Home >> PVC…Pipe’s Most Versatile Material

PVC…Pipe’s Most Versatile Material

PVC 12-inch fabricated fitting

PVC 12-inch fabricated fitting

Plumbing and mechanical engineers designing projects using fluid handling systems have several pressure and drainage piping materials to choose from….steel, cast and ductile iron, copper, concrete, clay, fiberglass, glass, and thermoplastics—-including: Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS), Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride (CPVC), Polyethylene (PE), Cross-linked Polyethylene (PEX), Polypropylene (PP), Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and Polyvinylidene Fluoride (PVDF).  The question—-how to choose the best piping material?

PVC purple piping for reclaimed water

PVC purple piping for reclaimed water

There are several factors that Professional Engineers use to select piping materials. First, there is the field conditions of service which include such factors as system pressure, fluid temperature, above or belowground installation, chemical compatibility, and type of application, Secondly, the chosen pipe material must adhere to all applicable building codes. And lastly the piping material must provide long-term durability at a cost-effective price—-a price that includes material, installation and maintenance costs.

And when conditions of service and codes allow there is one versatile piping material that seems to stand head and shoulders above most others…PVC.

Light weight of PVC piping

Light weight of PVC piping

PVC is a plastic resin made from combining chlorine, extracted from salt (one of the most abundant materials on earth), and ethylene, refined from fossil-fuel feed stocks such as oil, gas and coal (in the future, ethylene may be increasingly sourced from sugar cane or other bio-feedstocks). PVC has been used as a piping material since the mid 1930’s. It is the most used piping system in the world because of its durability, safe and ease of installation, cost-effectiveness, light footprint on the environment and, as we will see, its tremendous versatility.

PVC, sometimes referred to as vinyl, piping is available in at least eight colors, has seventy distinct pressure and drainage systems, can be easily installed using a minimum of 5 different joining techniques, a breadth of product line which is the envy of all of its competitors and has successfully handled thousands of projects in over four dozen different above and below ground application areas.

Double containment piping with PVC containment and stainless steel carrier piping

Double containment piping with PVC containment and stainless steel carrier piping

Breadth of Product Line: The size range of PVC piping begins at 1/8-inch and is available all the way up to 48-inch diameter and larger. Not only is the piping system composed of dozens of sizes and geometries of fittings, it also offers PVC valves, pumps, tanks, duct, scrubbers, fans, hoods, filters, strainers, and other fluid handling products. This breadth of line allows PVC to handle applications where just one piping material is ever in contact with the fluid. But what really distinguishes PVC from other piping materials is its unmatched offering of piping compound and profile systems to handle the many pressure and drainage application requirements. Table 1 list these piping systems including pipe diameter size ranges, pressure ratings where applicable and typical pipe ends.

 

Toughness of biaxially molecular oriented PVC piping

Toughness of biaxially molecular oriented PVC piping

Variety of Colors: Color is added in PVC compounds before processing and theoretically can produce any color imaginable. The most common PVC piping system colors and applications are shown in Table 2.

Joining Methods: The two most commonly used methods of joining PVC piping are solvent cementing and bell-gasketed joints. Most aboveground PVC applications are solvent cemented. While belled-gasketed joining is the most popular method of joining PVC for buried applications, solvent cementing and heat fusion are also used as well. Other methods of joining PVC piping systems are: flanging, threading, mechanical grooving and push-fit. Table 3 lists the various PVC joining methods with comments on their use.

Applications: If the temperature range of the piping application is between 32°F and 140°F, less than 250-psi working pressure, and fluid compatible, PVC may provide the solution. Table 4 lists over 50 applications in residential, commercial, municipal and industrial markets where PVC piping has been successfully installed and in many cases is the preferred piping material.

PVC industrial piping systems

PVC industrial piping systems

Can you possibly understand why anyone would not consider PVC piping systems if the conditions of service and codes allow? And this article only considers PVC for bone fide piping applications. How about the many unintended applications PVC piping has been used for such as: pipe furniture, shipping containers, shelving for stacking wine or building plans, pick-up truck containers for carrying smaller diameter pipe, “Blue-Man” musical instruments, playground equipment, concrete forms, plant water-containers and horserace track railings to name a few.

PVC Service Line

PVC handling potable water service line

When PVC is being considered for a piping project, keep in mind of all of the reasons why it is the post popular piping system on the planet: durable, safe and easy to install, environmentally sound, cost effective and versatile.

