I had produced an Instructable recently on making a PVC Toddler Bed Guard; however there were some concerns over home-made kid safety items and teaching others’ to make it, so, out of empathy, I took it down (it's now back up, check the link below). I did have a lot of great information in that Instructable that people asked me about in relation to methods of cutting, joining PVC and some great PVC resources.

NOTE:  The PVC Toddler Bed Guard has returned to Instructables in all of its glory.  Check it out here.

There have been some other Instructables out there that have identified some basics, such as cutting and painting PVC, but I thought it best that I try to aggregate some of the ideas into one big, ultimate Instructable:  PVC 101.

I work as a Design Engineer for an architecture/product design firm and I use PVC repeatedly to create prototypes and mock-ups, some of them even to ¼” scale, so one could say that I have a lot of practice with PVC.  And since PVC is the ultimate make-anything-toy-set for adults, I only thought it wise to share my experience and knowledge of it on Instructables.

Let face it.  PVC is awesome.  It’s easy to obtain, cheap, easy to manipulate and you just push it together (and cement if you like) and presto.  You can pretty much make anything you can think of by just using some fittings and pipe, and I’ll augment that basic idea along with some tips, and other information for PVC in this Instructable.

There are tons of PVC-based step-by-steps available out on Instructables. Search for one and I bet there is something you will want to make.  Last I checked, there were over 1140 Instructables involving PVC.

So if you are new to PVC, or if you are a constant user like me, please peruse.  If you have other tips that I have not mentioned in this Instructable, please feel free to add your comments, as I’m always looking for more ideas.

Step 1: Pipe Sizes

First up are pipe sizes.  Pipe size can do a number of things to your project, depending upon your needs.  The smaller you go, the more flexible your pipe will be.  So if you need curved surfaces for a frame, need hoops or loops, go small.  If you want stiffness and strength to the max, go big.  As the pipes increase in size, so does their inner wall, making them stronger and more inflexible.

I’m only covering basic, white PVC available in most home stores, as ABS is too brittle (and weak) and PEX is just not as friendly.

I’ve broken down the sizes into categories below:

1/2”:  Super-uber flexible, but not very strong. It can actually kink when bent.  This works well for kites and other light structures, but not so much for something you want to mount anything to.   Plus, it’s so small you would need tiny screws to attach anything to it.

3/4”:  Very bendable, ideal for just about any project that requires flexibility, specifically hoop houses, green houses, pet agility hoops and other curved frames.  This is also good if you need elasticity in your project, as it will spring back perfectly (be careful though!).

1”:  Only slightly flexible, but still fairly rigid.  This is if you want a bit of sway to your project, but still need a strong framework, 1” is good.  Marshmallows fit in them nice and snug.

1-1/4”:  This is probably the most ideal size for very rigid, lightweight project.  This is perfect for framing, structure, and anything else you might need to build a strong sturdy platform, shelf, table or wall with.  It still has SOME flexibility, but not much.

1-1/2”:  Pretty much rigid as it gets, except for 2” (below).  It’s heavy though.

2”:  Probably as strong as you could ever need, will hold tons of weight.  It is very heavy and very expensive in relation to other just as strong sizes.  However if your project is requiring a good foundation, 2” is perfect.  It also works well for canister-style projects (in conjunction with end caps), like garbage bag holders, etc.

