There are many options for dust collection. There are some very expensive metal ducting options that are designed specifically for dust collection. There’s flexible hosing options too. And then there’s PVC. Every home improvement center on the planet sells PVC pipe! That seems like the way to go. Until you realize every woodworking store and website (Rockler, WoodCraft, etc) all sell PVC adapters for Schedule 20 PVC pipe, but that Home Depot and Lowe’s only sell Schedule 40 PVC pipe. The two are not compatible!
Where to Buy Schedule 20 PVC Pipe Locally
If you went online, or went to a local woodworking retailer and bought some PVC dust collection fittings (adapters), then you probably realized almost immediately afterwards that you couldn’t find any Schedule 20 PVC pipe. Probably right after you went to your local Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Ace Hardware only to be told “Schedule 20 doesn’t meet local plumbing code so we don’t sell it.” No kidding! In most areas of the country Schedule 20 is no longer allowed in new construction, or as a repair in older homes. The correct material to use is Schedule 40, but it costs in many cases twice as much as Schedule 20 pipe.
I recently faced this exact dilemma. Rockler sent me an entire dust collection system for the shop, but I couldn’t find any PVC pipe that it would connect to!
My Search to Find Schedule 20 PVC Pipe Locally
I looked in several places including my local big box stores. I also looked on-line. On-line was a giant waste of time (more-so than locally). PVC pipe in 4in x 10ft lengths was pretty affordable, but most came with minimum order quantities of 20 or more pipe and included shipping costs from $50 to $100 because it was too large for UPS to deliver.
I was in my local Home Depot and I ran into a really grumpy old sales guy who said “Schedule 20 doesn’t meet code! Don’t use that junk!” I let him know as nicely as I could that I was aware of that fact and that I was using it for a vacuum system in a wood shop. He had no idea what I was talking about, but after a few back and forths he said “You know, there’s an old feed store here in Keller up off of Johnson Road called McDonnell Hardware and Feed. I think I saw some Schedule 20 on their lot one time. I was almost in awe because I had driven by this place at least 100 times in my life and had no idea they sold more than feed for cattle. So I immediately headed there!
My Visit to McDonnell Hardware and Feed
McDonnell’s was a wild place. When I pulled into the parking lot it was like I went back in time 50 years. This place is like an old saloon that sells tools and home improvement stuff. And of course, farm equipment and cattle feed. As I walked inside there was an old man helping customers and some younger guys checking people out at the registers. They had quite the business going on!
I asked the old man if they sell Schedule 20 PVC pipe and he snarks back quickly in his very thick Texas accent “You don’t want that junk! It won’t pass code anymore.” I reply “I need it for a dust collection system in a wood shop.” He snaps back “Oh! Well that’s exactly the stuff you want! Walk this way.” He takes me back past shelf after shelf of tools and hardware items you would never find at a Home Depot and out into the yard. We walk past bin after bin of all kinds of different metal and plastic pipes, chain link fence, barbed wire fence, and then we stop. We stop at the mother load of Schedule 20 4″ PVC pipe! I could barely contain myself.
He looks at me and says “Here it is. Help yourself. Feel free to pull your truck around and load up. They are $6 each.” I say thanks. He then stops, turns around and says “Hey. I sell a ton of this stuff to pool companies all over the place. They like the cheap stuff. Keep any eye out if you ever build a pool.” Good to know! I loaded up on Schedule 20 4″x10′, and a ton of fittings and headed home.
Your Search for Schedule 20 PVC Pipe
You should be able to find Schedule 20 PVC pipe for your dust collection system at a plumbing supply house. If you don’t have one look for local farm store (note: Tractor Supply does not sell Schedule 20). Apparently you can also get some from your local pool company (frown).
Why not just use Schedule 40 PVC Pipe?
Many people ask, “Why not just use the better SCH 40 pipe for your dust collection system?” There are several problems with Schedule 40. First, it costs almost twice as much. And that makes sense because it is a lot stronger pipe. But even so it is overkill for a dust collection system. Second, and most importantly, all of the fittings these woodworking retailers are selling will not fit the diameter of schedule 40 pipe.
The long term solution in my mind is for these woodworking retailers to switch their adapters over to work with SCH40 pipe. Even though it costs more and is overkill for the purpose, it readily available at every home improvement center across the nation.
Safety warning: When using PVC pipe for dust collection it must be properly grounded. It represents a significant danger of static electricity build up which could result in fire or explosion.