A cut piece of PVC pipe before it has been cleaned up
A cut piece of PVC pipe before it has been cleaned up
Elbow primed and ready to glue
Elbow primed and ready to glue
The first thing to remember about cutting and fitting PVC pipe is that you don’t have to be perfect to do a good job. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Keep your cuts as straight and perpendicular as possible
  • Clean up the cuts (both inside and out) to produce a smooth beveled edge
  • Prime/clean all surfaces that will be exposed to PVC glue
  • Glue only one of the two pieces you are joining
  • Join the two pieces together QUICKLY, you have VERY limited time
  • If possible, twist the two pieces a quarter of a turn to distribute the glue but make sure to have the two pieces in their final alignment before you stop twisting
  • Plan the entire path for your finished pipe before you glue it
  • Measure each cut and be methodical
  • If you don’t feel comfortable cutting and gluing PVC pipe, always remember PVC is cheap. Practice, practice, practice!
  • To produce a clean looking joint, glue the coupler/elbow and not the pipe

Here is how it looks when the PVC pipe is glued instead of the coupler.
Here is how it looks when the pipe is glued instead of the coupler.
This how it looks when the PVC coupler is glued and not the pipe.
This how it looks when the coupler is glued and not the pipe.
Typically, both the PVC primer and glue usually come with an applicator in the lid. Apply with a continuous, circular motion going around the outside or inside of the PVC pipe/connector as needed. With a little practice, you will be able to apply PVC glue or primer very quickly (this is helpful when you start gluing). Also, by using Purple Primer to clean and prep your PVC pipe and connectors, you will be able to see where you need to apply more since the entire surface will be evenly purple in color when done properly.

Applying too much primer is not a big deal but usually you don’t need to go any further than 1 inch from the end of the PVC pipe/connector. However, too much glue might cause you some problems since the thicker the application of glue, the longer it takes to properly cure. A couple passes around the surface to be glued with a properly coated applicator is usually enough and should only take a couple of seconds to apply.

When you have glued the PVC connector and are putting the two pieces together, move quickly, pressing firmly, and twist the two pieces into proper alignment before stopping. Remember, you only have a few seconds to do this. If you make a mistake, cut it out and redo it. Trying to pry the pieces apart or twist them will only crack the PVC causing a real nightmare (the entire section of cracked PVC pipe needs to be replaced not just the area effected as the crack weakens the whole piece). If you do manage to get two pieces of PVC apart before the glue completely hardens, the two pieces are ruined and can not be used again (PVC glue causes PVC to actually melt and deform).

I know some of this is scary but don’t let it put you off. Anyone with a little practice and patience can glue PVC like a professional. In this case, practice does make perfect!

Tools required:

  • Tape measure
  • Saw to cut PVC pipe (hack saw, reciprocating saw, etc.)
  • Box opener or file to smooth edges on cut PVC pipe
  • PVC glue (I prefer Rain-R-Shine PVC Glue)
  • PVC primer (I prefer Purple Primer)

Lessons Learned:

  • Take your time and think through the project (How will everything fit together?)
  • Buy more PVC pipe and fittings than you need (you can always take it back later)
  • Practice cutting/priming/gluing the PVC BEFORE you start assembling the finished product!