Two men who stole more than $8000 in materials from a Civic construction site have avoided jail.

Philip Avis, 53, pleaded guilty in the ACT Supreme Court to theft and was ordered to perform community service and sign a good behaviour order.

Co-offender Simon Shane Mulvay, 36, who also pleaded guilty, was given a two year suspended jail sentence.

In July 2010, workers arrived at an Acton building site to discover $8600 worth of copper piping had gone missing over the previous weekend.

Later that day, police stopped a car driven by Avis and saw copper cabling protruding from the boot into the back seat area.

A search of the vehicle discovered a quantity of pipe in the boot.

Police later raided Mulvay's home and discovered more construction materials, including copper from two other building sites taken about the same time.

The court heard both men had a history of drug use and long criminal records, mostly for traffic matters.

Justice Richard Refshauge ordered Avis to sign a two year good behaviour order and perform 300 hours community service over that period.

Mulvay was given a two year suspended jail sentence, backdated to take into account 60 days spent in custody, and enter a good behaviour order for the same period.

Justice Refshauge told Avis the sentence was a chance for him to grow up.

"The community is entitled to see you punished for the offence," the judge said.

"I hope this is finally a time you see some light at the end of the tunnel [because] future sentences are inevitable going to be custodial."