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How to Cut PVC Pipe

Welcome

This guide is designed to be friendly and knowledgable and to provide options for different people from all settings and backgrounds. Whether you're a first-time PVC builder, who has never picked up any tool, or a seasoned PVC enthusiast or maker who uses PVC in everyday ideas and activities, this guide should provide a general manual for cutting PVC pipe products.

First, we'll cover all the basics, like general safety instructions. Then we'll get into what tools are available to cut PVC pipe; then, we'll show examples of how to use each tool or method to cut PVC pipe. Finally, we'll discuss additional techniques for finishing up the cutting PVC pipe process and cleaning up and what tools should never be used.

If your questions are not addressed here, feel free to contact our support team at info@formufit.com.  We'll be glad to help.

Cutting PVC Pipe Summary

Compared to wood and metal, PVC has many methods to cut it into manageable and necessary sizes for a project.

PVC cuts extremely easy. Other materials take a long time to cut using standard hand tools. PVC, on the other hand, does not. This is because PVC only requires that, like metal, you cut the outside diameter of the pipe. While wood and metal leave behind splinters or metal filaments which can become cumbersome, PVC only leaves behind small traces of plastic particles, which can easily be cleaned up by hand without injury.

 

What is the best way to cut PVC pipe?  We'll leave that up to you.  Much of it depends upon your need and your budget.  Read through our options below and determine your ideal way to cut PVC pipe.

Legal

DISCLAIMER: The information provided within this manual is for informational purposes only. FORMUFIT accepts no responsibility and is excluded from all liability for damage and loss that any other party may suffer as a result of using or in connection with such use or loss of use of this information, including but not limited to loss of profit, loss of opportunity, loss of business, indirect damages, incidental damages, special or consequential loss, injury or loss of life.

Safety First.

As with any manual involving tools, especially cutting or drilling, safety needs to be discussed.v

Cutting tools can be dangerous.

Every method to cut PVC pipe involves tools that use a cutting blade of some type. Each of these tools can cause serious harm to an individual if not used properly. Be sure to read, understand, and follow all the safety rules for your hand or power tools. Failure to do so could cause bodily harm.

Protect your hands

Hands

Always be aware of where your hands are when cutting PVC pipe with any tool, be it manual or power. Always clamp, and never hold PVC pipe when cutting with a saw.

 
Protect your eyes

Eyes

Wear safety glasses, goggles, or other eye protection when cutting PVC pipe, as pipe fragments can be ejected from the area being cut. This is particularly important when using power tools.

 
protect your lungs

Mouth & Lungs

Wear a mask or respirator. When cut, PVC pipe can emit small particles that irritate the lungs or throat. PVC, when heated to its melting point, can also emit chlorine gas, which with long-term exposure, can be dangerous.

 

PVC Cutting Tools Explained

PVC pipe is one of the most versatile and useful structural building materials available, but you still need a method to reduce it to the right size.   There are many ways (including many types of tools/cutter brands) to cut PVC, but we've provided a few methods and tools, shown below, to cut PVC pipe easily and safely.

Hacksaw Cutting Method

Hacksaw / Back Saw

The hacksaw or back saw are the most common methods to cut lengths of PVC pipe, as most individuals already have one in their toolbox or garage. Hacksaws and back saws work well but are somewhat time-consuming and can cause additional work to de-burr the edges of the cut PVC pipe. A hacksaw or backsaw is ideal if you only need to cut one or several pieces of pipe. Back saws usually come with a miter box and can be used together to make straight, even cuts.

Plastic Pipe Cutter Method

Scissor-Style Pipe Cutter

The scissor-style PVC pipe cutter is inexpensive and easy to use. They are available at most hardware stores or home improvement centers in the plumbing section. They are, however, limited in their cutting capability and can add stress to the hands as they are ideal for smaller tubing. Scissor-style plastic pipe cutters should only be used for 1" or smaller sizes of PVC.

