Differences Between Steel Pipe & Black Iron Pipe

The average homeowner is unaware of how much piping leads into and out of their home. There are the ever-present pipes underneath the sink or ones leading to the hot water heater. However, an in-depth look behind the walls and underneath the ground reveals that there are enough pipes to wrap around the house several times. There are HPVC, PVC, black iron and steel pipes leading everywhere.

Steel Pipe

A steel pipe is made from steel and is used in things such as fences, oil lines, water treatment facilities and bridges. It is very durable and long lasting. Inside the home, it is usually the pipe system that connects the lines from the local water supply or septic tank to the house. Houses near bodies of water will use steel because it corrodes less easily.

Black Iron Pipe

Most homes built before the 1960s have black iron pipe for things such as water and gas lines. It is a form of steel pipe, but made from more malleable products. Most modern homes use PVC pipe, which is cheaper and easier to work with. However, some re-modelers are going back to to black iron pipes because it is very durable for gas. It is rarely, if ever, used anymore to transport water into a home because it corrodes easily.

Working Differences

Construction is the main difference between the two products. Black iron pipes will have seams that allow the user to connect them easily to other pieces of pipe using connector valves. Steel pipe is more often used in industrial applications and it needs to be welded. Even experienced craftsmen have trouble working with both kinds of metal, so do-it-yourselfers shouldn't get discouraged if they make some early mistakes.

Texture

Steel pipe will have a very fine feel to it and almost be cool to the touch. It won't scratch as easily as black iron pipe, but that doesn't meant it can't be damaged by a wrench or hammer while working around it. Black iron pipe is course and grainy and will feel the same at room temperature. Black iron pipe will also flake if it is handled a lot. However, both can be heated very easily and will burn the user's hand.

Repairing

The main problem with black iron pipe--especially in the home--is leakage at connector spots. It requires a lot of work to fix these leaks, which is why many people no longer use black iron pipes. Steel pipes do not have that problem because it is most often welded. However, it is more expensive than black iron pipes or PVC.

Expenses

Steel pipe will usually cost about 20 percent more than black iron pipe, but it does a better job of saving resources in the long run by being more energy efficient. Its durability and cost are part of the reasons that use of steel pipes for large industrial jobs has grown in the United States. However, black iron pipe is more widely available than steel, which also makes it more convenient.