Color Coding and Marking Water Pipes Now will Save Time and Money Later

A Graphic Products, Inc. thermal transfer printer and DuraLabel pipe marking kit help document where the water is flowing.

If you manage a New York apartment building, you’ve got to know where that water is flowing—for putting out fires and for upgrades, maintenance and inspections. With pre-war buildings and ancient water pipes, repairs are costly and inconvenient to dwellers dealing with essential service interruptions during major water pipe repairs.

These pipe markers are used to indicate the directional flow of liquids and gases in commercial and residential buildings. Photo courtesy of Graphic Products, Inc.

Although water pipes and shut-off valve locations may be identifiable when schematic drawings are available, usually this documentation doesn’t exist, especially with older properties.

It’s important to track down small leaks as they occur when maintaining water supply and drain lines in pre-war buildings. It makes good sense to be pro-active before inevitable problems occur. The process is simply called “pipe marking” and the investment of time required in labeling the pipes now will save time and money in the future.

In cases where there are no drawings, applying color coding labels simplifies and speeds water pipe and shut-off valve identification. The ANSI/ASME code provides a standard set of colors for this purpose. In 2007, the ANSI/ASME A13.1 color standard was updated and is now recommended for identifying all pipes carrying water and other substances.

The current version of the ANSI/ASME code uses a pipe labeling standard color code chart with six standard color combinations, and four user-defined combinations. The colors are based on the contents of the pipe. In general, the most hazardous feature of the contents should determine the colors used. So for fire-quenching liquids, the color scheme is white text on red. For potable, cooling, boiler feed and other water the color scheme is white text on green.

In New York City some landlords have tried painting to color code their pipes. Unfortunately they made the mistake of choosing the wrong kind of paint for hot water pipes and cracking occurred. “Usually, the superintendent or the property manager places a hand-written tag on the pipes, and the tags fade with time,” explains Roberta Bernstein, Small Property Owners of New York.

Now, with a thermal transfer printer, color coding water pipes is easy with non-fading, easily readable tags and labels that can withstand high boiler room temperatures. A Graphic Products, Inc. thermal transfer printer and DuraLabel pipe marking kit offers certain benefits.

1)    Printing is uncomplicated. You’ll also enjoy creating custom exit and entrance signs and electrical hazard signs.
2)    Unlike paint, pipe marking supplies remain bright and easy to see for years and can be cleaned with a simple solution.
3)    You can add symbols, arrows and other graphics in a variety of colors and widths from ½ to 9 inches.
4)    Reflective pipe markers are visible in low light and adhere to uneven or imperfect surfaces
5)    Clear plastic pipe marking sleeves enable users to identify dirty, oily, rusty pipes by providing a clean surface for the pipe marking label.
6)    Printing is cost effective. Labels printed in house tend to be less expensive than those ordered on-line or in a catalog.

ANSI code requires pipe markers: to indicate flow direction by labeling with arrows at one or both ends; to be visible from the point of normal approach; near valves, flanges and changes in pipe direction; both sides of ceiling, wall or floor penetrations; at any line entry or re-entry point; on straight pipe runs; every 50 feet is typical. Proper pipe marking can prevent disastrous leaks and other events.

Chris Collard is a Pipe Marking Consultant at Graphic Products, Inc. For more information, visit