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What Is PVC Pipe?

Pipe fittings.
Polyvinyl chloride pipes, or PVC pipes, are very versatile and used for a wide array of things in modern society.
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  • Last Modified Date: 07 September 2014
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Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe is made from a plastic and vinyl combination material. The pipes are durable, hard to damage, and long lasting. They do not rust, rot, or wear over time. For that reason, PVC piping is most commonly used in water systems, underground wiring, and sewer lines.

PVC was first developed in 1925 when a BF Goodrich employee, Dr. Waldo Semon, attempted to invent a method for bonding metal and rubber. After blending materials together to create a strong and flexible material, Semon discovered PVC. Nonetheless, the product remained virtually useless for another decade. In the late 1930s, it was found to have great shock absorbing abilities. This discovery led to the creation of long lasting PVC tire treads.

Two decades later, PVC pipe was invented. By heating PVC, a machine called an extruder could be used to push it into hollow pipes. This made piping that was extremely solid and virtually indestructible. Using these pipes for irrigation systems proved to be effective, and PVC pipe has since been considered an affordable and reliable means for water piping.

Due to the ability of PVC pipe to withstand extreme movement and bending, it is also increasingly used in earthquake prone areas; it can withstand the rigorous shaking of the earth without experiencing any damage. The smooth surface of pipe is also resistant to bacterial contamination, such as E. coli. Therefore, many water companies rely on PVC pipes in their systems in order to keep them free of contamination.

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For most uses, this type of piping is considered very safe. There have been some reported cases of the pipe shattering when used to transport high-pressured gases, however, and it is not recommended for this use in most circumstances. Studies also showed that PVC pipe produced before the mid-1970s could leach chemicals into the fluids flowing through them, but changes in manufacturing methods have reduced this risk significantly.

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Discuss this Article

Boodog
Post 56

Are the PVC pipes used to connect my water heater to the tap safe?

I cringe every time I take a shower and try to let as little water get in my mouth as possible. Should I replace them with copper?

anon357446
Post 55

Moldex pipes are known for their excellent PVC pipes.

anon344455
Post 54

I discovered a 4" white pcv pipe buried 18" below the surface in my front yard. I plan on putting landscape rock on top. Will it be OK to dump two tons of stone on it so I can spread it out or should I have it dumped elsewhere and wheel barrel it to fill an 11' x 18'. The pipe is in the front yard and runs from the left of my house diagonally down toward the street.

anon337441
Post 53

I am considering repiping a slab house that was plumbed with polybutylene. For the attic repipe, would pEX or PVC/CPVC be better? I'm told PVC will degrade due to extreme temperature variations in attic.

gur5mic
Post 48

There are two pipe thread standards:

1)NPT

2)NPSM

My question to you is: Which standard is used for kitchen and bath room sink p-trap?

anon230869
Post 47

I seem to be having a reaction to something in my new apartment, built around late '50s early '60s.

There is a smell like hot plastic in the hallway and it makes my tongue feel numb. The 'smell' has gotten into my clothing, I smell it on my skin. The smell-odor is very caustic. Could this be old pvc pipes reacting to hot water flowing through them?

I don't want to have the problems some of these folks have had!

anon162854
Post 46

Pvc pipe produces dioxin when it burns, so use it but don't burn it.

anon157710
Post 45

@q33: PVC is made using chlorine gases and is usually pretty stable after production. Pipe that is manufactured for the purpose of waste water transfer should not be used to hold drinking water, or allow the polymer to break down through sanding or heat being applied. Putting this in your mouth may not be the most appropriate use for this product.

anon157708
Post 44

@32: HDPE is much stronger than UPVC.

anon157707
Post 43

@23: The basic plumbing pipe length for a PVC pipe, say for a drain, is six meters long.

anon157706
Post 42

@22: Pvc glue that is blue or clear is for non pressure applications like drains and storm water pipes, green is for pressure applications like irrigation systems. There is also glues for pvc used in fire sprinkler pipe applications and rapid setting glues all have a colour code.

