Do you remember the first time you looked at the plumbing system in your home? You probably wriggled your way into a crawl space with a flashlight between your teeth and were amazed at the web of piping and fittings. Maybe you even thought to yourself “how in the world is someone supposed to understand where all these things go and how they work?” While you should consult your trusted plumbing professional for major projects, there are a number of repairs you can make on your own with the right tools and knowhow.
Some of most common DIY repairs involve PVC pipe and knowing how use and install the various fittings can go a long way in saving you time and money.
PVC Fitting Sizes
Fittings for PVC pipe range all the way from ½” to 12”and beyond. While this seems pretty simple, it’s important to remember that the outer diameter of PVC pipe is greater than the size in its name. As an example, a 1” pipe will have an outer diameter greater than 1” and a fitting will have an even larger outer diameter than the pipe. With that being said, all 1” fittings will fit 1” PVC pipes (of the same type).
If you find yourself trying to fit a non-PVC pipe into a fitting, you’ll need to make sure the outer diameter of the fitting is the same as the inner diameter on your pipe. A 1” steel pipe may not always be compatible with a 1” fitting.
Adhesives and PVC End Types
When you fit two pieces of PVC pipe together, the fit should be fairly snug but it won’t be watertight. If you’re going to have liquids of any type running through your pipe, you want to make sure they are completely sealed.
If you’re working with PVC pipe that is not threaded, you’ll be able to connect it with fittings that have slip ends. In order to make the fitting watertight, you’ll want to apply both PVC primer and PVC cement to the inside of the fitting. The primer serves to soften the inside of the fitting so it can bond, and the cement holds the two pieces securely in place.
If you’re fitting threaded pipe, applying PVC cement will render the threads useless. Instead, try using thread sealant approved for PVC. Follow the manufacturers’ instructions and you’ll create a watertight seal that can be unscrewed if need be.
Types of PVC Fittings
There are many different types of PVC fittings that serve different uses. Below is our list of the most common ones and their applications.
Just like the letter “T”, these fittings have three ends. The most common use for Tees is to split one line into two. They are also great for building three-dimensional structures. The most common tees have slip ends, but they can be purchased with threaded ends as well.
If you work on plumbing projects long enough, you’re going to encounter tight spaces and things in the way that you might have to bend pipe around. This is where elbow fittings come in. Most commonly available in 45-degree and 90-degree angles, elbows are your best bet if you have lines that need to be bent.
Similar to tees, crosses can be used to divert lines in different directions. Crosses also provide great structural integrity in PVC structures and framework. Most crosses have slip ends but threaded ends are available too.
Couplings are one of the simplest PVC fittings around. There main function is to connect two pieces of pipe in a straight line. They can be used to connect pipe to pipe, pipe to fitting or even fitting to fitting in some cases. They are available both slip ends and female-threaded ends.
Unions serve much the same purpose as couplings but are a less permanent solution for connecting pipe. A ring in the center of the fitting separates each end and can be unscrewed for easy removal.
The only job of a cap is to stop the flow of liquid. Installed on the end of the pipe, caps fit on the outside of the pipe and have either a socket or female-threaded end.
Just like caps, plugs stop the flow of liquid. The difference is that are placed on the inside of a fitting and therefore have a spigot or male-threaded end.
Anytime your trying to connect pipes of different sizes, adapters are your best friend. They are designed specifically to change the end of pipe. Adapters are available in male and female-threaded ends as well as slip-socket ends.
Bushings are used to connect pipes of different diameters. Available in both slip and threaded versions, they can be used to connect pipes with different types of connections. Bushings are commonly used for outdoor water applications as plastic won’t rust like metal found in other types of pipe and fittings.
On occasion you’re going to encounter a situation where you have to connect two female-threaded ends. This is made possible by nipples, which have ends that are both male-threaded.
There’s no question that there are a multitude of ways to connect PVC pipes and fittings. Whether you need to curve piping around a corner or divert one line into two or more lines, there is a fitting designed specifically for the task at hand. If you take the time to make sure your pipes, fittings and their respective ends are compatible, there’s no reason you can’t work on your pipes on your own. Doing so can save precious time and money and it’s tough to beat the satisfaction of doing things yourself.
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