the outside, keep in mind that galvanized pipe comes in three weights with different wall thicknesses.

Climate control mounted under ceiling
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Large galvanized pipes attached to ceiling of room

Step 1

Measure the pipe's inside diameter. If you have access to a cut end of the pipe, place a ruler or tape measure across the end and measure the distance between the pipe's inner walls.

Step 2

Round down the actual inside diameter to the next smaller nominal size. This is necessary for pipe with an inside diameter of two inches or less. Typical nominal sizes in inches are 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, 3/4, 1, 1 1/4, 1 1/2, 2 and 2 1/2. For the smaller pipe, there may be a significant difference between your measurement and the nominal size. For example, a 3/8 nominal pipe measures almost half an inch.

Step 3

For larger pipe, you may have to round up. For example, a 2 1/2-inch nominal pipe has an inside diameter of slightly less than 2 1/2 inches.

Step 4

Measure the outside diameter of the pipe to estimate the inside diameter. This is necessary if you don't have access to a cut end and cannot measure the inside diameter directly. Find the circumference by wrapping a piece of paper around the pipe, marking where it overlaps, then removing the paper and measuring it's length. Divide the circumference measurement by 3.14 (or pi) to find the outside diameter.

Step 5

Estimate the inside diameter by subtracting 1/4-inch from the outside diameter, if your pipe is standard Schedule 40 galvanized pipe. If you suspect your pipe is Schedule 80 extra strong pipe, subtract 3/8 inch. Schedule 120 double extra strong pipe is significantly heavier and if you suspect you have it, subtract 11/32 inch.

Step 6

Use the estimated inside diameter to estimate the nominal pipe size, as in Step 2.