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Building Projects with PVC Pipe

PVC Cutting Guide

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Welcome

This field manual is designed to be an easy-to-follow, knowledgable and to provide options for different people from all experiences and backgrounds. if you're a first time PVC user, who doesnt often use tools, or a seasoned PVC enthusiast or maker who uses PVC in daily ideas and activities, this guide should provide a general manual to assembling PVC pipe projects.

First, we'll cover all the basics of assembly, like important safety directions. Then we'll get into what types of methods are available to use to connect PVC pipe and fittings, finally we'll show examples of how to perform each method to assemble your PVC project.

If your questions are not addressed here, feel free to contact our support team at info@formufit.com. We'll be glad to help.

About the Second Edition

We formerly put all of our PVC instructions online, in basic HTML Web page format, however, we discovered that many of our users needed a downloadable copy that could by taken to the basement, workshop or ta setting where the pipe cutting, assembling or other activity was talking place, away from a computer. Our newer editions solve this problem, giving our end-users a printable 'field manual' that can go with them to wherever or however they choose to construct their PVC projects.

Assembling PVC Summary

Structural PVC projects can be assembled in many ways. Unlike other building materials, where fasteners (screws, nails, etc.) are use, PVC can be assembled using a cementing method or by way of fasteners.

PVC assembles extremely easy. Other materials such as wood or metal are heavy and cumbersome to attach to each other. PVC is unique as it uses fittings to connect the pipes, for different angles and attachments.

Assembling PVC can be broken down into three methods and approaches: Attaching PVC to fitting by way of PVC Cement, which is a more permanent approach, using screws to temporarily attach the pipe to the fitting, which can be removed later, or just using the tight-fitting press together method.

All three of these methods will be detailed more in this guide.

Legal

DISCLAIMER: The information provided within this manual is for informational purposes only. FORMUFIT accepts no responsibility, and is excluded from all liability for damage and/or loss which may be suffered by any other party as a result of using or in connection with such use or loss of use of this information, including but not limited to loss of profit, loss of opportunity, loss of business, indirect damages, incidental damages, special or consequential loss, injury or loss of life.

Safety First.

Some methods to attach PVC pipe to PVC fittings involves tools the use high-speeds drills and power tools. Chemicals are also use to fusion weld PVC pipe together. Each of these tools can cause serious harm to an individual if not used properly. Be sure to read, understand, and follow all the safety rules that come with your hand or power tools. Failure to do so could cause bodily harm.

hands

HANDS

Always be aware of where your hands are when drilling PVC pipe with any tool. Make sure that your hands are clear of the area being drilled.

eye protection

EYES

Wear safety glasses, goggles or other eye protection when drilling or driving screws into PVC pipe, as fragments of pipe can be ejected from the area or a screw could come loose.

lung protection

MOUTH & LUNGS

Wear a mask or respirator. PVC pipe, when drilled, can emit small particles that can irritate the lungs or throat. PVC cement is also noxious when used, and may irritate the lungs.

Clear the air.

Assembling your PVC project using PVC cement requires extra caution you are assembling the project using chemicals. These chemicals can make you nauseas, dizzy or lightheaded. They are also flammable in nature and can cause a fire if caution is not observed.

PVC Cement may cause dizziness, lightheadedness or nausea if used in a non-ventilated area. Be sure to assemble your PVC project in a well-ventilated area, such as an open garage, our outside.

When using PVC cement please keep in mind that it is flammable until it evaporates, and can cause a fire if it comes across a source of ignition. Do not smoke, or use any source of fire or spark, when assembling PVC projects with PVC cement.

PVC Assembly Methods Explained

PVC pipe is one of the most versatile and useful structural building materials available, but you still need a method to connect it all.   We've provided a few methods to assemble your PVC project, shown below.

pvc cement method

PVC Cement Method (Permanent)

When plumbing and electrical professionals connect PVC for their project, most often they are using PVC cement to connect fitting to pipe. This method is extremely strong and provides a permanent, lifetime connection.

The method of connecting PVC pipe to PVC fitting using cement is known as fusion welding, or chemical welding. This is because the PVC cement causes a chemical reaction that physically 'melts' the outer layers of the PVC pipe and fitting, and when pressed together causes them to fuse.

Once a PVC pipe and PVC fitting have been connected using PVC cement, there is no method available to remove the two from each other. This method also requires that the end-user work quickly to assemble and adjust a connection point, often within 30 or less, as the fusion weld sets very quickly.

pvc set screw method

Set Screw Method (Semi-Permanent)

Since PVC cement requires an extremely short work time, and a permanent bond, the option of the 'set-screw' method is available when constructing structural PVC projects. This method has the user insert screws between the PVC pipe and fitting to secure it into place. Self-tapping machine or wood screws are recommended. It is recommended that holes be pre-drilled for screws being inserted as self-drilling screws do not work well.

Using the set screw method is not recommended when the structure you are attempting to build is going to bear substantial torque in its day to day activities. This is because the screws, under torque, could de-thread and come loose from the pipe.

This method is not recommended for PVC pipe sizes 3/4" and under.

