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What Is a Pipe Elbow?

Plumber's tape is generally used when joining two pipes together.
A pipe elbow is bent to join straight pipes at an angle.
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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 24 June 2014
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    2003-2014
    Conjecture Corporation
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A pipe elbow is a type of piping that is bent at an angle or curve to allow straight pipes to be joined at an angle. The pipe elbow can be made from a variety of materials, from brass or cast iron to PVC or plastic, and they are often threaded to allow other pipes to be joined to them. These corner fittings are often used in plumbing applications, but they can be used for other applications as well. The size and shape of the pipe elbow depends entirely on the user's needs, and the materials used depend on the function of the piping unit.

Plumbing applications often necessitate the use of a pipe elbow. Since pipes do not always run straight, a pipe elbow may be necessary to allow water to flow around obstructions, through walls, or even to the outside of the house. The pipe elbow can come in different degrees of bend to allow for greater flexibility in piping options. In plumbing applications, the elbows are often joined to other piping pieces by screwing the pieces together with threads that are treated with plumber's tape. This tape helps prevent leaks in the joints and also helps prevent the joints from loosening. Brass is a common choice of material for plumbing applications.

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Other pipe elbow fittings may be welded to the other pipes for a more permanent fixture. This is common when used on automobiles or heavy machinery. The elbows can be cut to length and then welded to straight pieces to form the desired shape. Exhaust systems on vehicles often require piping to run in between or around other parts of the car, so pipe elbows are used to accomplish the desired circuit. Stainless steel or other types of steel are common choices for automobile applications.

PVC piping can be modified by the use of pipe elbows as well. These types of pipes can be used for plumbing applications as well as ventilation systems in homes. PVC is easy to cut, and it is very lightweight, so it is sometimes used for other purposes such as recreation: straight pipes can be joined with pipe elbows to create a hockey or soccer goal, for example. The pipe elbows add to the versatility of the lightweight material, making it a good choice for virtually any lightweight application. PVC piping and elbows do not usually need any type of thread lock such as plumber's tape; the joints can either screw into each other or press-fit into each other.

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