anon157704
Post 41

@18 PVC tends to begin to break down when exposed to petroleum based products. I think PVC would not be compatible with long term exposure to diesel

anon157701
Post 40

To recycle PVC requires some specialised equipment. The product basically needs to be milled down to a sort of pulp then heated to an optimum temp and re-extruded to create say a pipe. So I would guess the best place to check for PVC recycling would be a manufacturer of PVC products, since the cost of set up would pay itself off through reproduction.

anon152505
Post 38

Plastic pipes have ruined my life. After exposure to a severely toxic substance that was somehow bonded or blended with the plastic pipe, I developed an allergy. It might what is known as a "secondary" allergy. Nonetheless, it is absolute hell! Apartment managers, friends and family, no one understood and thought my need to replace all piping with copper, or other metal, was paranoid and being a hypochondriac.

Lab testing shows I am not allergic to 50 different toxins found in household substances (like latex. Do not eat latex) but one turned the skin, tested twice, a shiny black color like a lead pencil on paper: Mercaptopbenzothiazole. It is used to coat these plastic/rubber materials with extra waterproofing and is also found in wet suits, bottom of carpeting, soles of shoes, but most miserably in the tubing material used as pipes in so many homes. The substance did one thing more than any other to my health: I had to pee and constantly felt like it. My bladder became permanently damaged from the constant inflammation and I went through years of treatment and surgery. I looked up the substance and it is most notably known in its worst case scenario to account for one cancer 99.9 percent above any other: the bladder, for example, workers making this substance, that is those closest to the pure material raw before solidity, had this.

I can't have this substance even in the apartment above me! It makes me embarrassed begging the upstairs neighbor to let the plumber in to do a $400 job I've paid for to get all plastic changed to non-toxic metal. And unfortunately, the owner doesn't feel it is a conspiracy that the property management shows a unit with copper piping and thinks a tenant like me won't notice a replacement. The new shiny white pipe with the 99 cent sticker still on it is now in my beautiful apartment and must be removed or else I will suffer. That two feet of piping.

You have no clue what i go through. That stupid stupid piping. I've done research and plumbing manuals felt it was perfectly healthy as of 2007 and it turned up everywhere! Now guess what? Healthy? Not so much.

anon141079
Post 35

do they make pvc for cold weather that doesn't freeze right away?

anon135143
Post 34

what are pvc pipes usually used for?

anon127675
Post 33

I've made panpipes from pvc pipe. I've been told that sanding the pvc pipe is not safe. Is this true?

anon125627
Post 32

Are PVC pipes stronger than HDPE pipes? --Bakht

anon118192
Post 31

Can we use pvc for diesel?

anon113534
Post 30

I would like to use leftover pvc to cast handles on silverware to be used by handicapped people. how hot do I need to get the PVC to liquefy it?

I know that it can be formed using a hot box with heat lamps. Tom

anon112305
Post 29

what is the maximum allowable temperature for pvc pipe for handling hot water and co2 gas?

anon110176
Post 28

how do you make a mast out of a pvc pipe?

anon106540
Post 27

what is meant by 4kgf in pvc pipes?

anon104623
Post 26

what is the thickness of a pvc pipe?

anon89883
Post 25

Can a weedeater cause a hairline crack or tiny holes in pvc pipe? The water line from the street into the house.

anon79437
Post 24

To answer question 23, a piece of regular PVC pipe, on average, is 10 feet. I know this because my dad works for DirecTV and I asked him about it because I'm doing my science fair project on it. hope this helped.

anon77926
Post 23

how long is a regular PVC pipe?

anon73917
Post 22

I have seen both blue and clear pvc cement. Is there a difference in the products?

anon72508
Post 21

what is the life expectancy of pvc pipes?

anon70519
Post 20

what would be a safe alternative for transporting hot water in an earthquake prone environment?

anon69248
Post 19

I want to use high doses of filler in Pvc pipe manufacturing process in our plant without increasing weight of the pipe.

Can anyone help me?

anon66563
Post 18

can I run diesel fuel through PVC pipe?

anon65560
Post 17

I want to use pvc outside where it is exposed to sunlight to run cold water to a hose spigot. The water will be used mainly to rinse a deck and water plants. What does sunlight do to pvc and will it affect the water in an unacceptable way?

anon64242
Post 16

What are the classifications of pvc pipes and their uses? --antony

engineerrock
Post 14

Answers-

1. Look in plastics news for toll regrinding and reprocessing. Unless you have a lot (2000 pounds) it's probably cheaper to landfill.

