How to Cut PVC Like a Pro
It’s a plastic world and in this modern age, PVC has become about as commonplace as dirt. The Plumbing industry has been revolutionized with the advent of this miraculous plastic. With its lightweight construction, excellent tensile strength (how strong it is) and superior durability, PVC pipe has replaced 20th Century iron in a myriad of applications. Plumbing however, is merely one industry. In truth, the entire world has been transformed by plastic.
What is PVC?
PVC is the shortcut of Polyvinyl Chlorine. Another name for PVC is vinyl.
PVC is a thermoplastic comprised of 57% Chlorine, derived from industrial grade salt, and 43% Carbon which is derived mainly from gas and oil via ethylene.
PVC applications have evolved far beyond just a plumber’s dream; it is used in more products than we could list in a lifetime of typing. Suffice it to say, it is a plastic world.
Thanks for the History Lesson, now how do we cut it?
An excellent question and here’s the answer. If you have a project that requires you to cut PVC, this article intends to show you the best three (3) tools we’ve found that will make the job a little easier although cutting PVC is quite easy.
Essentially there are three ways most PVC is cut and they involve the use of the following three tools. You will ultimately determine which tool works best for you. Angles and lengths vary; this article is less a how-to and more a what-tool
THE PVC RACHET CUTTER is an excellent tool for cutting PVC pipe. Handheld like a pair of pliers, it is inexpensive (under $15), easy to use and cuts with no waste. Several brands are available and can be purchased at your local brick & mortar hardware store or ordered online.
The upside is the ease with which this tool cuts. Especially handy if you buy some long PVC pipe and don’t have a pick-up truck to put it in. With the Ratchet Cutter you can cut the pieces in-two and load them into the car. This tool is recommended for pipe up to 1 ½ inches in diameter.
The downside may be that it doesn’t cut at a 90-degree angle. That is to say, a straight up and down cut.
A HACKSAW OR BACKSAW WITH A MITER BOX is another way to effectively cut PVC and perhaps the most common. While both saws do the job, a little extra time may be required buffing out the rough or chipped edges left by the teeth of the respective saw blades. The miter box allows for straight cuts.
A POWER MITER SAW works best for quick, clean cuts and is a godsend if you have many pieces to cut. The downside of a miter saw is that unless you already own one, they can be expensive. They range in price from $100 to nearly $2000. If you’re going to be doing a lot of sawing a power miter saw may be worth the investment.
A FEW WORDS OF CAUTION:
ALWAYS CLAMP DOWN YOUR PVC PIPE before you begin to cut. NEVER hold it in your hand to cut. An unsteady pipe is a dangerous pipe as blades can shift and jump in a nano second causing serious injury.
ALWAYS WEAR EYE PROTECTION as small fragments of PVC can be ejected during sawing. Especially true if you are using power tools.
ALWAYS WEAR A MASK OR RESPIRATOR when cutting PVC because plastic emits fine particles while being cut that if inhaled can irritate the throat and lungs much like asbestos.