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How to work with plastic plumbing fittings

Updated February 21, 2017

Plastic plumbing pipe, also known as PVC pipe, is an easy pipe system to install. Before PVC pipe, all plumbing systems were mainly done in galvanised iron pipe. Galvanised iron pipe had to be cut and threaded to be screwed together. It was much more complicated and labour intensive to install. Plastic plumbing fittings and PVC pipe, however are simply joined with glue and the cutting is much easier too!

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  1. Measure the length of PVC pipe you need to cut and select the appropriate plastic plumbing fitting that you need.

  2. Mark the length out on the piece of PVC pipe with a marking pencil and cut with a standard PVC pipe cutter. The simplest cutter to use is the ratchet-style cutter and these are found at most home improvement stores.

  3. Dry-fit the pipe and fitting together to ensure the pipe and fitting is correct for the current application.

  4. Draw a line with a marking pencil from the pipe up and over the fitting. This will serve as an alignment guide for when the fitting is glued to the pipe. Take the fitting and pipe apart.

  5. Swab PVC cleaner around the last few inches of the pipe and inside the plumbing fitting. Let dry for about 10 seconds.

  6. Swab PVC glue around the last few inches of the pipe and inside the plumbing fitting. Align the fitting and pipe about a quarter turn from the mark, and push them together while at the same time turning the pipe and fitting so that the alignment marks line up. Hold together for about 15 seconds to let the cement grab.

  7. Remove the excess PVC glue from the pipe with a rag immediately as it cures quickly.

  8. Tip

    When dry-fitting pipes, allow for shrinkage when cutting a number of fittings at once. When dry-fitted, the pipe won't always slide completely into the fitting. By compounding the amount of joints, the final connection could significantly be off. The allowance per pipe will vary on how much the pipe fits into the fitting when dry-fitted, but could be as much as 3/8 inch per joint on 1 1/2 inch pipe.


    Always work in a well ventilated area. The fumes from the cleaner and glue can be extremely hazardous to your health.

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Things You'll Need

  • Plastic (PVC) pipe
  • Plastic (PVC) plumbing fittings
  • PVC ratched-style cutter
  • Tape measure
  • Marking pencil
  • PVC cleaner
  • PVC glue
  • Rags

About the Author

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