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Help me plumb my shop for compressed air

GregoryPaolini's picture

Hi Y'all!

Plumbin my shop for my 80 gallon compressor is a task I've been putting off for a while - I've finally reached the point where I just can't stand dragging air hoses around the shop anymore, and it's time to plumb in some hard lines to connect local air hoses to.

So here's the delema:  I'm not sure how I want to plumb it.

I've had compressed air in my past shops, and I've used copper, pvc, iron pipe, etc, to run the hard lines.  But I really want to know what works best for you, in your shop, and why?

What ever it is, I'd like to know - Give me the pros and cons - What you like, and what you'd do differently.

I'd really appreciate your input!



Gregory Paolini

Private & Small Group Woodworking Classes in the Great Smokey Mountains

BruceS's picture

Air lines (post #153402, reply #1 of 13)

Check out this info on the use of PVC,  and I would be even more leary of ABS.

My vote still goes for Copper which doesn't rust like black pipe will,  especially if you get into spraying. And it's not that expensive. Here is another option that I have installed and used.  It is very quick and easy to install but needs clamps about every stud to keep it straight.

But still like copper better.

Work Safe,  Count to 10 when your done for the day !!

Bruce S. 


WillGeorge's picture

I would use Copper piping.. (post #153402, reply #2 of 13)

I would use Copper piping.. Not sure how soldered fittngs fit into the psi ratings for copper pipe...


As inside the PDF..

Compressed Air—Use copper

tube of Types K, L or M determined by

the rated internal working pressures as

shown in Table 3. Brazed joints are


Have a great day.. Life is wonderful even if you are having a bad day!

ring's picture

iron (post #153402, reply #3 of 13)

Greg, I've had several shops and always ran 1/2" galvanized iron piping as the compressed air network.  It just seemed the easiest because there are threaded fittings for everything, but if copper works out cheaper I wouldn't hesitate to do either.

mr_kramer's picture

I would agree that PVC is (post #153402, reply #4 of 13)

I would agree that PVC is probably not the best option. Even though I have never seen a problem with it I can only imagine what would happen if you were to pull the down tube off the wall trying to stretch the hose. If you must use PVC, I would at least suggest using 12" inch long nipples as down tubes on the end of my plastic runs and screw my air fittings into the galvanized.

Copper is my choice if you know how to sweat it together. Easy to cut and easy to fit, will not burst and will hold up to any condensation as well as iron pipe. What is nice about copper is that you can buy female threaded fittings with mounting ears and from there you can attach you air fittings.

Pippins's picture

Gregory, check out the FWW (post #153402, reply #5 of 13)

Gregory, check out the FWW magazine article. I think it was published in 2008 or 2009.

Steve Pippins

DonStephan's picture

You're likely already well (post #153402, reply #6 of 13)

You're likely already well aware, but just for completeness I've often seen suggestion to have drain at bottom of each vertical section to trap condensation.  Won't affect either PVC or copper, but might keep out of spray gun, nail gun, and so on.

Badlands's picture

Air Line Materials (post #153402, reply #7 of 13)


Although this reply may be a bit late, I thought I would give you my 2 cents. Do not use pvc piping in any type of compressed air applications. Just think of it this way, many small pieces of plastic shards flying through the air at very high velocities, penetrating anything in it's path. When pvc burst it is like glass and splinters into many pieces. If you read the pressure rating on standard schedule 40 pvc (white stuff) it says 100 psi at 73 degrees. There is always the potential to meet and or exceed that rating. Yes metal piping can burst, but at the pressures we are talking about, shrapnel is not an issue.

I am a licensed Master Plumbing and have worked for a major univeristy for over 30 years. I have installed 1000's of feet and seen even more footage of air lines,  I have never installed or seen pvc installed as compressed air lines. Even if you are using pvc piping for an appropriate system, the first thing you need to learn / remember, NEVER USE AIR PRESSURE TO TEST PVC PIPING!!!!  In days gone by, black iron or galvanized was the main choice and although still used here & there, because of a lesser cost factor, it can become a maintenance problem due to moisture build up and eventually rust & debris particals. The first time you use a blow gun and a rust colored stream of water comes spitting out the end of the gun, doesn't make for a good day. Moisture control is a big item and there are many ways to eliminate or lessen it with dryers and installation practices. Moisture can be a problem in any piping materials, just some results are less than others. With steel / galv piping, unless you have all the right tools to install it, it can be expensive and time consuming.

Copper is the way to go. Although the material is more money, in comparison to most other materials, the time to install is less and it is much more forgiving to install. Torch, cutter, & cleaning brushes, solder and flux is about all the extra tools you will need. Today with some of the new fangled fittings, you don't even need to solder it.  It's all a matter of cost and preference.

