DIY Plastic Plumbing

Written by tuesday fuller
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DIY Plastic Plumbing
ABS black drain pipe and CPVC water lines (framed plumbed and wired image by Scott Patterson from

Plastic plumbing is one of the easiest materials to work with. It's semi-flexible, resistant to mould and mildew, and safer to install than copper pipe, which requires a propane torch. Plastic plumbing is also compatible with most forms of plumbing, making retrofit applications and repairs easy. Plastic plumbing also costs a fraction of what metal plumbing does. DIY homeowners enjoy working with plastic plumbing because the entire project usually takes less than a day to finish and avoids the hefty fees charged by professional plumbers.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Plastic plumbing (PVC, CPVC or ABS)
  • Plastic plumbing glue
  • Plastic plumbing primer
  • Plumber's tape
  • Plastic threaded adaptors, couplers, T-shaped fittings, elbows and shut-off valves
  • Hacksaw or pipe cutters
  • Pipe wrench
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Utility knife
  • Male-threaded copper adaptor (if converting from copper plumbing)
  • Female threaded plastic adaptor
  • Plumbing flux
  • Plumbing solder
  • Propane torch
  • Sandpaper

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    Convert From Copper

  1. 1

    Remove the end of the copper plumbing with pipe cutters. Lightly sand the exterior of the copper plumbing and the interior of a copper male-threaded adaptor that will allow the conversion from copper to plastic. Test the fittings to make sure they fit properly.

  2. 2

    Brush the sanded pipe and adaptor with flux. Push the adaptor onto the copper pipe. Use a propane torch to heat the fitting.

  3. 3

    Touch the tip of the plumbing solder to the seams of the joint on the pipe and adaptor. When the pipe is hot enough, the solder will suck up into the seam. Allow the solder to harden and the pipe to cool before proceeding.

  4. 4

    Wrap the end of the copper male adaptor with plumber's tape clockwise. Carefully tighten the plastic female-threaded adaptor into the copper adaptor. Do not overtighten, since this could cause the threads to snap.

    Run Plastic Plumbing

  1. 1

    Measure the length of pipe you need to reach a water fixture. Cut the pipe to length with pipe cutters. Remove any burrs or shavings with a utility knife.

  2. 2

    Coat the inside of the female plastic adaptor installed earlier and the end of the plastic pipe you just cut with plumbing primer. With the primer still wet, apply a generous layer of plastic plumbing glue.

  3. 3

    Insert the plastic plumbing pipe into the coupling with a slight twisting motion. Hold the fitting in place for a few seconds.

  4. 4

    Coat the inside of another coupling with primer, then glue, and push the coupling onto the end of the installed plastic pipe with the same twisting motion. Repeat the process to continue running plastic plumbing to the desired location.

    Add Fixtures

  1. 1

    Wrap the threads of a plastic male adaptor with plumber's tape, again in a clockwise direction. Twist the adaptor into the threaded ends of the plumbing fixture. Use a pipe wrench to tighten the fitting. Do not overtighten.

  2. 2

    Coat both the inside of the male adaptor and a piece of plastic plumbing with primer, then glue. Push the plastic pipe into the adaptor.

  3. 3

    Attach a coupling to the fixture's new pipe with the same priming and gluing process. Prime and glue the previously installed water lines and slip the end into the coupling to complete the path for water.

Tips and warnings

  • When purchasing plastic plumbing, use PVC for cold water, CPVC for hot and cold water, and white or black ABS pipes for drains and sewer lines. In addition, you must use primer and glues that are compatible with the specific plumbing materials you purchased. The installation process described works for these types of plastic plumbing.
  • Take a section of your existing plumbing to the home improvement store to verify pipe sizes and materials.
  • If you wish to run water to several locations, use T-shaped couplings to branch water off. Use elbows to run plumbing lines vertically to sinks and toilets.
  • Install shut-off valves before water fixtures so that you can shut the water off there for repairs instead of shutting off the main water line to the entire house.
  • Solvent bonding chemically bonds the surfaces of two plastic plumbing pieces together. Be sure to apply primer and glue to both the inside of your adaptors as well as the outside of the pipes to create a secure bond.
  • Always follow the manufacturer's directions before using the product.
  • Fumes from glues and primers may cause headaches and respiratory problems in sensitive people. Wear protective masks and clothing. Work in a ventilated area, if possible.
  • Wear gloves to prevent burns when handling propane torches and hot copper fittings.
  • Wrap a cloth around the plastic ring to be tightened as a pipe is connected to a plumbing fixture. The pipe wrench can chew into the plastic.

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