SCREW TYPES

The following chart shows the type of screws and how they function when using them to connect PVC pipe and fittings. It also explains any type of pre-work required when using each type:

IMAGETYPEUSEPRE-WORK
Pan Head Self-Drilling Screw Pan Head Self-Drilling Screw Standard connection use. Will have exposed head. Pre-drilled pilot hole recommended.
Countersunk Head Self-Tapping Countersunk Head Self-Tapping Standard connection use. Head will not be visible. Pre-drilled pilot hole and countersink hole required.
Set Screw Set Screw For precise structures that require minimal visibility of hardware. Exact size pre-drilled hole required.

SCREW LENGTHS

The following chart shows the recommended self-drilling or self-tapping screw length that should be used when working with particular sizes of PVC pipe and fittings. This is important so that the screw goes through both the PVC fitting and PVC pipe walls:

PVC PIPE SIZEMINIMUM SCREW LENGTH
1/2" NOT RECOMMENDED
3/4" NOT RECOMMENDED
1" 1/2"
1-1/4" 3/4"
1-1/2" 3/4"
2" 5/8"

Push and Set Method (Temporary)

The final method to assemble PVC projects is the 'push and set' method. This method does not use any source of cement or fastener to keep it together. Instead, it uses the pressure of the pipe into fitting connection to let it connect on its own. Most furniture grade PVC pipe and fittings have such close tolerances that this method is often all that is required to build a PVC structure.

This method will not work with all types and configurations of PVC pipes and fittings, as there are variances in the tolerances of PVC, and some fittings and accessories were designed to use PVC cement to connect. This method is only recommended for light or self-standing structures that will not bear weight or any torque. This method is very similar to 'dry fitting.'

Additional Information

Below is additional information that is convenient to know before assembling your project and may assist in the process.

Dry Fitting

Before final assembly (before connecting with PVC cement or screws), it is highly recommended to perform a 'dry fit' of all the PVC pipe and fitting elements. This will allow you to double check to make sure that the pipes are cut to the right size, that you have the proper fittings in place where they are required and that all pieces are readily available for cementing.

Dry fitting is a necessity if using PVC cement, as the working time is only around 30 seconds before the curing begins. All too often PVC projects are ruined because a dry fit was not performed and an incorrect pipe length or fitting was used incorrectly.

CAUTION: Be sure to clamp all PVC pipe with a vise, C-clamps or quick-release clamps. Do not attempt to hold the pipe steady with your hands as injury may result.

MAKE IT EASIER TO REMOVE

You can use baby powder inside the fittings to assist in getting the PVC elements apart after dry fitting. This is recommended as the tolerances of PVC pipe and fittings are often so close they can be very difficult to get apart.

TWIST AND PULL

When removing the pipe from the fitting after a dry fit, twist the pipe, either by hand, or using a pipe wrench, while simultaneously pulling the pipe out of the fitting. If using a pipe wrench, place a towel or cloth over the teeth of the wrench to avoid damaging the PVC pipe.

Seating

Seating of the pipe into the fitting is the act of pushing, or if necessary, hammering the pipe all the way into the fitting when assembling. Seating is important, as it makes sure that the pipe is completely into the fitting when assembly is complete. PVC pipe should be seated into a fitting until it reaches the 'detent.' The detent is the small lip inside the fitting, where the pipe is supposed to stop.

HOW TO SEAT

To seat PVC pipe, be it through connecting with PVC cement, screws or just performing a test-run by way of a dry fit, use a rubber mallet or a block of wood and hammer, and tap the opposing end of the PVC pipe until it reaches the detent. The pipe should inch slowly into the pipe as you are hammering, and should stop when it is completely to the point of the detent

tap into place

Check for Square

It is vitally important, that immediately after cementing and seating that you check that your project is square where you require it to be. This is critical when building boxes or items where the fittings and pipe connecting segments are required to be in parallel and perpendicular directions.

  • If cementing, you have approximately 30 seconds to make any changes in direction of the fittings once the cement is applied. Checking for square should be done immediately after seating the pipe.
  • If using the set screw method, you need to check for squareness before you drill the screws into the fitting and pipe.

HOW TO SQUARE

To make sure that your project is square, you do the following:

  1. Place the structure on a flat, level surface and use that surface to square it up. Press down on the fittings and pipe so that they are at the same level.
  2. Use a straight edge between two perpendicular sections to make sure that they are at the same level.
  3. Place the structure on a flat surface and use a bubble level to make sure that it is even.
PVC check for square

 

Assembling with Cement

CAUTION: Be sure to perform all activity with PVC cement in a well ventilated area.

WARNING: The PVC cement method is permanent, and the PVC pipe cannot be removed from the fitting after 30 seconds. Be sure to perform a dry fit to ensure all pipes are cut correctly. Check to make sure your items are square immediately after seating, if required.

PVC Cement Steps

STEP 1 (OPTIONAL)

An optional step is to clean the areas of the fitting and PVC pipe with a PVC cleaner or primer. This will guarantee a secure bond, and is recommended.