Summary:  For most projects, either 3/4” or 1-1/4” are ideal.  If you need flexibility, go 3/4”, for rigidity, go 1-1/4”.
<p>Which configuration would be more rigid and less susceptible to kinking? A pole made from a single piece of pvc pipe, or a pole of the same length made from two short pieces of pvc pipe joined by a straight coupling? And if the 2 piece pole is stronger, would 3 or more pieces be even better?</p>
<p>Very nice primer. I use PVC around the house and in costumes a lot.</p>
<p>I linked to your Instructable...thank you for posting it...very helpful. </p><p>https://www.instructables.com/id/Economical-Backyard-Observatory/</p>
<p>Hello. I want to make curtain rods out of PVC pipe 1''. The PVC pipe will be 1m60cm in length and will have to support two blackout curtains (heavy ones) of width 1m50cm and length 2m. Will the PVC pipe of 1''be appropriate. I could not find larger than that here. Thanks.</p>
<p>You meentioned about cutting the pipe shorter for the correct length. Is this for the outside length or inside? I want to start a project that the inside should be 48&quot; wide. Should the pipe be say 2&quot; longer because both ends will be in an elbow or a tee, to hold the inside measurement of 48&quot;? Your article was very helpful. Thank-You. </p>
<p>id love to make pvc stuff put in here Finland we don't have the glue bondable pvc pipes. we have pp pipes and male female muff pvc pipes. So it is hard to do stuff that has end caps on both ends of the pipe.</p>
pvc cutting jig<br>
I need to make a PVC right triangle. Anyone got any ideas how? I can't find and acute PVC angle.
<p>You could use a combination of obtuse angles to create an angle greater than 180 degrees. It wouldn't look very good, but it could work.</p>
<p>Just a thought. Buy a T-fitting and cut out the middle. Heat gun and bend it closed w a drop of PVC glue?</p>
Getting ready to make curtain rods out of pvc do not want rings to peel paint, will the fusion paint withstand the use?
Very useful! Thanks!
<p>Hi,</p><p>Struggling on how to make a pvc type screw such as the image in the website address below. <br>Would appreciate any hints or tips.. Thanks in advance :) <br>http://gardening.onlineshoppingoutlets.info/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/41yzfn8hXrL-184x184.jpg</p>
<p>I always had trouble &quot;dry-fitting&quot; as too often the pieces would simply not come apart.<br>I finally solved this by using my 1/2&quot; fine-tooth bandsaw blade to cut 1/2&quot; into the ends. That 1/2&quot; and band-saw-thin cut is just enough to relieve pressure for knock-down and refitting. For non-plumbing jobs, I still have the option of using PVC glue or screws for a final assembly, but test-fits are a dream.</p>
it says on the can &quot;no sanding required&quot;
<p>I always sand before I glue or paint, just comes out better.</p>
I know, but the manufacturers sometimes have embossments on the pipes and fittings and if there is anything more filthy, it is PVC from Home Depot.<br><br>Plus I come from the old school of 'sand, paint and sand again'. Its just a recommendation...
&nbsp;you can just get pvc primer and then paint over that
<p>Primer is sort of expensive, I would rather buy a sheet of 220 grit and sand.</p>
<p>I am trying to make a VC canopy/awning that can be taken down when not in use. So I don't want to cement it together. Perhaps I am not strong enough, but I am unable to push the fittings together. Is there some sort of lubricant that would help with this effort?</p>
<p>This is one of the best instructables, everything i ever wanted to know about pvc and hell i learned stuff i didnt know. Thank you. </p>
For Band Saws, I have found that the ones I have access to work rather well. For one, they were both designed to cut steel rather quickly, and two, they both have adjustable drop rates. (Both are horizontal band saws)<br /> <br /> And for Pipe cutters, they will work, you just have to be careful with them. I've used them in the past to get really square and even cuts when I&nbsp;didn't have access to a band, chop, or miter saw. Although you do have to really crank the blade in after getting a nice initial groove started.<br />
<p>agreed, i have been using a twirly pipe cutter, seems to do the trick, as mentioned first pass has to be straight, and bam...hands get a little soar after cutting a bunch but it works</p>
yes thank you for saying that XGundam05 i have found that my metal pipe cutter works almost as well as anything else I have used including a dremel with a metal bit in it.<br />
Using a wood saw is just silly? ive tried using both hacksaws and wood saws and the wood saws work great, they cut so much faster and give you a straighter cut.
<p>agreed, i have used a woodsaw and a jig to get awesome straight fast cuts with pvc and ABS...</p>
<p>Will ABS Sch 40 support the weight of an average person (in a rectangular frame with a sex sling attached to steel eyebolts)?</p>
<p>I am just getting started in PVC and mostly want to use it for dart guns/ nerf mods. some of the things I have read on this subject uses CPVC what is that? </p>
Great inst. You didn't mention that PVC is available in heavy &amp; strong, but expensive &quot;Schedule 40&quot; and also available in light weight but cheap 200 psi pipe. I buy both for different projects. <br>Look at my posting of &quot;Spiral Cable Wrap&quot; made from PEX pipe.
<p>I want to paint decorations on a PVC pipe. I can spray it first with the Krylon Fusion Paint, but then what type of paint should I use for the decorative painting? What sort of &quot;sealer&quot; should I use over the paint to keep the paint from chipping off as it will be outside?</p>
Great instructable. I use my miter saw to make cuts but I turn the blade backwards so the teeth are opposite of that for wood cutting. Really smooth cuts this way.
<p>You can also form PVC using boiling water. I find it is easier to control the heat. </p>
