You know how to use solvent cement, but are your solvent cement skills ready for the cold weather in the months ahead? BlazeMaster solvent cement is tested and listed for use down to 0°F (-17°C), but it’s important to follow best practices when solvent welding in colder temperatures.
Remember, you aren’t “gluing” CPVC. Solvent cement welding is a fast, easy installation process that uses solvents and CPVC resin to chemically fuse the pipe and fittings together at the molecular level. Unlike glue, solvent cement doesn’t just adhere two pieces together – it creates one continuous piece of plastic that becomes the strongest part of a piping system.
Extreme temperatures require special handling for CPVC and solvent cement. In cold weather, pipe and fittings are more resistant to solvent penetration. The solvents penetrate and soften the pipe and fitting surfaces more slowly than in hot weather.
Here are some tips for overcoming the effects of cold on solvent penetration:
1. Put Safety First
Personal protective equipment is always necessary for handling solvent cement. But in cold weather, PPE may offer an extra benefit: protective layers (goggles, gloves, masks, protective clothing) not only keep you safe but also may keep you warmer. Get all the details on the safe application of solvent cement here.
Even in cold weather, it’s important to ensure proper ventilation. Take care to strike the right balance between good ventilation and keeping the solvent at a usable temperature.
2. Store Properly
Solvent cement must be kept away from heat sources and stored in a cool, dark place. But if kept too cold, it can gel or thicken, making it unusable (solvent cement that has frozen risks weak joints). Storing solvent cement within the manufacturer-recommended temperature range is harder when the can must come to a cold job site. In the 24 hours ahead of intended use, bring solvent cement to 60°F - 90°F (16ºC - 32ºC), then let sit. We’ve noted some of the tricks that contractors use to keep solvent cement warm onsite, including putting the can in a drink koozie and storing it in an insulated lunchbox.
3. Handle with Care
Both solvent cement and CPVC require extra handling care in cold weather. CPVC pipe and fittings become more brittle in the cold and exposure to ice and snow can add moisture. Because moisture is the enemy of good solvent cement application, make sure to remove all moisture, especially from pipe ends, before applying the solvent – or ideally store pipes and solvent cement in a warm, dry place. Regardless, during application, both pipe and fittings should be at the same temperature to account for thermal expansion and contraction. And don’t forget to shake solvent cement vigorously before use.
4. Prefabricate What You Can
One of the main benefits of Blazemaster CPVC piping systems (versus steel pipe) is that pipes can be joined on-site using solvent cement, eliminating the cost and time of prefabrication. But sometimes prefabrication is still the best choice for CPVC in cold weather. By prefabricating as much of the CPVC system as possible in a heated space, you can mitigate the impact of cold weather on solvent cement, like gelling and extremely long cure times, ultimately saving time on the overall installation.
5. Allow Additional Cure Time
It’s critical to plan in advance and account for significantly longer cure times in cold weather. For example, a 1½-inch pipe that needs just three hours to cure in 60°F (16°C) weather will need 10 days to cure when temps drop to 0°F to 39°F (-17°C to 4°C).
Build these longer cure times into installation plans because this process cannot be rushed without consequences. Pressure-testing or putting a system into operation before joints have fully cured can result in leaks caused by weak joints. Always consult the manufacturer’s design manual for recommended cure times.
Don’t Let the Cold Freeze Your Installation Plans
Using solvent cement in cold weather can present challenges, but they can be overcome with these steps. Following these tips for cold weather handling will help you execute a successful CPVC installation even when temperatures drop.