The fundamental characteristics of metal coatings that influence heat transfer are porosity and surface roughness. It is a challenge to analyze the porosity and surface roughness due to the inadequate amount of copper per coated area. In this study, a new approach to non-invasively determine the porosity of metal films utilizing a helium pycnometer and computed micro-tomography (CMT) is presented. Furthermore, a telescope-goniometer is used to measure the surface roughness. Experiments are conducted on four varieties of thin film samples coated with copper powder using wire flame and plasma thermal spray coating methods. The porosities of the thin films were determined to be between 39 and 43%. The thermal spray coating increased the hydrophobicity of the surface and the plasma coating created super-hydrophobic surfaces. The new approach establishes that the porosity of thin films can be non-invasively determined and may also be applied to a wide variety of coated surfaces. © 2018, The Author(s).