Run the primer or cleaner dauber around the outside of the PVC pipe and the inside of the fitting.

apply pvc cement

STEP 2

Using the PVC cement dauber, found inside the can, apply a small amount of PVC cement to both the PVC pipe and the inside of the fitting. Apply the cement only to where the two will come into contact.

If using a primer or cleaner, apply the cement while the primer or cleaner is still wet.

apply pvc cement

STEP 3

Quickly insert the pipe into the fitting, being sure that it is seated properly, to the point of impacting the detent. Check for squareness, if required and hold the pipe and fitting together firmly for 30 seconds.

wait 30 seconds

STEP 4

Allow the pipe and fitting connection to set for at least 2 minutes before putting weight or additional pressure onto it. This will allow the chemical weld to cure. You can join other fittings within the structure while waiting for the cure time to complete.

pvc no weight

 

Assembling with Screws

WARNING: Do not use this method in scenarios where high-torque or movement is expected. This may cause the screws to de-thread and come loose.

Set-Screw Steps

STEP 1

Insert the pipe into the fitting.

Use a rubber mallet or a piece of wood and hammer to tap the pipe into place until it is properly seated and reaches the detent inside the fitting.

insert pvc pipe into fitting

STEP 2

Drill a small hole approximately 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch from the open socket end of the fitting on one side.

Be sure that the hold is drilled through both the fitting and the pipe.

drill hole into pvc pipe

STEP 3 (OPTIONAL)

If you wish to make the screws flush to the surface of the fitting, use a countersink bit to allow the end of the screw to set inside the fitting.   This will leave a flush, smooth surface.

countersink pvc pipe

STEP 4

Drive the screw into the pre-drilled hole and through both the fitting and the pipe.

insert screw in pvc

STEP 5 (OPTIONAL)

For an extremely secure connection, the above process can be repeated on the opposite side of the pipe.

add additional pvc screws

 

Assembling with Push and Set Method

CAUTION: This method should never bear heavy weight, torque movement and should be considered a temporary solution. If any of the PVC elements seem loose, or their tolerances are incorrect, do not use this method.

Push and Set Method

STEP 1

Insert the pipe into the fitting.

Use a rubber mallet or a piece of wood and hammer to tap the pipe into place until it is properly seated and reaches the detent inside the fitting.

push pipe into fitting

STEP 2

Repeat the above process until all items are assembled. Secure with PVC cement or screws if desired result is permanent.

secure with pvc cement

 

Wrap Up

Post-Assembly Cleanup

PVC CEMENT REMOVAL

In some instances, residue of PVC Cement may be left behind during the fusion welding process. This often occurs along the end of the PVC fitting socket where the pipe exits.

You can clean some of this up by using an ultra-fine (200 to 300 grit) sandpaper, cut into strips, which can be wrapped around the point where the fitting and pipe meet and moved in a back and forth motion.

WARNING: Sanding the surface of Furniture Grade PVC may cause the glossiness to fade and leave a matte-dull finish. Wet sanding is recommended.

 

PVC Cutting Avoidances

The right tool for the right job.

There are several methods that are not recommended to cut PVC pipe. Despite the obvious, many people believe that cutting PVC is just like cutting wood, and that PVC can be cut using the same tools, and in the same manner. This is far from true, as wood and PVC have completely different characteristics.

FOR POWER TOOLS, ALWAYS USE A TOOL WHERE THE PVC IS CLAMPED

It is not recommended to use any type of power cutting tool where the user moves the pipe INTO the blade, also known as static or fixed blade tools. This is due to the curvature of PVC pipe, and the difficulty in successfully maintaining a secure hold onto the curved pipe. Additionally, the curvature causes the saw to come into contact at different points on the curved pipe, and may make the blade 'bounce' off the pipe, producing undesirable results or injury.

Some examples of non-recommended power tools are table saws (the PVC pipe can cause kickback) or band saws (bandsaws are notorious for chipping pipe that is old and brittle).

It is recommended to use power tools where you secure the PVC pipe to a surface with clamps and move the blade into the pipe, such as miters saws, or in some cases even jigsaws or circular saws.

DON'T USE TOOLS MADE FOR WOOD

Standard wood saws are not recommended as they don't produce the accurate results that a hacksaw does. Hacksaws have a much thinner blade and cut more precise, whereas wood saws have large teeth and a thick blade.

The larger teeth of the wood saw do not properly allow a good perforation into the pipe, and can cause more work than necessary.

  • Avoid using abrasives, such as sandpaper to clean the surface of Furniture Grade PVC. This will scratch the surface of the PVC pipe and cause a swirling or line effect to appear in the pipe surface, or may leave a dull finish. Only use this method on plumbing grade PVC pipe.
  • Don't use regular household cleaners, unless you are simply removing dirt. Regular household cleaners, and other cleaners like bleach will not remove the ink or lettering on PVC pipe which has been printed with a special PVC embedding ink.

FORMUFIT Support

If you've read through this guide and still have questions, feel free to contact us. We are constantly revising our documents and website with information provided from users just like you.

If you want to contact us with questions or suggestions, please email them to info@formufit.com

We've got a lot more guides where this one came from, which are available at formufit.com/guides/.


 

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