Pipe cutters and hacksaws are both commonly used tools to cut PVC pipes for plumbing and construction purposes. PVC or polyvinyl chloride is a highly versatile plastic polymer that is used for construction and piping.
PVC is very commonly used because it is fairly easy to cut and work with compared to other construction materials like wood and metal.
PVC pipes are hollow from the inside and hence far easier to cut than wood or metal and when PVC pipes are cut, they do not leave behind any hazardous sediments like metal particles or splinters that are difficult to remove.
There are various methods to cut PVC pipes depending on the size of the pipes, the quantity of the pipes, your expertise level, your budget, and so on.
When plumbers need to cut PVC pipes, one of the tools they use is a pipe cutter. Pipe cutters are easy to use and they give very precise and clean cuts. Compared to other tools, pipe cutters are convenient and fast to use. Pipe cutters can be of two main types.
The first type of pipe cutter is the scissor or rotating pipe cutter. This is the most affordable and easily available tool used for cutting PVC pipes.
A scissor or rotating pipe cutter has a blade that is clamped down with a hand-held clamp on the spot where you want to cut the PVC pipe. The scissor pipe cutter then needs to be rotated around the diameter of the pipe to cut through it.
Scissor or rotating pipe cutters are best suited for cutting small PVC pipes with a diameter of less than 1 inch. Using this kind of pipe cutter for thicker pipes can be very tedious and strenuous on the hand.
The second type of pipe cutter is a ratcheting pipe cutter. This kind of pipe cutter has a ratchet mechanism which refers to a series of small angled blades. Similar to the scissor pipe cutter, this needs to be clamped down to make the cut.
A ratcheting pipe cutter is placed at the position where the cut is to be made and then clamped down until the sharp blade reaches the surface of the pipe.
The ratcheting pipe cutter needs to be clamped multiple times on the same spot until it cuts through the entire diameter of the pipe.
The ratcheting pipe cutter is best suited for cutting pipes with a larger diameter, between 1 to 2 inches. Ratcheting pipe cutters are more expensive than rotating pipe cutters but are available in similar home improvement, construction or plumbing shops.
A hacksaw is a very commonly available and versatile tool that was originally designed to cut metal. It is also used to cut wood and can be used to cut PVC.
A hacksaw usually has a curved C-shaped handle that has pins on either side into which a blade is fitted. The blade is disposable and can be changed. Blades of different sizes can also be fitted into the handle.
The hacksaw’s blade is a toothed or jagged blade and the teeth of the blade can be turned downwards or upwards depending on what kind of cut you want to make.
For cutting a PVC pipe, the hacksaw needs to be placed at the position where the cut is to be made and then moved back and forth against the surface of the pipe so that it can slowly make the cut. This is similar to how wood and metal are cut with a saw.
Pipe Cutter vs Hacksaw
Pipe cutters and hacksaws both have their respective advantages and disadvantages depending on the size and quantity of PVC pipes that need to be cut.
Pipe cutters are very convenient to use and they can provide fast and precise cuts. They are more suited for use by amateurs. Hacksaws are more time-consuming to use and the cuts are not as clean. Cutting a PVC pipe with a hacksaw leaves a ridge or rough edge around the diameter of the pipe.
This rough edge can cause problems if insulation material is attached to the inside of the pipe as it can strip the insulating material.
If the pipe is going to be used for plumbing purposes, the rough edge left behind by the hacksaw can also disrupt the flow of the liquid and lead to leakages or clogs.
As a result, after cutting a PVC pipe with a hacksaw, one needs to do additional work of cleaning and smoothening the edges of the pipe which is usually done by professionals.
Though pipe cutters are quick and precise to use, one of the major disadvantages of using them is that they need to be clamped down repeatedly by hand. Using them for a large number of pipes can be extremely strenuous and lead to serious injuries in the hand and wrist.
Hacksaws can be used repeatedly without any risk of injury to the hand as long as appropriate safety measures are taken. As a result, hacksaws are more suitable when it comes to cutting large quantities of PVC pipes.
Another disadvantage of pipe cutters is that they are more suited for smaller pipe diameters, with scissor or rotating pipe cutters being suitable for pipes of diameters of up to one inch and ratcheting pipe cutters being suitable for pipes of diameters of up to one and a half inches.
On the other hand, hacksaws are designed to cut through heavy-duty materials such as metal and wood. Hence, they can be used for cutting pipes of any diameter as long as the rough edge left behind them is not an issue.
An advantage of using hacksaws for cutting PVC pipes is that they are an extremely widely available tool that you might already own for other purposes. On the other hand, buying pipe cutters is more expensive and might not be a practical purchase if you are only looking for a tool for using once or twice.
Pipe cutters and hacksaws are both tools used for PVC pipes which both have their disadvantages and advantages. Pipe cutters provide precise cuts but are more suited for thinner pipes in low quantities. Hacksaws leave behind a rough edge but are suited for larger pipes.