Hope this at least made you think about your choices a little bit more.


Jim Naylor

GregoryPaolini's picture

I just wanted to say thanks (post #153402, reply #8 of 13)

I just wanted to say thanks to everyone out there for giving me ideas, and cautions - It looks like I'm going to move ahead with the copper idea - It should be pretty painless, and I've gotten pretty good at sweating joints. 

The only other idea I was tossing around was that of using PEX - Seems that the bursting pressure of PEX is substantially (10X) higher than that of PVC, and apparently when it does burst, it has a localized rupture, rather than a catastrophic blow out lik PVC.  Plus it would be incredibly easy to plumb and route. And seeing as I'll be doing a little work with PEX in the home for a minor plumbing issue, I'll have all the tools close at hand.

I'm still leaning twords copper, but just wanted to throw another idea out there.  Any thoughts?

Gregory Paolini

Private & Small Group Woodworking Classes in the Great Smokey Mountains

Pippins's picture

Plastic pipe (PEX) for compressed air (post #153402, reply #9 of 13)

Gregory, I do not have direct experience. But a friend of mine recently installed a system using plastic tubing. Check out Garage Pak or similar products. The benefit is that the system of pipe and fittings was easy to install, allows flexible layouts, and can be changed without cutting and sweating pipe. The down side is the expense.

If you need something installed quickly and can afford the expense, it is worth considering. 

Steve Pippins    

MLZettl's picture

Greg, A couple of years (post #153402, reply #10 of 13)


A couple of years ago I had the same dilemma after purchasing a new, larger compressor. A friend of mine installed a RapidAir piping system and it seemed to work very well for him, so I did the same. It is inexpensive, easy to install, and easy to change or add on to in the future. It is a flexible plastic pipe with specialized fttings for T's, junctions, valves, etc. I have had no problems with it at all. It is available at Air Compressors Direct online among other vendors.

It is certainly not as elegant as copper, but for my purposes in a one man shop, is quite sufficient. If I were doing a large commercial installation, I would most likely go with a different system.

I have no affiliation with either the manufacturere or the supplier.


Hope this helps.



ALLANJ.'s picture

Plumbing Shop for Compressed Air (post #153402, reply #11 of 13)


I may be too late in passing this on but I am taking a chance that you may not have plumbed the shop yet. I am an upholsterer/hobby woodworker and I plumbed my shop 23 years ago using copper running on the ceilings with a moisture collector at the compressor. I use pneuamatic tools most of the day without any problems.

Wherever I wanted to have a line run I branched off the main feed and then installed barn door tracking to the ceiling and used threaded copper fittings at the end of the track. On the slider that would normally hold the door, I used copper filltings to end up with a 90 degree elbow with a quick connect pointing to the floor to eliminate any strain on the hose. I attached a length of coiled hose between the fixed end and travel end of the track. I then attached my rubber hose to the travel end quick connect as well as a piece of medium gauge wire (seat edge wire for furniture) that acts as a holder for the hose when not in use and also makes it easier to slide the door track to have the hose where I want to use it. When it's hanging on the wire I can move about my shop without having to duck etc. and if I want the height or won't be using the air system  for a while I just roll it out of the way.

If I was to ever sell and set up another shop I would plumb it the same way. Hope this suggestion helps.

Allan Jessome



GregoryPaolini's picture

These are more great ideas!  (post #153402, reply #12 of 13)

These are more great ideas!  I may use a few of each!



I just wanted to say thanks again, and let everyone know how much I appreciate their advice, input, and suggestions!!




Gregory Paolini

Private & Small Group Woodworking Classes in the Great Smokey Mountains

ETF1934's picture

Air Lines (post #153402, reply #13 of 13)

I agree with all the guys, copper is your best bet, gavanized pipe may be cheaper but more time consuming to use. To eliminate or reduce the water problem, turn the tee's up with a two elbows and two short pieces of copper pipe then a longer one down to the desired height in your shop (so they form an upside down letter "J").  Also arange the lines so that the fartherest point from your compresor is lower, then put a drain at that point. The tees pointing up will not allow water to go down the pipes and into your air hose, the downward angle to the drain will insure that any water will properly drain out of the system.  If you have not soldered copper tubing, its not hard, pipes and fittings must be clean, flux must be used. Practice a little. I was quoted $1200.00 five years ago to add 12 fire sprinklers in my home shop ( I was required to install fire sprinklers in my new home). BUT I taught a young boy how to solder, he installed all 12 sprinklers and my air lines in about 16 hours at $10.00 per hour, with no leaks.