<p>You can cut PVC safely on a table saw, I have done it quite a bit in the past. A compound miter saw is a better choice, but most compound miter saws can only handle stock up to 4 inches. For larger PVC, you need to build something akin to a modified crosscut sled. Mine wasn't two pieces, but he pictures will give you an idea of what you need. </p><p>Thanks for the 101! Here are two Instructables on locking joints people may be interested in, feel free to add to 101!</p><p><a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/Quick-And-Easy-PVC-Lock-Joints/" rel="nofollow">https://www.instructables.com/id/Quick-And-Easy-PVC...</a></p><p></p><p><a href="https://www.instructables.com/id/PVC-Bungee-Joints/" rel="nofollow">https://www.instructables.com/id/PVC-Bungee-Joints/</a></p>
Can you clean old PVC pipes and joints to reuse
Excellent !
An idea to prevent PVC from bending too much in long lengths: run thin gauge steel wire (about $7 for 100 feet from hardware stores) through holes on each end of the PVC tubing. Let the tension be in the steel instead of the plastic. If the piece is subject to possible bending in any direction then the wire will have to run along 4 sides, 90 degrees apart around the tube. You can drill four holes in each end and run 1 long wire through them all.
Also, only the glue method should be used for pressurized applications, like making pumps or launchers. <br> <br>I like the screw idea for non-pressure :)
Has anyone ever used rivets instead of screws to attach PVC?
An extra step for your instructable.<br /> <br /> I remember discussing this somewhere else on instructables but can't really remember so I'm just gonna give you the link to the site that promotes it.<br /> <br /> <a href="http://www.thepipeviper.com/" rel="nofollow">www.thepipeviper.com/</a><br /> <br /> It's a site that sells a tool with which you can cold bend a pvc pipe.<br /> <br /> I live in Belgium (Europe) and followed industrial science in highschool. We had electricity there which involved alot of pvc bending. I however never heard off hot bending pvc before I came to this site.<br /> <br /> We always bended our pvc cold using the same tool that that company sells. It doesn't damage the pipe and keeps the hole inside open as much as it would if you didn't bend it. It's really handy, easy and there is no danger at all of hurting yourself. And it doesn't take more then a 15 year old boys strength to do it :)<br /> <br /> So check it out I'm sure you'll find it interesting :)<br /> <br /> Michel<br />
I looked at the site you linked. Very interesting tool. They don't have a FAQ page, so I thought I'd ask you, since you have experience:<br><br>Is this suitable only for conduit applications, or can it be used for household water systems? I'd think that even though the pipe is 'not damaged' by cold bending, it may be weakened enough that it would not reliably carry pressurized water for household cold and hot water. So, is this used for water, or only for conduit?
I remember the plumbing classes in my highschool using the same cold bending method I described above for your usual kitched plumbing. You are right that the structure is weakend but the same goes for hot bending (in both cases you are stretching out the material over a longer length)<br><br>So yes you can use it to run hot and cold water unless you plan to do some crazy bending with it (over 270 degrees) but for normal 90 degree bends it should do fine :)<br><br>
Wow. Thanks for the quick reply and information. I may stick with solvent-welding to molded fittings for plumbing, but I have some ideas for running conduit for which this might be just the ticket.<br><br>I will have to see if a regular length of flexible spring will work almost as well.
I am always confused about the quantity of cement to apply. <br><br>Should it be:<br>1. A thin layer, or<br>2. Very generous?<br><br>Can I use Acetone as PVC pipe cleaner as well?<br><br>Thanks.
I would recommend a thin layer. Once the cement hits the plastic it begins to melt, so you really don't need too much.<br><br>And yes, you can use acetone as pipe cleaner as well, but I recently found out that those sandpaper foam pads you get in the hardware store work just as good to prep the connection points, as well as remove the ink and marking.
you can also paint plastic with Killz or Benz paints, they're alot cheaper but you have to brush it on, and home depot will tint your Killz for you.
In Australia there are 2 types of PVC. Non-Pressure or Down Pipe Grade, or Pressure Grade which is used to transport liquids.<br>The larger pipes 90 mm, 100mm up to 230mm &amp; beyond. are great for buildings. Pot plants, Hydroponics even a wind tunnel with the 230mm.<br>The PVC off cuts can be picked up for free in the &quot;Poor Mans Bunnings&quot; or the rubbish point on a building site, along with timber scraps, bits of copper pipe, insulation, etc . For the larger pipes go to a New Estate site &amp; ask if you can have the left over water &amp; drainage off cuts (230mm). They'll give them to you, mostly. It saves you having to get rid of them. I ended up with enough house bricks to build a house once. They said, &quot; you pick them all up you can have them.&quot; All different colours, but, Hey! If you don't ask you don't get.
This is an instructable that doesn't teach you how to build a dang thing! This is also one of the most helpful instructables I have ever seen, complete and straightforward!<br><br>Great job.
Great instructable! I especially liked that you design in Sketchup. I down loaded the fittings you showed and have been trying to design something from them. I seem to have a problem with lining up the pvc pipe and the fittings. No matter how hard I try I can't seem to get them straight. I am obviously doing it all wrong, and I do mean ALL WRONG! The sketchup tutorials were no help. Neither was Google Warehouse. Any suggestions on how to start getting things straignt? (An Instructable perhaps)<br /> <br /> Any suggestions would be appreciated.<br /> <br /> Thanks

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