PVC is a pretty awesome material. It’s strong, durable, and cheap. Those qualities have made it a popular material choice for all sorts of building and recreational applications worldwide. One common problem many PVC users face when they get their newly bought pipe home is “how do I cut this stuff?!” Cutting PVC isn’t very difficult, but using the right tools and techniques can make the difference between ill-fitting and leak-free.
What to use:
PVC Cutter - If you are cutting a smaller diameter pipe, a PVC pipe cutter tool works great. You can find these online and at most hardware stores. They look like a pair of hedge clippers that have been souped up a bit.
Hacksaw - If you can’t find PVC cutters or you have a larger diameter pipe to cut, a hacksaw will work.
Miter Saw - For less manual work, or for those of us who already have one of these babies in the garage, a miter saw can make quick work of cutting PVC.
How to make the cut:
Step one to any cut is measuring. The old adage “measure twice, cut once” comes in handy when you are working with limited pipe. Use a pencil or marker to indicate where you will make each cut. It’s a good idea to measure and cut your longest lengths first. That way you end up the most usable left over pipe if you botch a cut. If you’re using PVC cutters, follow the direction on packaging. Usually these tools will have a ratchet function that allows you to tighten the grip and apply steady pressure to the cut. These tools are extremely sharp, so use caution when handling. Fingers tend to be softer than PVC.
If you are using a saw, patience is your friend. Especially with a miter saw – you will be tempted to try to speed through a cut like it’s wood. The problem here is that PVC is plastic. That means it melts. The heat created by the friction of the saw can really gum up your cut and give you a rugged edge. Take your time and focus on creating smooth cuts. It will save you time filing in the end anyway! If you’re using a hacksaw, clamp the pipe in with a vice if possible to stabilize and make for a square cut. Once you get most of the way through, turn the pipe to complete the cut.
Refining the edge:
Once you’ve cut your pipe take a look at the edge. It’s probably a little jagged or burred. Use a metal file or some strong sandpaper to smooth and even out the ends. You want to end up with a square end – meaning if you laid a flat plane over the cut end it would create a 90 degree angle with the pipe all the way around. File down and dust away any stray pieces of plastic, and you're ready to go.
Note: If you are using the PVC for plumbing or any application that requires water-tight joints, we recommend you chamfer your pipe ends. This can be done by making a slight bevel all the way around the diameter of the pipe using a bevel tool or a file. This little lip will help form a water-tight seal where the pipe meets a fitting.