The Dos and Don'ts of Working with PVC Glue
There were 51.25 million tons of PVC pipes bought worldwide in 2019 alone. This is up from only 38.5 million tons in 2013.
It doesn't matter if you're using PVC for a professional job or a craft project. You need to know the right ways to use a PVC pipe for both effectiveness and safety.
The main question everyone has? How do you use PVC glue?
Continue reading to find out the right way to use PVC glue. We've included extra information you might find useful.
PVC Glue vs Regular Glue
Curious whether you can use an alternative glue when working with PVC pipe? It's a simple, common question. The answer? Not so simple.
Technically, you could use super glue or gorilla glue... but only if you don't want the bond to last.
Other types of glue may work on simple PVC projects that don't need a lot of holding power. Examples include kids' school projects or small storage containers seen in DIY videos.
Other glues only provide a hold, not a bond. This means the seal is weaker and won't hold up to high pressure or heavy weight. Anything besides a specially-formulated chemical solvent isn't going to work for plumbing or weight-bearing structures.
The difference boils down to regular glue being an adhesive and PVC glue being a solvent.
An adhesive will join two things together so they stick. The two things will remain separate and can usually be removed with a special chemical or some elbow grease.
PVC glue is a chemical solvent that melts the surface of the PVC pipe. The two pieces bond together in a process called cold welding. This creates a single piece that can't be separated unless cut.
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How to Glue PVC Pipe
Now you know the benefits of using specially-formulated PVC glue over regular glue. But how do you use it?
Cut the Pipe
Smooth your cut with a deburring tool or sandpaper.
Dry Fit Your Design
Before applying the chemical solvents, take your PVC pipe on a test drive by dry fitting it together. Remember, the receiving socket of a PVC pipe fitting is usually tapered. This makes it hard to push the pipe 'home' in a dry fit. Allow room in your measurements because a dry fit isn't exact. If you do not account for this tolerance you will find after applying the chemical solvent and fitting them together, you can lose a little length on either end.
During your dry fitting, draw lines on your pieces for references. Draw lines vertically on the pipe to reference the correct angle of insertion. Draw lines horizontally to show how deep you should push the pipe into its socket.
Apply Primer and Glue
Primer goes on before the glue. Apply both using the same method listed below. Remember to work quickly.
Apply solvent to the outside of your pipe and the inside of your fitting. Use the attached brush and coat sections evenly.
Insert and Allow to Cure
Insert piping into the fitting a quarter turn from where you want it. Twist the pipe to the desired position and hold at least thirty seconds.
Allow the pipe to sit for at least twenty minutes before working with it further. Most experts recommend allowing the pipe to cure for 24 hours before using it.
The process of gluing PVC pipe together is simple but don't let that fool you. There is a lot of room for error, which is why we came up with this list of dos and don'ts.
Do: Be Safe
Before you begin your project, you need to make sure you're safe. Manufacturers advise against getting the solvents on your skin or in your eyes. Also avoid high heat or open flame, as PVC glue is combustible.
When working with PVC glue, always wear nitrile work gloves. Heavier work gloves (made of thick fabrics) can make it hard to do precision work. You should also wear safety goggles.
Like other chemical solvents, PVC cement releases toxins into the air while it works. Use in a well-ventilated area like a garage or shed with the door open. If you can work outside, that's even better.
If you have no choice but to work in a small space, wear a certified vapor resistant mask or (if you have one) a respirator. This will protect you from chemical inhalation. Even with the mask, you'll want to head to fresh air as soon as possible.
Protect your work table with a tarp or towel. The glue is messy and can damage surfaces if you aren't careful. Purple primers and glues stain surfaces.
Do: Choose the RIGHT Cement
Read the cement instructions carefully before purchasing. Make certain it says "PVC Glue." There are a lot of similar glues on the market but only specifically formulated glue will work on PVC pipes.
One thing to keep an eye out for is CPVC glue. While similar in name and constitution, it doesn't work for gluing together PVC pipe.
You'll want to match the PVC glue to your project, too. Some solvents are graded to use under pressure. You'll want these if you're doing a plumbing project.
Others aren't meant for use under high pressure, which would be fine for DIY projects in your home or garden. If you used this kind of glue for a plumbing project, the seal won't hold up and you'll have a lot of leaks.
Do: Smooth Edges Before Gluing
Cutting PVC pipe often leaves jagged edges or burs. It's tempting to leave the pipe as is to speed along the project. But don't do it. Smooth the ends of your pipe with a special deburring tool.
If you don't have a deburring tool, a cheap alternative is 80-grit sandpaper. Roll the sandpaper into a tube and flatten it out slightly. Run it along the inside wall of your pipe until the interior is smooth.
If burs are left at the end of your pipe it could spell disaster for your project. Burs can catch debris running through the PVC pipe and cause clogs.
Uneven edges can lead to a compromised seal. If the seal isn't airtight, leaks might occur. Save yourself the time (and headache) by smoothing edges before they become an issue.
Do: Work Quickly
You have about ten seconds after applying the primer to apply the cement. The cement will begin drying in seconds, so you need to insert the pipe in the fitting right away.
If the cement starts to dry before you can insert the pipe into the pipe fitting, you'll need to reapply it. It helps to have an extra set of hands to help keep things moving.
If nobody is available to help, doing a dry fitting ahead of time can speed up the process. A stable work area also helps.
Don't: Speed Through The Curing Process
Tempting as it is to speed things along, the curing process isn't a time to be impatient. It takes time for the chemical solvent to do its job. Rushing this will only take up more of your time when you have to do it over the right way.
Once inserted into the fitting, the PVC pipe needs to be firmly held together for at least thirty seconds. If you let go too soon, the cement might not catch and the pipe will push itself out of the fitting.
Leave the pipe alone for at least twenty minutes before you try working with it. Once the project is complete, it's generally recommended you wait 24 hours before using it.
More Tips For Working With PVC Pipe Glue
The dos and don'ts above are the main things you want to watch out for when working with PVC glue. They aren't the only ones, however. Below are a few more tips you can use.
- Make things easier and quicker by leaving the primer and cement glue lids open. Only do this if you have a stable work area. Otherwise, you risk spills.
- When inserting your PVC pipe into the fitting, twist a quarter inch for a better fit. This also spreads the glue for a stronger hold.
- Buy a few spare fittings for your project. Having them on hand will save a trip to the store or project delays in the event you make a mistake.
- PVC pipe primer is a thin liquid, so it splashes. Avoid splashes and drips by going slowly.
- If using an internal pipe cutter, make sure you choose the right size for your project.
The process of using PVC glue might be simple but there is a lot of room for error. If you use the information above, however, you (and your project) should be fine. With practice, the process will eventually become second nature.
Still have questions about working with PVC glue? Contact us today. One of our professionals will be happy to assist you.