Using the right pipe cutter will make DIY plumbing projects much more straightforward. However, there are wide varieties of specialized pipe cutters and general-purpose cutting tools that can cut plumbing pipes and other kinds of materials, just as there are many varieties of pipes.
Aside from certain general-purpose cutting tools that can be modified to cut plumbing pipes, you will have several specialized cutters to select from that are made to cut various materials. One of the most asked questions is, what is the best way to cut PEX pipe? In our guide, you can learn about the various pipe cutters you can find.
By the end, you’ll know the right way how to cut PEX tubing or any other material, from larger diameter metal pipes to cutting PEX pipe to rigid plastic pipe using any cutting tool. (Learn How Often To Use Seafoam)
Types of Pipe Cutters
1. Copper Pipe Cutters
Specialized pipe-cutting tools called copper pipe cutters are available in various sizes and shapes, from tiny thumb cutters to rather massive tools made for large pipes.
All of them work in a largely similar tool: The tool grips the pipe between rollers and a sharp cutting wheel, and as it spins around the pipe, it scores a steadily deeper cut into the pipe’s walls.
Despite being referred to as copper tube cutters, these tools can be used with a variety of pipe materials, including
- Rigid and Flexible copper plumbing pipe
- PVC and ABS plastic
- CPVC plastic
Using a copper tube cutter on other materials besides copper pipes may dull the blade, so replace them occasionally.
Most plumbers use two copper tubing cutters; you have a thumb-type cutter for confined spaces, which cuts 1-inch pipe at most.
Standard copper tube cutters have a bigger body and handle, making it easier to rotate the tool.
Also, these cutters contain reaming tools to smooth pipe edges before fitting.
2. PVC Tubing Cutters
A PVC ratchet pipe cutter makes cutting PVC pipe easy. Each time you squeeze your hand, the PVC cutter ratchets close, thus cutting deeper into the PVC pipes until it cuts through.
A standard PVC cutter cuts 2-inch pipes, with typical sizes being 1 1/4 inches. Besides these materials, you can find they can make light work as a CPVC cutter and act like ratchet-style PEX cutters.
Note: ABS pipe is too brittle for PVC tubing cutters to cut successfully, so if you are cutting ABS, you’ll need a hacksaw or similar.
3. ABS Saw
ABS pipe is usually cut with a rough saw by most people. There are specialist saws for cutting ABS, but you can use any saw, even a hacksaw.
Because of the nature of the piping, you can’t use any pipe cutters, such as a ratchet cutter. Also, even if you lay the pipe on a flat surface, you can find it hard to cut straight.
4. Steel Pipe Cutters
Specialized pipe cutters are offered for cutting iron or steel pipe, which is hard to cut otherwise.
Pipe cutters thankfully, always cut straight. They work like larger copper cutters but have a thicker, stronger cutting wheel to handle steel or iron pipe.
Although, in confined spaces, you may need to use a metal-cutting reciprocating saw. (Learn How To Separate Cast Iron Pipe Joints)
5. Cast Iron Snap Cutters
Chain-type cutters cut cast iron, clay, and concrete pipes. This tool is a ratchet and scissors.
Snap cutters use a chain with cutting discs. Once the tool’s chain is wrapped around the pipe and tightened, it snaps the pipe as cleanly as a saw.
CPVC and PEX Cutters
A soft tubing cutter is a scissors-like tool that clamp and cut soft tubing using a single press of the handle. First, wiggle the blade in the pipe, then squeeze the handle is how to cut PEX pipe.
Long-term use of this cutter may fatigue your hands. PVC ratchet cutters and most saws work well for cutting this pipe, so use anything you have.
An inch or inch and a half are most likely the largest sizes you can comfortably squeeze and cut.
How To Cut PEX Tubing
PEX plumbing is increasing, so knowing how to cut PEX pipes will be vital for any home improvement task.
Here’s all you need about cutting PEX pipe and using a tubing cutter option listed.
