Plumbing Tips When Using CPVC Pipe

Reader Contribution by Bruce Mcelmurray
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Recently while performing some plumbing repairs, I realized that my abilities had become a little rusty (no pun intended). After a few mistakes and re-dos, I finally got the process right. I was working with CPVC pipe coupled with joints of varying angles and threaded connectors, both metal and CPVC. It had been 20 years since I did any plumbing repairs and regretfully I forgot some of the CPVC basics. After the first mistake it started coming back to me quickly. The first thing I remembered was when all the joints are finally glued together and the water system is opened again, if you have a drip it needs to be cut out and repaired again. It always seems that the drip is at a location that requires more than one joint to replace and to repair. I had forgotten that CPVC is unforgiving if you don’t get it right the first time. 

I had always used Teflon tape on PVC threads; even when they connected to a metal joint. I may be the only one who has trouble with Teflon tape but I don’t believe that is the case. It always seems to slip around the threads and attach itself to my fingers when I try to use it, not to mention how it twists and seems very attracted to itself. The joint failures I had were the ones where I used Teflon tape, and all but one had to be taken apart and redone. When I made the umpteenth trip back to the Post Commissary for more parts, I mentioned how when I took the joints apart the Teflon tape had beaded up in the threads allowing them to leak. I found out there was a product that would work as well without the aggravation. It is called a pipe thread stick, and it worked easily and effectively. The metal connectors, however, worked far better with pipe thread compound than the Teflon tape I had previously used. Not a single leak when using those two products. The pipe thread stick was easy to apply and worked just as described, being very effective. 

The other trick I finally recalled is that when the last pipe is cemented in place with glue at both ends, one end will sometimes set up before the opposite end and the one joint doesn’t always cement itself in place. How I eliminated that was by applying a light layer of glue — not only to each end of the pipe, but to each joint the pipe connects to as well. Locking both ends of the connecting pipe will take more twists this way, but I get a more solid, non-leaking joint at both ends of the final connecting pipe. I have to confess that when I use the pipe thread compound, I had a problem not getting it all over myself and everything I touched. Fortunately for me it wipes off easily and is slow to harden. As for myself, I’m done with Teflon tape as my fingers are just too blunt and clumsy to handle it effectively.

Overall, CPVC was easy to work with providing I went slowly and used the proper equipment and adhesive. It has been around for years and is approved for use with drinking water. It will handle both hot and cold water applications. While the production of chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) is not particularly environmentally friendly, I don’t believe it has any greater carbon footprint than the mining of copper, smelting same and producing the copper pipe. I found it very easy to work with, and, when done properly, it will last for many years. 

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Photo by Bruce McElmurray