Ratchet Style Pipe Cutter

Ratchet-Style Pipe Cutter

The ratcheting-style pipe cutter is slightly more expensive than the scissor-style pipe cutter; however, you can do larger pieces of PVC with less effort (up to 1-1/2" pipe in some cases) with these types of PVC cutters. The ratcheting plastic pipe cutters are available at your local hardware store or home improvement center, usually in the plumbing section. Over time, they can cause stress on the hands and forearm when performing frequent cuts.

Power Miter Saw

Power Miter Saw

A power miter saw is ideal when cutting large quantities of PVC pipe. Power miter saws are, however, expensive.   If you already own one or have access to one and know how to use it safely, you can use the existing wood blade to cut PVC pipe without buying a special blade. Be sure to read and understand the instructions included with the miter saw.



Hacksaw or Back Saw

CAUTION: Be sure to clamp all PVC pipe with a vise, C-clamps, or quick-release clamps. Do not attempt to hold the pipe steady with your hands, as injury may result.

Hacksaw / Back Saw Cutting Steps

STEP 1

Using a tape measure and a marking tool such as a pencil, mark the point at which you want to cut the PVC pipe.

Measure PVC pipe Cut

 

STEP 2

As mentioned before, clamp the pipe to a solid surface such as a table. If using a miter box, be sure the box is secured to a table. You can use a vice, C-clamps, or quick-release clamps to secure the pipe to either the table or the miter box.

clamp the PVC Pipe

 

STEP 3

Before you begin sawing, ensure that the hacksaw's adjustment nut(s) is hand-tight. Do not over-tighten. A loose blade will cause the cut to wander and not make a straight, even cut down the diameter of the pipe.

tighten the adjustment nut

 

STEP 4

Place the rear of the hacksaw blade on the cut mark, then draw it backward to create a notch in the PVC pipe. This can be repeated until there is a defined but clean notch in the pipe. This notch will guide all subsequent movements and make it easy to glide the saw back and forth without bouncing along the surface of the pipe.

Create a notch in the PVC Pipe

 

STEP 5

Begin cutting with a back-and-forth motion SLOWLY, ensuring the cut is straight as the hacksaw cuts further into the pipe. Let the saw do the cutting. Cutting too quickly at this point will make the saw wiggle and take you off the course of a clean cut.

PVC Pipe Back and Forth Hacksaw

 

STEP 6

When you reach the bottom of the pipe, slow down on the sawing motion and complete the cut smoothly and easily at an angle to avoid a 'blowout' of the edge of the pipe.

Prevent Blowout Hacksaw PVC

 

Scissor-Style Pipe Cutter

CAUTION: Take breaks between frequent cutting to avoid hand fatigue.

Scissor-Style Pipe Cutter Steps

STEP 1

Using a tape measure and a marking tool such as a pencil, mark the point at which you want to cut the pipe.

Measure PVC pipe Cut

 

STEP 2

Hold the pipe in one hand with the mark you made facing up, and place the pipe inside the pipe cutter mechanism. Ensure the cutter's blade is on the cut mark you made.

Insert PVC Pipe into Pipe Cutter

 

STEP 3

Grasp the handle with pressure, then slowly rotate the pipe cutter around the pipe, ensuring that you remain straight. If the pipe cutter begins to make a 'spiral' and goes off to the left or right, restart the cut, and attempt to keep it straight (this is usually caused by gripping too hard).

Rotate PVC Pipe in Cutter

 

STEP 4

Once you have made one pass around the entire pipe, apply additional pressure and repeat the rotations around the pipe until it is cut through completely.

Complete the PVC Scissor Cut

 

Ratchet-Style Pipe Cutter

CAUTION: Take breaks between frequent cutting to avoid hand fatigue.

Ratchet-Style Pipe Cutter Steps

STEP 1

Using a tape measure and a marking tool such as a pencil, mark the point at which you want to cut the pipe.

Measure PVC pipe Cut

 

STEP 2

As you open the handles of the ratchet-style pipe cutter, the blade will also lift. Open the pipe cutter handles completely so that you can fit your pipe in between the blade and the jaw of the pipe cutter.

Open Ratchet PVC Pipe Cutter

 

STEP 3

Hold the pipe in one hand with the mark you made facing up, and slide the pipe between the blade and lower jaw. Place the blade of the pipe cutter on the mark and squeeze the handles until they come into contact.