PVC …the preferred piping material.

David A. Chasis
Chasis Consulting Inc.

Table 1 – Applications

PVC Pressure Piping
Product Description Pressure Rating (psi) Nominal Pipe Diameter (inches) Typical Pipe End
AWWAC900            DR14 305 4 – 12 gasket
AWWA C900           DR 18 235 4 – 12 gasket
AWWA C900           DR 25 165 4 – 12 gasket
AWWA C900           DR 41 100 4 – 12 gasket
AWWA C900           DR 51 80 4 – 12 gasket
AWWA C905           DR 14 305 14 – 48 gasket
AWWA C905           DR 18 235 14 – 24 gasket
AWWA C905           DR 21 200 14 – 36 gasket
AWWA C905           DR 25 165 14 – 48 gasket
AWWA C905           DR 32.5 125 14 – 48 gasket
AWWA C905           DR 41 100 14 – 48 gasket
AWWA C905           DR 51 80 30 – 48 gasket
Bi-Axially Oriented AWWA & SDR ratings 4 – 12 gasket
Double Containment Varies with system ½ – 12 plain
Flexible (swimming pool) Varies with diameter ½ – 6 plain
Heat Fusible C900 Typical DR ratings 4 – 12 plain
Heat Fusible C905 Typical DR ratings 14 – 36 plain
Heat Fusible Liner Sch 40/80 & DR ratings 4 – 36 plain
Horizontal Directional Drilling 305 4 – 6 mechanical
Horizontal Directional Drilling 235 8 – 12 mechanical
P. I. P.                    SDR 32.5 125 6 – 27 plain/gasket
P. I. P.                    SDR 41 100 6 – 27 plain/gasket
P. I. P.                    SDR 52 80 6 – 27 plain/gasket
P. I. P.                    SDR 64 63 6 – 27 plain/gasket
Reclaimed Water (purple) Schedule & SDR ratings ½ – 8 plain/gasket
Schedule 120 Varies with diameter ½ – 8 plain
Schedule 80 (gray) Varies with diameter 1/8 – 24 plain
Schedule 80 (clear) Varies with diameter ¼ – 6 plain
Schedule 80 (low extractable) Varies with diameter ½ – 6 plain
Schedule 40 (white) Varies with diameter 1/8– 24 plain
Schedule 40 (clear) Varies with diameter ¼ – 12 plain
Schedule 40 (UV resistant) Varies with diameter ½ – 6 plain
Schedule 40 (low extractable) Varies with diameter ½ – 6 plain
Schedule 40 (low flame spread) Varies with diameter ½ – 2 plain
SDR 13.5 315 ½ – 6 plain
SDR 17 250 ¾ – 12 plain/gasket
SDR 21 200 ¾ – 12 plain/gasket
SDR 26 160 1 – 24 plain/gasket
SDR 32.5 125 1 ¼ – 12 plain/gasket
SDR 41 100 3 – 24 plain/gasket
SDR 64 63 1 ½ – 12 plain/gasket
Well Casing            Sch. 40 Varies with diameter 2 – 16 plain/bell
Well Casing            SDR 13.5 315 2 – 6 plain/bell
Well Casing            SDR 17 250 2 – 12 plain/bell
Well Casing            SDR 26 160 4 – 12 plain/bell
Well Casing            SDR 32.5 125 4 – 16 plain/bell
Well Casing            SDR 41 100 4 – 12 plain/bell
W. C. Drop Pipe      Sch. 80/120 Varies with diameter 1 – 2 threaded
PVC Drainage Pipe
Product Description Nominal Pipe Diameter (inches) Typical Pipe End
Double containment 1½ – 12 plain
Gravity Sewer (D 3034)           SDR 23.5 4 – 6 gasket
Gravity Sewer (D 3034)           SDR 26 4 – 15 gasket
Gravity Sewer (D 3034)           SDR 35 4 – 42 gasket
Gravity Sewer (F 679)             PS 46 18 – 36 gasket
Gravity Sewer (F 679)             PS 115 18 – 36 gasket
Highway Underdrain (F 758) perforated 4 – 8 plain
Schedule 40-Celluar Core       DWV 1½ – 12 plain
Schedule 30                          DWV 3 plain
Sewer Ribbed (F 794) 8 – 27 gasket
Sewer Corrugated (F 949) 24– 36 gasket
Sewer & Drain-Cellular core    PS 50 4 – 6 plain
Sewer & Drain (D 3034) perforated 4 – 6 plain
Sewer & Drain (D 2729) perforated 3 – 6 plain
Storm Drain Ribbed (M304M) 18 – 24 gasket
Other PVC Piping/Duct Applications
Product Description Nominal Pipe Diameter (inches) Typical Pipe End
Central Vacuum – Schedule 20 2 plain
Conduit-electrical ½ – 6 bell
Conduit-utility 1 – 6 bell
Conduit–duct/phone 2 – 4 bell
Duct (air & fumes) 6 – 24 plain
Flue Gas Venting- Schedule 40 1½ – 4 plain
Radon Elimination -Schedule 40 2 – 4 plain