2. PVC pipe sold in the U.S. is *extremely* safe. I get test reports from NSF. They test for hundreds of compounds and most are not even detectable. But I would use cold water for all cooking and drinking. Whatever you have for pipe (copper, PVC, PEX, galvanized, etc.) more of it is going to come out in hot water and will affect the taste.

3. PVC cement has solvents and fillers in it. If your husband is getting it all over himself and spreading it on you, tell him to wear good gloves and wash up if he gets it on him. You could be allergic. But you can be allergic to leaves, grass, mold, dust mites, etc. too. Use common sense and don't expose yourself to things unneccessarily.

4. Don't overheat the PVC and use good ventilation and you will be fine. We process 10 million pounds a year at 350F no problem.

5&7. Never, never never use compressed air in PVC. If for some reason it fails you have a deadly fragmentation bomb! The reason is that compressed air stores a huge amount of energy.

10. 140F max temperature at *very* reduced pressure. Consult a manufacturer's (IPEX, George Fischer, Charlotte, Harvel) website and read their literature.

13. Electrical PVC has a ton of rock filler in it. It may work at low pressure for water but don't count on it holding up like pressure PVC pipe. Happy piping!

anon40301
Post 13

can i use electrical pvc for irrigation? our water psi does not exceed 100 psi.

plumber9
Post 12

To Anon28714:

No plumbing codes at this time allow air testing on PVC piping. Also it is illegal in my state (Washington) to use PVC piping for air lines.

plumber9
Post 11

To riross:

Every PVC pipe has labeling on it. It is advisable for you to look at the label it will tell you what pressure the pipe is good for and at what temperature.

riross
Post 10

I am building a pool heater. I need to know how hot of water can be run through schedule 40 PVC pipe. I was told you can only put 75 degrees F. Can anybody out there help me?

Ray

anon28940
Post 8

Liquids, but I have tested it with air up to around 150 psi. It held ok, but I'm not sure how high it can hold. I don't think it's rated for high pressure air, but I'm not sure.

craven
Post 7

Is that 450PSI for liquids only? I've been told that PVC is only used for liquids and that air will shatter the piping. Are you using that 1in PVC

with air pressure or liquid?

anon28714
Post 6

Well, PVC normally will have the safe maximum pressure rating stamped onto it. For example, I just bought some one inch PVC pipe and it was rated for 450 PSI, but from what I've seen, unless specially made, the larger the diameter of the pipe, the less pressure it can hold before shattering.

craven
Post 5

Can pvc piping (even the thickest) be used to contain pressurized air to create volume? If not, why? If so what do you suggest, we're thinking of using something like 4' long, 4,6,8, inches wide, ? thickness

Mooses1
Post 4

Our company sometimes works with PVC. When PVC is welded what type of safety PPE should be used.

jbutz001
Post 3

I just realized that the pipe my husband uses daily as a sprinkler technician could be causing me to manifest symptoms of severe vasculitis. I have been through so many painful procedures in the past three years to find out why the skin of my hands is literally falling off, from punch biopsies of my hand to steroid treatment that made me question my sanity. I think that if my country knows that a product is this dangerous then my country should protect it's citizens!!! The almighty dollar wins against common sense again!

marlaine
Post 2

Ok, let me get this straight regarding the last paragraph of this article. If we use hot water from the kitchen tap, it could possibly cause lung cancer? I know a young mother who has a short time to live because she has lung cancer and has never smoked. Could this be the problem? Coming from the south, I always use hot tap water when making a roux. If it was dangerous when I retrieved the water, did the toxins leave when it boiled in the pot? Better yet, could pvc pipe be the cause of the rise of cancer in our generation, whether heated or not? When I first heard the plastic poison theories, pvc was the first thing I thought of. I've always heard people blame illnesses on "something in the water" as a joke, but I believe perhaps it is something the water is in. Maybe pvc has been the problem for years and we didn't realize it?

anon9142
Post 1

I'm interested in recycling some pvc we have had at our plant. Do you know of anybody that does that?

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