1. Get Your PEX Pipe Cutter
Use a specialist PEX cutter tool alone. PEX pipe should only be cut with tools explicitly made for PEX.
Given the density of PEX tubing, using a common cutting tool like saw isn’t recommended to cut pipe like this.
A PEX pipe cutter can be purchased online or at your local hardware store. A copper pipe cutter or X-Acto knife may also cut PEX.
- Purchase a ratchet cutter tool for an easier cut. A ratchet-style PEX tubing cutter is more costly than regular, scissor-style cutters but easier to use.
- With a stronger blade and firmer grip, this PEX cutter tool usually cuts PEX tubing in one squeeze.
- In a pinch, make minor cuts with a utility knife. The knife’s tip should be inserted into the center of the piping while holding it perpendicular to it.
- To cut through the piping halfway, lower the blade. Then, slice slowly through the remaining piping by pulling the knife around to the other, uncut side.
- Cutting PEX tubing and removing PEX crimp rings requires a special tool. This tool fits between the pipe and ring for a clean cut. Choose a tubing cutter with strong blades and easy grip handles.
2. Measuring PEX Piping and Cut
- As much as you can, straighten the PEX tubing. Straightening the PEX tubing will help you cut it uniformly and measure it accurately.
- The tubing should be folded upward in the opposite direction of the curling. Lay it on a flat surface to ensure it is as straight as possible.
- Add around 1 inch to the piping’s measurement. PEX piping should never be stretched tightly between fittings.
- Determine the precise amount of piping you require using a measuring tape, then add roughly 1 inch. The flexible piping will have space to expand and contract.
- With a pen or fine-point marker, mark the cutting line. Cutting your PEX tubing will be easy and less likely to make errors if you have an indicated cutting line.
- After measuring your piping, mark the precise location of the cut by drawing a line. Use a pen or fine tip marker to ensure the line won’t disappear before you cut.
- Put the PEX tubing segment you want to cut into the tool’s mouth.
- Put the PEX tubing into the tool’s mouth and cut it where you wish. The precise line you want to cut through should be placed right beneath the blade. Keep it firmly in position.
- For a clean cut, squeeze the PEX cutter tool firmly. Then, firmly hold onto the cutting tool handles.
- To close the mouth on the tubing and force the blade down onto it, tightly squeeze them together.
- Continue to squeeze the handles of your PEX cutter until they are fully compressed or the blade has passed entirely through the tubing.
- To complete the cut, continue to squeeze and twist the cutter downward. The initial squeeze could not make a clean cut if you use a smaller PEX cutter.
- If this is the case, halt and let the tool’s mouth open again. Then, squeeze the cutter and twist it slightly downward to finish it.
What Fittings PEX Piping?
You will likely require a fitting for the pipe cutter if you hire one to complete the task.
The only fittings you should have in this situation are a quick-connect, a JACO fitting, or a SharkBite fitting.
You can find it challenging to cut the pipe evenly because these fittings have the lowest likelihood of holding your PEX tube in place.
Even though it’s not common, practically any pipe cutter with a mildly sticky fitting should work. (Learn How To Thaw Frozen Drain Pipes Underground)
Tips For PEX Pipe Cutting
PEX cutting should be easy. Once you’ve cut one successfully, the rest is easy.
Some people may have difficulty when they first work with PEX pipe, so here are a few tips.
- Never cut PEX piping on an angle. It’s feasible but never a good idea. In most cases, this causes fractured or shaky piping. In addition, it’s challenging to achieve the appropriate cut angle.
- Never bend the PEX tubes as you are cutting them. This isn’t easy but essential. Bending the PEX pipe while being cut can crack it as PVC pipe would crack.
- Never pinch tubing. PEX tubing pinch more efficiently than rubber tubes. Pinching the tube will not work and may create permanent abnormalities.
- If using a copper pipe cutter, test cut PEX first. This cutter can work. Sometimes not. Switch to a utility knife if your pipe cut fails.