PVC (polyvinyl chloride) pipe is one of the most common materials you’ll find in your home’s plumbing system. If you’re an enthusiastic DIYer who wants to tackle some kitchen or bathroom renovations, you’ll most likely have to cut some PVC pipes.
This rigid plastic can be a bit tricky to cut properly, leaving annoying off-square ends and burrs behind most of the time. However, with the right tool and the proper technique, you can make an easy job of cutting a PVC pipe.
The steps you should follow might vary depending on the tool of your choice, but most of the time the process will be as follows:
- Prepare the pipe for cutting.
- Secure the pipe in a vise.
- Mark the place where you want to make the cut.
- Deburr the edge.
We’ve created this guide to help you learn how to cut a PVC pipe properly, using different tools you might have at home. So, let’s get started!
How to prepare a PVC pipe for cutting
Before you begin cutting, you should prepare your PVC pipe. Adding some lubrication makes for an easier and more comfortable process, keeping friction down and preventing particulates from getting into the air.
For PVC, you should choose a silicone-based lubricant, but you can use a food-grade lubricant such as cooking oil as well. Just make sure that whatever you choose is safe to use on plastic, as there are certain solvents that can eat it away.
Holding the PVC pipe in place
Clamping the pipe on a vise is essential if you want to make an accurate and clean cut. If you don’t have a vise, don’t worry, you’re going to like this tip.
There’s a DIY way to hold the PVC in place, you’ll just need a big bucket. Make two V-shaped cuts directly across from each other and that’s it! Now you have a make-shift stand and a still functional bucket.
If you go for one of the cutting options that involve using a power tool, you should take precautions and wear your safety gear to avoid any accidents. Wear gloves and goggles to protect your hand and eyes!
How to Cut a PVC Pipe with a pipe cutter
A PVC pipe cutter, as its name suggests, is designed to cut pipes. There are two types of cutters: scissor and ratcheting styles. The scissor-style pipe cutter looks like a pair of pliers with a sharp blade on one side. They’re a great tool for PVC pipes that are ½-inch to 1-inch in diameter, but they can be hard to use sometimes as they require a lot of arm strength.
For pipes that are 2-inches and larger, it’s better to use a ratcheting pipe cutter because it’s more reliable. They look like a pair of pliers as well, but they have a half-moon-shaped part on one side and a blade on the other. They’re also effective for smaller pipes, so if you work in home renovations, you should consider investing in one.
The process to cut a pipe using a cutter is very simple:
- Place the pipe on a stable surface and mark the place where you want to make the cut.
- Hold the pipe steady and line up the blade of the pipe cutter on the mark.
- Squeeze the handles of the cutter together to extend the blade and cut the pipe.
And that’s it! As you can see, it can be very handy to have a pipe cutter as the whole process won’t take more than 5 minutes to finish.
How to cut a PVC pipe with a handsaw
A handsaw is a common tool in the woodworker and DIYer arsenal, and you can use it to cut a PVC pipe as well. You’ll need a guide for the tool to make a straight cut. A good option is using a miter box.
Once you have your guide, you should secure the pipe and mark the cut. Draw the saw blade back and forth slowly to ensure that it stays on a straight path. And you’re done!
How to cut a PVC pipe with a miter saw
If you need to make many specific and accurate cuts on a PVC pipe, then the miter saw is the tool to use. You should be extremely careful when handling this tool as it can be very dangerous. Once you have your safety gear one, this is what you should do:
- As usual, mark the cut and then secure the pipe under the saw, aligning the blade with the mark.
- Start the saw and slowly bring the blade down until it goes all the way through the PVC pipe.
- Once the cut is made, you can repeat the process to many as many cuts as you need.
- When you’ve finished, turn off the miter saw and don’t remove the pipe until the blade has completely stopped.
Using a miter saw does not pose many difficulties, but it does require patience and a lot of care to cut safely.
How to cut a PVC pipe with string
If you don’t have any of the tools we’ve mentioned so far, you can use a string or twine. Yes, you’ve heard that right. As unusual as it might sound, a nylon string can get the job done.
However, bear in mind that it will take longer and demand more effort than any other methods, and the results will be less accurate and not as clean.
- Put on gloves to avoid burning or cutting your fingers with the string and secure the pipe.
- Mark the place where you want to make the cut and make a small cut using a utility knife.
- Wrap the string around your hands, leaving a length in the middle that’s a bit longer than the size of the pipe.
- Pull the string back and forth into the cut, and towards you at the same time, to cut through the PVC pipe.
The whole process might take 5 minutes or longer, depending on the size and thickness of the pipe you’re cutting.
How to clean burrs
Now that you’ve cut the PVC pipe with the tool (or the string!) of your choice, you might notice that there are some burrs left behind. No matter how careful you are, this can always happen. But don’t worry, they can—and have to—be removed. Not cleaning the burrs mess up the fit and lead to clogged filters later on. There are two simple ways to remove the burrs:
- With a utility knife. Run the knife over the uneven edges and smooth them. Don’t forget about the inner rim, there might be burrs there too.
- With sandpaper. Sand the edges to smooth away the burrs. Be careful not to get carried away, as you risk a bad fit.
Cutting a PVC pipe is not a difficult task, and anyone can do it. There are many ways it can be done, from using a mere nylon string to operating a power tool such as a miter saw.
Which method you decide to use will depend not only on the tools you have available but also on your strength and level of skill. We recommend that you avoid cutting with a miter saw unless you’re an experienced user, as they can be dangerous if not handled properly.
As for the rest, they all work great and can easily get the job done. Now that you know how to cut a PVC pipe, you’re ready to tackle any plumbing projects you might need!