Stainless Steel vs Copper

Stainless Steel vs Copper – The Pros and Cons

The question of whether you should use stainless steel in plumbing or copper piping will ultimately depend on your budget, your area and the aesthetics of the building.

While it’s naturally sensible to do further homework on this, is there really a significant difference of one over the other? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of both products.

Pros of Stainless Steel and Copper:

Being one of the most durable metals available, installing stainless steel in plumbing fittings means you can do it just once and forget about it. This cost-effective investment for homeowners is more resistant to rust and corrosion than carbon steel which needs to be galvanised. For those who live in coastal environments where additional corrosion protection might be needed, the duplex stainless steel (3.0-3.5% Mo) can be used to achieve the required hygiene, cost and service life.

With its high corrosion resistance and easy welding, water leaks are drastically reduced when using stainless steel.

The strength of the stainless steel and the corrosion resistance allows a reduction in section diameter, wall thickness and weight, which make stainless steel quick and easy to install.

Stainless steel is not affected by extreme temperatures which adds to its durability. Should water freeze in steel piping, no damage would result. No heat is required to form a joint or groove which reduces fire hazards when working with the metal and means that no hot work permits are necessary.

Stainless steel is 100% recyclable so a part of the initial cost of piping could be recoverable if any piping is recycled at the end of its life.

Copper piping offers excellent resistance to bacteria and rot which will assure you of a safe and clean water supply.  It also has a remarkable resistance to withstand fire which means that no toxic gases will be released since copper fittings don’t burn.

Copper piping is easier to work with being a softer and more malleable metal. You can achieve various lengths, widths and contours as it can be bent to shape, which negates the need for additional fixtures and fasteners. This can cut down on both hardware and installation costs.

Even when left visible to the eye, as they do not require painting, both stainless steel and copper piping installations are aesthetically pleasing and blend well with architecture and interior design.

Cons of Stainless Steel and Copper:

The initial outlay costs of stainless steel can be substantially higher than for competing materials such as copper and plastic especially in the smaller diameter pipes and fittings – 15mm to 22mm.  However, the economic benefits of using stainless steel in plumbing do increase over time.

Stainless steel can be more difficult to work with for plumbing purposes which can increase installation costs. However, the press-fitting method for joining stainless steel in plumbing pipework does take less time and manpower for larger installations and can, in fact, reduce installation costs.

In some cases, copper plumbing fittings can be more costly than stainless steel fittings, which can place them beyond reach, especially if your budget is restricted.

Copper piping does not fair well with extremely cold temperatures. Water freezing in a pipe can cause the copper piping to leak and split and will result in repair costs. Copper Piping is also not conducive to water that contains high levels of acid as this will cause corrosion in the pipes.

Over long periods of time corrosion of copper piping can start to form localised pitting or pinholes in the wall of the piping that requires repair, although this seems to be more prevalent in ‘soft water’ regions.

Steelmor is the leading supplier and manufacturer of stainless steel in South Africa and is dedicated to supplying cost effective quality products on time. Give us a call today for expert advice and top end products.