How to cut PVC Pipe is one of those questions we as plumbers take for granted however it’s asked about quite often. When people run into problems cutting PVC pipe it’s usually not while cutting smaller size pipe. It isn’t until you get to the larger sizes like 3” to 8” when finding the best way to cut PVC becomes a must. Keep reading and I will give you the best ways to cut PVC so you can complete any project using both small and large diameter PVC pipe.
How to Cut PVC: ¼” to 2”
Yep a simple hacksaw does a great job cutting PVC especially when working with small diameter pipe. Just make sure you line up the blade of the hacksaw on your measurement line and cut straight. Because the diameter of the pipe is small you don’t have a lot of surface area for the hacksaw blade to wander. Bring your arm back and forth in a straight motion and you’ll be through the pipe in a couple passes.
Sawzall or Reciprocating Saw
The word Sawzall is Milwaukee’s name for a reciprocating saw and tradesmen use the word Sawzall like Kleenex. Although is a brand name it’s synonymous with the reciprocating saw. Ok, onward. Once again measure twice cut once, mark your pipe where you want to make the cut. Then place the blade guide tight up against the pipe and gently squeeze the trigger to start the cut. If you fully engage the trigger the saw can get away from you. You want to give yourself a little rut to make the cut. Once the cut is started keep your arm steady and open it up. It’s like a hot knife through butter. Before you begin cutting go out and buy several blades specific to PVC and plastic. The teeth are more course and you get a much quicker cut. If you are using blades meant for metal they will be smaller because the material is harder. You’ll get through the PVC eventually but it will certainly take longer.
If you’re going to be working with PVC quite a bit this tool is absolutely worth the investment. The one I love is the Ridgid RC-2375 not just because it works well but it also cuts pipe up to 2” diameter. This allows you to work on both small diameter water piping and larger diameter waste and vent piping. PVC waste and vent piping for kitchens, lavatories, and laundry tubs can be all be handled with this tool in most instances. This is most certainly a homeowner-plumbing hack.
Hot to Cut PVC: 21/2” and Above
You can still use a hacksaw on larger diameter PVC but the margin for error grows quite a bit. It is very difficult to keep a hacksaw on a straight cutting path when you get past 21/2” diameter pipe. A hacksaw blade bends as you move it so even though you’re super careful you can still have deviations. Before you begin your cut make sure you have the pipe anchored in a tripod vise for example. This keeps the piping in place and lessens the chance of the pipe moving. We rarely use a hacksaw to cut pipe over 2”.
As stated above it is extremely important that the pipe is secured in some fashion. Anytime you are working with an electric powered saw you should minimize the risk of the material moving. This will give you a sharper cut and more importantly keep you safe. As long as you have a long enough blade and some skill you can cut up to 8” PVC pipe.
When plumbers get a chop saw out on a job site it’s like heaven. Not only is it the best way to cut PVC, you can cut cast iron, copper, steel etc., and the cuts are squared off so there is no need file or grind down an uneven edge.
Internal PVC Pipe Cutter
Internal pipe cutters are pretty cool. They consist of a circle or a star pattern piece of metal that has blades at an edge. This insert is slightly smaller in diameter than the pipe being cut. The cutter is actually a bit that fits in a ½” drill. The internal cutters shown here have flat caps that are tightened to adjust depth. You tighten an adjustment screw to flare the cutting wheels against the inside of the pipe and pull the trigger of the drill.
The pencil grinder is a specific tool. You can attach different types of grinder bits based on circumstances and materials. Thin flat discs are super affective with cutting PVC, cast iron and steel but are pretty damn crude. It works but only in a pinch and only when desperate.
The great thing about working with PVC is that it is a very forgiving material. If you have to use a hacksaw or sawzall and you find the cut isn’t exactly square you can always use a heavy duty file to file down the edge the needs adjusting.
Whenever you use a saw or grinder bit to cut PVC you must run your finger or a cloth along the edge of the cut to remove the plastic burrs both on the inside and outside of the pipe. If there are any edges that have a hard bevel you can use the same file used to square off a cut.