If you’re looking for a guide on how to cut PEX pipe, you’ve come to the right place. In this blog post, we will discuss the best ways to cut PEX tubing, how to avoid common mistakes, and how to get the most professional results for your water pipe connections.
So whether you’re a DIYer or a professional plumbing contractor, read on for all the information you need to know about cutting PEX pipe!
In this PlumbingNav article, you will learn:
What's In This Guide?
How to Cut Pex Plumbing Pipe: The Debate
First, you’ll need to gather your tools. There is some debate in the plumbing community on the best tool to cut PEX pipe. By “best,” what we mean is how do you consistently generate straight cuts on PEX piping that don’t leave gaps against fittings?
Let’s discuss both sides of this debate. But first, dun, dun, dun…the tools list.
Tools you will need for cutting Pex Pipe:
– A standard pipe cutter, blade or ratchet cutter, or official PEX pipe cutter. (hint; herein lies the debate.) *These names are all very similar, click on the links below see images to discern the differences.
– A straight edge & sharpie marker (optional)
– Work gloves (required for protection!)
What’s the Best Way to Cut PEX Tubing?
Ok, here is the debate: What’s the best cutting tool for Pex tubing?
Blade Pipe Cutter: The most common approach to cutting PEX tubing is by using a PEX tube cutter, scissor-style knife, or a ratchet cutter. These indeed work fine, but it takes a lot of practice to avoid an angled cutting line. Uneven cuts will leave space near the shut-off valve and make your crimp rings less effective. Ragged edges can also allow for water leakage. (See here.)
Copper Pipe Cutter: The best bet for clean, straight cuts on PEX pipe is using a standard pipe cutter used on copper. Some plumbing pros will balk at this, saying that it takes too much time while defending their cuts as being just fine when using a tube cutter. Fair enough, most people do use a PEX cutting tool but it’s hard to argue the accuracy of a standard pipe cutter. (See here.)
Here is a funny but accurate video illustrating this debate:
Ok, now let’s get back to some step-by-step instructions for those of you that like the written word and desire to follow along. We will detail both approaches, and then cover some common mistakes when it comes to cutting PEX pipes.
How to Cut PEX Without a Cutting Tool
Can I Use a PVC Pipe Cutter for PEX?
Yes, you can use a PVC pipe cutter or a ratchet cutter that works on PVC pipes, plastic pipe, or plastic tubing. We realize that many readers will likely already have these tools on hand. No one wants to go buy a special tool for a small job. We get that. (Again, see here for a visual of this common tool.)
Using a PVC pipe cutter is actually very similar to the official PEX tube cutting tools sold. This Sharkbite PEX tubing tool is very popular for cutting PEX, and works in a similar fashion while being sized for 1/4, 3/8, 1/2, 3/4, and even 1″ Pex sizes.
Those who favor using these cutting tools vs. a standard pipe cutter value speed when cutting PEX on larger or higher volume projects. It is indeed much faster.
And to be fair, one can learn to perform pretty straight cuts using a CPVC pipe cutter.
If you’re a homeowner who is not going for “volume” cuts, and you already have this tool on hand, you can increase your likelihood for straight cuts with the following optional tools.
How Do You Cut PEX Without a PEX Cutter?
Using a straight edge tool is optional but can be helpful. Make sure you wear work gloves because you want to cut PEX…not your hands.
With your tools gathered, measure the length of the PEX pipe you need. Mark it with a sharpie using your straight edge.
Proceed with your cut, aiming for the straightest possible cut while minimizing burrs. Use a sharp blade for a clean PEX cut.
Simply line up the blade with your mark and squeeze the handles to cut through the pipe.
Can You Really Use a Utility Knife to Cut PEX?
You can use a sharp utility knife or straight blade but this won’t always give you the straightest or cleanest cuts. Remember, you don’t want angles, as these aren’t ideal for push connections or even PEX clamps when you connect them.
If you’re using a utility knife, score the pipe along your marked line several times before making a final cut. Remember those gloves? Be careful!
Once your cut is complete, deburr the edges of the pipe with a file or sandpaper to remove any sharpness. This is vital, as you don’t want ragged edges.
And that’s it! You’ve successfully cut your PEX pipe without an official cutting tool and are now one step closer to completing your project.
Here is a video representing this side of the clean-cut debate. Straight cuts are possible with a ratchet or PVC pipe cutter:
How to Cut Pex Pipe for Sharkbite: Use a Standard Pipe Cutter
Sharkbite fittings are one of the most popular ways to connect PEX pipes because they’re so easy to use. Simply push the pipe into the fitting until it stops, and you’re done! Their online store is something to behold.
