Polyvinyl Chloride, or PVC, has been a favorite choice among contractors and do-it-yourself home repairmen since its introduction to the U.S. in the 1950s.
PVC benefits include resistance to erosion, invasive tree roots and chemical deterioration, noted Industry Network. Additionally, they are a cost-effective option that are easy to install and last for decades.
When installing the right piping to a building, there will almost inevitably be corners you'll have to navigate. While a PVC pipe can be fitted with joints that allow it to change directions, there are some downsides to this method.
First, it doesn't always look the most professional. Going around a corner with these connectors can look bulky and unsightly. Second, there are added costs associated with purchasing the right joints and additional pipes.
But when you have the right tools, you don't need to resort to using joints. By using a heat gun, you can simply bend your PVC pipe to fit around the corner you're working with.
Planning the pipe
The first thing you'll do is determine the angle you need the pipe to be. If you're fitting a pipe into a tight space, making a mold specifically for the task isn't a bad idea. Fine Homebuilding explained that all it takes is a few pieces of plywood, the right saw and some screws.
Don't make the mold so narrow that your pipe won't fit. Before you screw your mold into place, calculate the outside diameter of the pipe. For example, a 0.75-inch pipe has an outside diameter of 1 inch.
"Beginning a project like bending PVC pipe requires foresight."
The outside radius of the mold should be three times the outside diameter. Fine Homebuilding's example of a 0.75-inch pipe would put the outside radius at 3 inches. Next, find the inside radius needed. To do this, subtract the outside diameter from the outside radius of the pipe. In this example, the inside radius should be 2 inches.
Use a jigsaw or band saw to cut the plywood, then screw the pieces into place on a plywood base. Once this is built, you're ready to begin bending your PVC.
If you choose to not build your own mold for your project, at least have a good idea of the shape and angle the pipe must result in. Beginning a project like this requires foresight, and heating up PVC with no determined end goal can result in ruined supplies.
Achieving the perfect shape
Hold your heat gun about an inch away from the pipe. Slowly rotate the pipe to evenly distribute the heat. Overheating one side and underheating the opposite can cause the pipe to burn. The side that is underheated might also lack the proper malleability to shape the pipe. Additionally, uneven heat distribution can lead to kinks.
Even properly heated pipes can sometimes end up with kinks in them, though. Luckily, there is one material that can help, and it's so common you have probably walked barefoot across the solution on more than one occasion. Pouring sand into your PVC pipe prior to heating it can help make a smoother bend. This is because the sand will heat up along with the pipe and distribute the warmth to all parts of the pipe evenly, PVC Workshop explained.
Keep the sand in place by securing caps on either end of the pipe. Fill it up completely for best results, packing it down with a dowel or another similarly sized tool.
PVC Workshop pointed out that springs can also work in this capacity. A spring will heat up to distribute energy and help the pipe retain its shape.
Once you have mastered the art of bending PVC pipe, your options are endless. While PVC is great for plumbing work, it can also be used for a wide variety of projects, from patio furniture to lamps to children's toys.