Place PVC Pipe Inside Ratcheting Cutter

 

STEP 4

Grasp the handle with pressure until the blade meets the mark, then release the handle and repeat to use the ratcheting action. Continue ratcheting down onto the pipe until you are completely through the pipe and it separates into two segments.

Complete Ratcheting PVC Pipe Cutter

 

Power Miter Saw

CAUTION: Miters saws can be extremely dangerous and can cause fatal injuries if improperly used. Be sure to read and understand the instructions for your miter saw. Failure to do so could cause bodily harm, or even death

Power Miter Saw Steps

STEP 1

Using a tape measure and a marking tool such as a pencil, mark the point at which you want to cut the pipe.

Measure PVC pipe Cut

 

STEP 2

Line up the cut mark you made in the previous step on the miter saw throat plate.

Line up miter saw PVC fence

 

STEP 3

Secure the pipe to the miter saw table with clamps to the miter saw fence. NEVER USE YOUR HANDS. Using a pipe clamp with a curved face may be more practical to hold the pipe in place properly.

Line up PVC Pipe on throat plate

 

STEP 4

Pull the switch trigger and slowly bring the miter saw arm down into and through the pipe. Bring the miter saw down through the entire pipe, then release the switch trigger. Allow the blade to stop spinning before removing the pipe or raising the blade.

Complete Miter Finish Guide

 

Wrap Up

Post-cutting Pipe Cleanup

De-burring

When using hand saws, such as hacksaws, the back-and-forth motion of the saw will often create a blowout at the end of the inside of the pipe, known as burrs. These are small bits of PVC plastic that are created when the sawing action is performed.

The burrs can be annoying, scratch items, and make a general mess when handling the PVC pipe. You can remove the burrs to alleviate any post-cutting mess and to keep things clean.

To de-burr the end of the cut PVC pipe, you can use one of three methods:

  1. Purchase a de-burring tool with a tapered cone that spins in a back-and-forth motion inside the end of the pipe to remove the burrs.
  2. Use a sharp construction knife, box knife, or pocket knife, and run it along the inside edge of the pipe.
  3. Use heavy-grade sandpaper and run it along the pipe's interior. This will assist in loosening the burrs and cause them to fall away.

PVC Cutting Avoidances

The right tool for the right job.

Several methods are not recommended to cut PVC pipe. Despite the obvious, many people believe that cutting PVC is just like cutting wood and that PVC can be cut using the same tools and in the same manner. This is not true, as wood and PVC have completely different characteristics.

Always clamp your pipe

It is not recommended to use any power cutting tool where the user moves the pipe INTO the blade, also known as static or fixed blade tools. This is due to the curvature of the PVC pipe and the difficulty in successfully maintaining a secure hold onto the curved pipe. Additionally, the curvature causes the saw to come into contact at different points on the curved pipe and may make the blade 'bounce' off the pipe, producing undesirable results or injury.

Some examples of non-recommended power tools are table saws (the PVC pipe can cause kickback) or band saws (bandsaws are notorious for chipping pipe that is old and brittle).

It is recommended to use power tools where you secure the PVC pipe to a surface with clamps and move the blade into the pipe, such as miters saws, or in some cases, even jigsaws or circular saws.

Don't Use Tools Made for Wood

Standard wood saws are not recommended as they don't produce the accurate results that a hacksaw does. Hacksaws have a much thinner blade and cut more precisely, whereas wood saws have large teeth and a thick blade.

The larger teeth of the wood saw do not properly allow a good perforation into the pipe and can cause more work than necessary.

  • Avoid using abrasives, such as sandpaper, to clean the surface of Furniture Grade PVC. This will scratch the surface of the PVC pipe and cause a swirling or line effect to appear on the pipe surface or may leave a dull finish. Only use this method on plumbing grade PVC pipe.
  • Don't use regular household cleaners unless you are simply removing dirt. Regular household cleaners and other cleaners like bleach will not remove the ink or lettering on PVC pipe which has been printed with a special PVC embedding ink.

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