Home & Garden Maintenance & Repairs

PVC Pipe Facts

    Common Uses

    • PVC is most commonly used for installing drains and vent lines, but it is also used for distribution lines, carrying hot and cold water to plumbing fixtures. It therefore comes in a range of diameters suited to those uses (for example, 1-1/2 inches for sink traps, 4 inches for a drain line). A wide range of fittings are available for making connections between PVC pipes, including elbows, couplings, 45-degree connectors and reducing Ts. Adapters can also be used to connect PVC pipe to existing copper or galvanized plumbing systems.


    • PVC's greatest advantage is that it's easy to work with and can be installed quickly. It does not conduct electricity, and it doesn't lose hot water heat as easily as copper does. Unlike copper or galvanized pipes, it will not corrode when exposed to aggressive water, making PVC extremely durable for long-term use.


    • PVC pipe is not suitable for outdoor use because sunlight's UV rays damage it. It cracks easily when frozen, even in a moderate freeze, so precautions must be taken to protect PVC pipes carrying water in cold climates. Additionally, the plastic male/female fittings used for some PVC connections are prone to cracks and leaks, especially when compared to metal male/female couplings.

    Working With PVC

    • Ratcheting PVC scissors are a good choice for cutting the pipe.scissor cut white plastic pipe image by Graf_es from Fotolia.com

      PVC can be easily cut. The best way is using a power cutoff saw with a solid blade, like the kind used to cut metal or masonry. Ratcheting PVC scissors make clean cuts but must be kept sharp and used carefully to ensure that the cut is square and straight. A power reciprocating saw with a small-toothed blade can also be used to cut PVC.

      Some PVC connections can be made with simple hand-tightened fasteners (such as under-the-sink drain traps), but all durable, permanent PVC connections are made using some variety of glue or a primer/glue combination. This involves applying the glue to the surfaces of both the PVC pipe and its connector, then pushing the two together to make a bond. The key is using the appropriate amount of glue; too little, and the bond will leak, too much and the excess glue might create a blockage inside the pipe.

    A New Kind of PVC

    • Foam core PVC pipe has become available in recent years. It has the same diameter and specifications as regular PVC pipe but has a foam interior between two thin layers of PVC, making the pipe much lighter. This makes foam core PVC particularly useful when installing wide-diameter drain lines, which can be heavy when made of solid PVC.

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