What are Pipe Schedules?

For people new to working with pipe, referring to their “schedule” may be unfamiliar. Imagine you have two pipes in front of you: one labeled schedule 40, while the other is schedule 80. Both are manufactured of the same type of metal, with the same grade, and the same 3-inch diameter. So, what is it that makes these two pipes different, other than their schedule numbers?

First, it helps to understand the functional challenges faced by pipe. Pipe is designed to move along liquid or gas under pressure – pressure which can be internal, external, or both. To sustain fluid pressure, pipe must be strong enough to withstand a great deal of stress. This means the product dimensions of pipes aren’t simply measured by length and diameter, but its wall strength as well. A high-pressure fluid will require thicker pipe walls than pipes used for low-pressure applications like drainage.

Pipe Schedules
The wall thickness that determines a pipe’s strength is known as its schedule. Pipe schedules are a standard to identify wall thickness for the same size of pipe. The outer diameter of a particular pipe size will stay constant while the inner diameter varies according to the schedule type. Using the example of the 3-inch pipes, you can see the difference once you measure their inner diameter. The outer diameter for both pipes will remain approximately 3.5 inches, but their other qualities differ:

3” Schedule 40 pipe
• Wall thickness of 0.216 inches
• Inner diameter of 3.05 inches
• Weight per foot is 7.58 pounds

3” Schedule 80 pipe
• Wall thickness of 0.300 inches
• Inner diameter of 2.90 inches
• Weight per foot is 10.25 pounds

As you can tell, the schedule 80 pipe is significantly heavier due to its thicker walls. Those thicker walls mean schedule 80 pipe is better able to handle high pressure, which might cause greater wear or damage to schedule 40 pipe. Clearly, pipe schedules are quite important to ensure a project’s success and the best use of your funds. For home plumbing projects, schedule 40 pipe is sufficient, with no need to spend extra for schedule 80 pipe. For industrial uses, on the other hand, investing more money up-front for schedule 80 pipe may help prevent damage and costly repair work in the future.