That said, you better have your ends flush or the county inspector might throw a flag on the play, costing you time, energy, and a re-do. Proper connections are part of approved PEX systems design.
In order to use sharkbite fittings without water leaks and strong crimp ring fittings, you’ll need to cut your PEX pipe correctly using these instructions.
Use a Copper Pipe Cutter to Cut Pex
The best way to get a clean, straight cut on PEX pipe is by using a copper pipe cutter. To be clear, these are not just for cutting copper pipes but this is how most people know them. You can find these at any hardware store for around $15. They are also online, and this particular kit will handle all sizes of PEX you encounter.
These tools have been around for decades, and also work on a variety of metal pipe including aluminum, brass, and copper.
1. Simply measure the length of PEX you need, and attach the pipe cutter.
2. Tighten the cutter until you feel resistance, then rotate the cutter around the pipe.
3. The blade will score the pipe, and after a few rotations, you can snap the pipe along the score line.
PEX tubing is easy to cut using a variety of tools, but we think the copper pipe cutter is the best way to get clean and consistent results. It also works well in tight spaces inside a wall.
This will give you the best results for a clean cut for Sharkbite push fittings, and make your PEX crimp rings less frustrating to apply. Most importantly, it should lower the failure rate for future water leaks.
Common Mistakes When Cutting PEX Pipe
1. Not Deburring the PEX Pipe:
One of the most common mistakes people make when cutting PEX is not deburring the pipe.
Deburring is the process of removing sharpness from the inside and outside edges of a freshly cut pipe.
If you don’t deburr your PEX pipe, it can cause problems later on down the road.
2. Not Measuring PEX Correctly:
Another common mistake when cutting PEX is not measuring the pipe correctly.
Make sure you measure the length of PEX you need before cutting it, and gently score your spot or use a sharpie.
If you don’t, you could end up with a piece that’s too short or too long, which can cause problems later on.
Also, nobody wants to waste PEX. The cost for longevity is good, but wasting pipe due to poor cuts is one of the few disadvantages.
3. Not Using the Right Cutting Tools:
As we mentioned earlier, there are a few different ways you can cut PEX pipe.
However, not all of these methods are created equal. Avoid using a utility knife unless you simply have 1 cut to make and don’t wish to buy additional tools. It’s also dangerous.
Regardless of the tool you choose, ensure you cut in a straight vs angled line. If you’re a DIY’er, you can use a straight edge and sharpie to ensure your cuts are good.
Avoid using a hacksaw or circular saws to cut PEX pipe. These serrated blades will create burrs, and this will not be good for a water-tight seal.
4. Not Testing Cut Angles As You Go
Test each cut against your pipe fitting as you go to confirm a proper clean edge. It’s easier to adjust the piece you’re currently working on as you cut to save time vs. when your project is underway.
Beyond Cutting PEX Pipe: Common FAQs
How do I determine the right copper crimp ring size for my PEX tubing size?
While there are a few different ways to make this happen, the easiest is to look at the inside diameter of your PEX tubing.
For example, if you have ¾” PEX pipe, then you’ll need a ¾” copper crimp ring. It’s that simple!
What’s the difference between an expansion PEX fitting and a SharkBite fitting?
An expansion PEX fitting is used with an expansion tool, which expands the end of the pipe slightly so that it can slide into the fitting.
A SharkBite fitting does not require any tools; you simply push the pipe into the fitting until it stops.
Both are rated for the same maximum pressure and temperature, but SharkBite fittings are generally more expensive.
Can I Use PEX Pipe for My Main Water Line?
Yes, you can! PEX is approved for main water lines in many places around the world. This is just one of its advantages.
In fact, it’s often used in commercial applications because it’s so durable and can withstand high water pressure.
How Far Away Should I Position the Crimp Ring from End of the Pipe?
You’ll want to position the crimp ring about ½” from the end of the pipe.
This will give you enough room to make a good connection without putting too much stress on the pipe.
Should I Use Copper Crimp Rings vs. PEX Clamps?
There are two main types of fittings that you can use with PEX pipe: copper crimp rings or PEX clamps. Both work well.
Copper crimp rings are less expensive, but they require a special tool to secure them in place. These are called a PEX crimper, and are pretty easy to use. You can get them here online or at a local store if in a rush.
PEX clamps (also called cinch clamps) don’t require any tools. These are of course up to plumbing code, and a popular choice that passes inspection. There are many to choose from, seen here.
Final Thoughts on How to Cut Pex Pipe
As you can see, cutting PEX pipe is pretty simple! You just want to get it straight. Follow these steps and you’ll be able to cut PEX using the tools you have on hand, or with the help of the cutting tools we discussed.
We hope this guide was helpful in teaching you how to cut PEX pipe like a pro!