Knowing what kind of tools are available for a specific type of project is one of the best secrets for finishing a job professionally and timely. Here are some PVC tools that can help you when working with PVC pipe. There are specific uses for each tool; some you may use rarely but they can come in very handy when needed.
PVC ratchet cutters are a convenient tool when it comes working with PVC pipe. Each time you squeeze your hand the cutters will rachet closed cutting a small amount of pipe material until they cut all the way through the pipe. PVC cutters are made to cut various sized pipes up to 2”. The most common sized PVC cutters cut up to 1 1/4” pipe and start at about $10 so they are very affordable. If you have reasonable hand strength then you can easily rachet the cutter until it cuts through the PVC pipe. The cutters are also great for cutting CPVC and PEX.
A PVC cable saw can be a useful when working in a cramped area. The saw is a wire cutting cable with a handle on each end. It can be slipped behind a pipe with little room behind it and by going back and forth with the two handles can cut right through the PVC. This also works well on ABS pipe where getting a hacksaw or reciprocating saw would cut through the wall behind the pipe. The cable saw slips in behind the pipe with no damage to the back wall. Another use would be where multiple pipes are close together and by slipping the cable in around the pipe you want to cut around it and nothing else gets cut.
PVC nipple extractors are great for those broken sprinkler heads where the nipple is broken off in the head or the main “Tee”. Sure, sometimes the PVC nipples break where you can get to them with pliers but aren’t they such a pain when they break and there is nothing to grab onto and remove them with? With an extractor you can push the tool into the broken nipple and remove it from the sprinkler head or fitting in the ground. While you turn the pipe counter clockwise to remove the nipple it grips tighter into the broken nipple to grab it and help you thread it back out. There are extractors for many sizes but 1/2” and 3/4” are the most common sizes.
It is helpful to have some multi-purpose cutters available when doing plumbing projects. In my tool box the multi purpose cutters I prefer are a hacksaw, a mini hacksaw, and a Sawzall. You can cut just about anything with these, but they do not cut as cleanly as many of the pipe cutters that are specific for the type of pipe you are cutting. If you do cut a pipe with a hacksaw or similar multi-purpose cutter be prepared to file or clean off the pipe to remove any burrs left by the saw.
Sometimes cutting a pipe from the outside can be impossible. For 1 1/4” and larger pipe they make an internal cutter that can be connected to a drill and the pipe can be cut from the inside out. This is not something you will come across everyday but when working in a tight spot where cutting a pipe from the outside is too difficult then an inside cutter may get you out of the jam. This type of cutter can cut both ABS and PVC plastic pipes. When cutting the pipe put pressure on the side of the drill and cut slowly all the way around.