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HDPE for Underground Construction/Electric

by wbibhege

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It is common for me in my role as Project Coordinator for We-Bore-It to receive calls from customers looking to have electrical directional boring projects completed with PVC.  When I discuss PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) with our customers and let them know PVC is the wrong material for their project I am usually asked why-or told that their engineer requested it.  Although PVC is a more commonly known material to the average person, for most directional boring contractors across the country, HDPE is the preferred choice for installation.


Although HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene) is the most used electrical conduit in terms of directional boring, it also seems to be the material that our customers are most confused about and unfamiliar with.  PVC is, for most uses, an inferior conduit for directional boring use when compared to HDPE.  According to Wikipedia, “PVC is a polymer with good insulation properties but because of its higher polar nature the electrical insulating property is inferior to non polar polymers such as polyethylene and polypropylene.”  From an insulation standpoint HDPE is the superior choice but for the installation standpoint HDPE also beats PVC due to the ease with which it is placed.


PVC is known as a “stick” or “segment” pipe-it comes mostly commonly in 10 foot or 20 foot sticks.  When being placed inside a directional bore, sticks of PVC need to be glued together in order to be used for any bore over 20 feet.  Once these sticks are glued, they need to “cure”, which means they need to be set aside in order for the glue to dry and become solid at the joints.  Time is money and the cost of having to glue the PVC sticks and then wait for them to cure can be costly if PVC is used for bores of several hundreds of feet (or even more).


HDPE, when used for electrical projects, comes from the manufacturer on a reel which is why HDPE can also be known as a “rolled/reeled” conduit.  It does not come in sticks that need to be glued together, it is one continuous conduit which eliminates the potential for “sticks” of conduit to pull apart when the conduit is being pulled back within the bore.  Pulling the conduit within the bore can place a lot of stress on the joints of stick conduit.  This can result in segments coming apart during placement (or later) or, even worse, segments can get loose and lost within the bore which can require the entire bore to be shot again.  As this will require additional time and funds for the contractor it will also more than likely cost additional funds to the customer.

There are times where PVC (or types of PVC) can be a better choice for directional boring utilization; in subsequent articles I will explain when and why this is the case.  Please feel free to reach out to me regarding this article, directional boring or if you have need of a quote for your project.  I can be reached at or visit our website at to request a quote online or call us at 800-864-8857.  You can often expect a written quote and response in one hour or less!

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