Notes:

Acronyms:
AWWA = American Water Works Association
DR = dimension ratio
P.I.P. = plastic irrigation pipe
PS = pipe stiffness (value relates to impact resistance)
SDR = standard dimension ratio

Other notes:

1. Pipe diameters and pipe ends vary with each pipe manufacturer’s product line
2. Pipe diameter ranges are not static and may change

TABLE 2 – PVC Color Piping Guides by Applications*

PVC Piping Color Guide by Applications*
Color Common Applications
Blue Water main, high purity & mining
Brown UV resistant
Clear Industrial, sight gages, UV resistant
Gray Industrial, duct & conduit
Green Sewer and drain
Purple Reclaimed, recycled and/or non-potable water
Translucent Low flame & smoke containment
White DWV, well casing, irrigation, pressure and most others
Yellow Mining & dewatering

*Note: The colors listed are a guide. Always check your local codes and the pipe markings to ensure the pipe is rated for the application. Other colors are available especially for applications like underground ducting.

TABLE 3 – Most Common Joining Methods for PVC Piping Systems

Joining Method Comments on Use
Solvent Cementing Above or belowground use—more frequently used for joining aboveground installations––no special tools required—joints need to cure before testing and use—one of the strongest and best joint integrity of any PVC joining method
Gasketed Bell Underground use—quick and simple to install— needs thrust blocking—no special tools required—excellent track record of joint integrity
Flanging Aboveground use—150-psi working pressure for most flanges could limit system pressure-easy to install—can connect and reconnect piping–transition method from PVC to other piping materials—good choice for large diameter piping—can prefabricate system components for shipment to job site
Threading Aboveground use—direct threading of Schedule 80 or 120 only—direct threading reduces working pressure 50%—thread by socket cemented adapters are available to handle working pressures to 150°F and to join dissimilar piping materials
Mechanical Grooving Aboveground use—easy to install—rolled or cut grooved pipe—may reduce working pressure of piping systems—elastomerically sealed—good choice for large diameter piping—can prefabricate system components for shipment to job site
Heat Fusing Used in piping fabrications—new system with special compound can be heat fused in the field for underground and lining applications—need sophisticated and expensive joining equipment and specially trained installers
Push-Connect Aboveground use—for pipe diameters 2-inches and below—metal grabber may be exposed in transporting the fluid—very easy to install

TABLE 4- Common PVC Piping Applications

Residential Central Vacuum
Drain/Waste/Vent
Irrigation
Radon Removal
Rain Harvesting
Reclaimed Water
Septic System
Sewer
Swimming Pool
Water Distribution
Well Casing
Commercial Building Service Lines
Chilled Water
Condensate Drain
Condenser Water
Drain/Waste/Vent
Irrigation
Rain Harvesting
Reclaimed Water
Refrigeration
Sewer
Site Utilities
Swimming Pool
Water Distribution
Water Towers
Well Casing
Municipal Aquariums
Amusement/WaterParks
Bridge/Road Drainage
De-watering
Landfills
Irrigation
Rain Harvesting
Slip Lining
Sewer and Drain
Swimming Pool
Water Distribution
Water Mains
Water Towers
Water/Waste Treatment
Well Casing
Industrial Air Pollution Systems
Chemical Processing
Desalinization
De-watering
Double-containment
Drain/Waste/Vent
Ducting
Electronics
Fire-hydrant
Fish Farms
Food/Beverage
High-purity Water
HVAC
Mining
Marine
Pharmaceutical
Pulp/Paper
Refrigeration
Semiconductor
Steel Making
Surface Finishing
Water Distribution
Water/Waste Treatment