You've undoubtedly seen it lining ceilings and connecting water sources before, but what exactly is PVC piping?
PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride - a type of plastic known for its strength, durability, and affordability. The material has been a popular choice in piping products for years, especially those that face harsh conditions on a regular basis. Today, PVC pipe is considered the gold standard in lawn irrigation and is used for a variety of projects, from storm drains to lawn sprinklers and more.
Why PVC Pipes are So Special
PVC pipes are unique in that they're both strong and adaptable. While there's no shortage of special sizes out there, installers always have the option of trimming as necessary. The individual pieces are stupidly simple to put together, requiring nothing more than a fitting and some PVC cement.
Lawn irrigation systems also benefit from PVC piping's corrosion-resistant properties; this material won't rust or become brittle over time and can survive the elements with minimal maintenance.
Get Acquainted With PVC Fittings
Proportionately smaller and harder to notice, PVC fittings are often overlooked when it comes to lawn irrigation pipe installations. But they're just as important to project success.
PVC pipe pieces are typically built with smooth ends that line up with one another perfectly. You can't really push them inside one another or fit their grooves together like a puzzle. They require an intermediary component that wraps around both ends to seal the connection. That component is a PVC fitting, and it's what allows pipes to connect in a variety of ways — elbows, tees, reducers, and more.
Here's an overview of the most common types of PVC fittings along with explanations of what each are used for:
Elbows are used to transition from one angle to the next. They usually come in 45-degree and 90-degree angles and can be used at the end of a pipe or between two pipes of different lengths.
Tees look like the letter 'T' and are built to split a single pipe or connect two pipes together at 90-degree angles. They're good for branching water supply lines or draining wastewater from a single pipe.
There are plenty of times in irrigation when two pipes will not be the same size. That's where reducers come into play — fitting pieces that reduce in diameter from one end to the other. Specific combinations of sizes enable installers to combine virtually any type of pipe in a secure way.
Caps, also called plug fittings, are designed to fit snugly over the end of a pipe so that liquid or solid materials can't escape. They're used mostly for drainage purposes and act as a barrier between two pipes when one is not being used.
Couplings allow two pipes of different sizes to be connected together. They also offer the advantage of being able to come apart easily, allowing them to be used for maintenance and repair purposes.
Understanding PVC Pipe Schedules
Beyond connection type, it's worth noting that PVC fittings can also differ based on Schedule. The Schedule system refers to the thickness of the wall of a fitting. Knowing yours is critical to not only making sure that pieces fit into one another but also building an irrigation system capable of handling the water pressure you plan on throwing at it.
Schedule 40 PVC and schedule 80 PVC are the two most common varieties of PVC pipe fitting density. The first, 40 PVC, is thinner and less robust. It can still handle a significant amount of water flow, just levels that you'd expect to find in a regular residential house.
80 PVC pipes are defined by their thicker outer walls and heavier weight. They are primarily designed for use in underground installations where corrosion, impact, and abrasion resistance are necessary. The thicker walls of the pipes also make them less susceptible to splitting under pressure.
In either case, PVC pipes and fittings can be found in a wide range of sizes and lengths. The most common include 1/2" and 3/4", but there are many other specialized sizes available. Make sure to measure your needs before you purchase; otherwise, you may end up with pieces that don't fit together correctly.
Picking Good PVC Pipes and Pipe Fittings
Topping the list of valuable life skills they should have taught you in school, choosing the right PVC pipes and pipe fittings for your project can be a tricky business. Sure, you can buy whatever is cheapest in bulk or simply grab something off the shelf without giving it much thought – but if your goal is to ensure a successful project that will last for decades, then you need to take the time and effort to do it right.
When selecting pipe fittings and pipes for your job, there are several factors you should consider. These include:
Size is probably the most important factor when choosing PVC pipes and pipe fittings for your project. Different projects require different sizes of piping; lawn irrigation installations typically range in standard dimensions from half an inch to two inches. In some cases, you'll be using pipes of different sizes together. Be sure to pick reducers designed for the specific measurements you're dealing with.
We already mentioned PVC cement, a type of adhesive used to connect two pieces of PVC pipe. Apart from this method, there are also threaded connections available for joining pipes and fittings together. Threaded connections are generally stronger than glued joints, but they require more skill to fit correctly.
The best PVC pipes and pipe fittings come backed by warranties that guarantee their long-lasting performance. This is especially important if you're installing a major plumbing system in your home. Look for warranties from trusted manufacturers who are willing to stand behind their products.