From construction to DIY projects, healthcare applications, and even fiber for clothing, PVC is a durable and versatile plastic that offers a broad range of applications. Since PVC comes in many forms and can be used for many different things, choosing the correct PVC for your home project can be a daunting task, especially if you’re not very familiar with it.
Whether you’re looking for PVC for plumbing, décor, or anything in-between, this guide will walk you through everything you need to know about using PVC around the home. You’ll learn all about what to consider when choosing PVC, including the most common uses for PVC, the different types of PVC, how to size and price it, and the additional tools you’ll need to get your job done.
What is PVC?
Polyvinyl Chloride, or PVC as it’s most commonly known, is one of the oldest and most widely used plastics in the world for piping and other construction applications. First synthesized in 1872, this reliable thermoplastic polymer has been around at least 60 years longer than its plastic counterparts, which weren’t synthesized and sold until the 1940s and ’50s.
PVC comes in both rigid and flexible forms, which offer various advantages and applications across several industries. When using PVC around the home, you must first consider what it will be used for, take into account the various types to choose from, and don’t forget about the additional tools and materials you’ll need to complete the job.
What Will Your PVC be Used For?
One of the main things to consider when choosing PVC is its form. PVC is produced in two general forms – one rigid and one flexible. For most home projects, you’ll likely be working with a type of rigid PVC. While flexible or plasticized PVC is used in a variety of ways across multiple industries, rigid PVC is the form used for applications like plumbing, sewage, HVAC, and even making furniture and home décor.
There are several reasons behind PVC being the number-one choice for piping used in plumbing systems. This resilient material is durable, lightweight, and easy to install. It’s chemical- and abrasion-resistant and can resist temperatures of 140 degrees Fahrenheit. PVC piping can withstand pressures up to 160psi as well as extreme weather conditions. It’s a cost-effective, long-lasting, reliable material that requires infrequent replacements, which helps reduce environmental impact.
PVC offers several advantages over metal for heating, venting, and air conditioning systems. In addition to its cost-effectiveness, it is strong, durable, and resistant to rust and corrosion. These aspects make it an ideal choice for running lines under the house or in areas that might be exposed to exhaust or gasses. The strength and durability of PVC allow HVAC systems to withstand extreme elements. It’s also better at insulating than metal. PVC can be used for the entire HVAC system or just the drain line, which begins inside and runs condensation from the unit outside.
Décor and Furniture
While PVC makes an ideal choice for plumbing piping and HVAC systems, it can also be used to create unique DIY furniture and décor pieces for the home. This is an excellent idea for anyone with leftover PVC pipe and other materials from working on the abovementioned systems. Instead of throwing them out, use them to add stylish accents indoors and outdoors.
Tables and Table Accents
Reuse PVC pipes to make a table and table accents. To make a table, simply wrap the pipe stiffly into a stylish shape that remains stable. Place a tray on top and use it to display accessories or use in outdoor spaces. Decorate PVC pipes using paint and craft paper to decorate structures or figures you make with the piping. Place them around the home on nightstands, countertops, or in a home office for some unique contemporary touches.
Use PVC pipe to make storage boxes, window sill plant holders, jewelry boxes, and other storage spaces you can place throughout the home. Get creative and stay organized.
Use a piece of PVC pipe as a flower vase. Decorate it by pasting on laminated photographs or drawing, painting, and etching designs on its surface. These stylish DIY vases can be placed on tables indoors or outdoors, on a patio or porch.
Whether it’s spring, fall, or winter, you can use PVC piping to make a wreath. Simply wrap a long pipe or cut large pieces of pipes and join them together. Decorate them with flowers and seasonal accents and hang them on doors or fireplace mantels.
Whether you’re a wine-lover or know someone who is, PVC pipes make perfect wine holders. Take a piece of large pipe and cut it into wine bottle-sized pieces. Arrange them on top of each other and place the holder inside, outside, or give it as a personalized gift.
Types of PVC
When using PVC for home projects like plumbing and HVAC systems, it’s essential to know the different types of PVC piping and the benefits of each in regards to the application for which you intend to use it.
PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride and is the most commonly used material for plumbing projects. This plastic piping creates a drainage or plumbing system with pieces of pipe and fittings joined together with cement and PVC primer. Its popularity for plumbing projects can be attributed to its low cost, consistent sizing system, and zero risk of rusting, among many other benefits. The most common applications for PVC are sink, bathtub, shower, and toilet drains.
CPVC, or chlorinated polyvinyl chloride, is PVC that has gone through an extra chlorination step in its production process. The chlorination allows it to handle higher temperatures than PVC, making it ideal for hot water applications. It can replace copper pipe in plumbing systems as a quieter, lighter, more affordable, and easier-to-install option. While there are many advantages to using CPVC, it’s important to note that it can crack if water freezes in it, so it should only be used indoors. The most common applications for CPVC are hot water and potable water systems, home plumbing systems, and hot water drains.
PEX is cross-linked polyethylene, which is a plastic tubing that’s made from high-density polyethylene. It has the same advantages for plumbing applications as PVC and CPVC regarding cost-effectiveness, durability, and ability to withstand high temperatures and pressure. The aspect of PEX piping that sets it apart from PVC and CPVC is its flexible nature. It can be snaked, curved, and bent, allowing it to get around corners without requiring the use of fittings. It’s also color-coded for hot and cold. The most common applications for PEX piping are in remodeling and building new homes and low-ventilation zones.
The main advantage of copper piping in plumbing applications is its extreme temperature resistance. While CPVC can withstand freezing in most situations, there’s still a slight risk of cracking. Copper piping will never crack or burst when water freezes inside it. However, when it comes to preserving hot water temperature, copper falls short compared to its plastic counterparts. Copper piping is also much more expensive to purchase and install than PVC and CPVC. It also requires a professional with welding experience for installation. The most common applications for copper are in potable water systems and for commercial and residential plumbing.
Brass piping shares most of the same advantages as copper but has thicker walls, making it an ideal option for high-pressure plumbing systems. While it shares many of the same advantages as copper, it also shares many of copper’s negative aspects. It’s a loud, heavy, and expensive option compared to PVC and CPVC. It’s also worth noting that while most of the brass on the market today is lead-free, brass can contain trace amounts of lead. The most common applications for brass piping are gas and water supply lines.
Galvanized refers to the zinc coating covering pipes and fittings typically made from iron or steel. These pipes have a shiny grey color and have excellent rust-resistant properties. While galvanized steel or iron works for water pipes, it’s most often used in construction applications. While its impressive strength makes it a good choice for outdoor and underground installation, it’s important to note that galvanized piping should never be used for gas systems as gas can wear the galvanized coating off the metal. The most common applications for galvanized iron or steel piping are underground and outdoor water supply lines.
Before you set out on deciding which type of pipe to use for your home projects, take a close look at what the pipe will be used for. Focus on details like the amount of pressure the system requires to function optimally, the temperatures it will be exposed to, the type of environment it will be in. Consider whether it will be used for delivering or draining water and whether it will be installed indoors, outdoors, or underground.
Before you set out to buy PVC piping for your home project, make sure you calculate how much you’ll need and which fittings you require to complete the job.
PVC piping and materials come in a wide range of sizes and are fitted together with joints called fittings. The fittings are made of PVC as well and come in various sizes and shapes. When you’re trying to decide which size to use for your home project, two features need to be considered: Nominal Pipe Size and wall thickness (referred to as the schedule).
Schedule 40 and 80 PVC are the two most common PVC schedules. While schedule 80 PVC has a thicker wall and is most commonly used for industrial and commercial applications, schedule 40 PVC is typically the ideal choice for irrigation applications and residential plumbing systems.
The Nominal Pipe Size is like a sizing standard for the pipe diameter. This measurement is in inches and ranges from a half-inch to over 20 inches. Regardless of the size of the pipe and fittings, everything should connect without trouble as long as the pipe schedule is consistent.
Tools and Materials
While PVC is easier to use than most other types of piping, it still requires specific tools for cutting and installing.
When cutting PVC for smaller jobs, you can usually get away with using a simple hacksaw. However, larger projects will require the use of an electric miter saw or PVC cutter tool that’s specially designed for cutting PVC.
Cement and Primer
After you do a dry fit to ensure all your parts fit together correctly, you can begin gluing them together using specially-formulated permanent cement. Use a PVC primer before gluing parts for water-tight projects.
PVC fittings come in a wide range of sizes and shapes to suit all types of applications. They can be filed during a dry fitting to create an ideal fit.
The best place to find the lowest prices on PVC pipes and fittings is online. If you have time to wait for delivery or are working on a large project, you should look online before going to a local hardware store. Local hardware stores are usually stocked with the most common schedule 40 PVC pipes and fitting parts, so they’re a good place to go when you need parts for an urgent project. However, their prices tend to be much higher than what’s offered online.
Follow the guide above when you need to know what to consider when choosing PVC for your home project. There are many benefits and advantages to using PVC around the home, whether you’re upgrading a plumbing system or an HVAC unit. And don’t forget to use whatever piping you have left at the end of your project to create some unique DIY home décor and furniture pieces.
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