DIY Tutorials One Room Challenge Room Redos

We’ve Gone Industrial |Budget Friendly Pipe Shelves Tutorial

April 24, 2015

It took a lot of planning, action, and even some mistakes, but we finally have the industrial shelves we wanted for the playroom. We gave you a little peek at the pipe shelves in Week 4 of the One Room Challenge. Today, I wanted to talk about how we DIYed them for less than $200.

pipe shelves on a budget

We first got inspiration for them from this tutorial:



We thought it would be perfect for the kids’ new playroom, but there was a small problem… the price. When we priced out all the pieces of pipe from the inspiration photo, it was around $400. (Yikes!) That was a little out of our budget. We had to make some modifications to ensure that shelves weren’t the only thing in the playroom.

Initially, we thought about buying electrical conduit to sort of mock the look of industrial piping. It cost about $3 for 10 ft of electrical conduit, which is great (We used it to make the curtain rod in the playroom.), but we worried about the amount of weight it could support. We talked in Week 3 about using a shelving system, but it too was really expensive. So we decided to take a look at the piping. It was definitely sturdy enough, but we weren’t sure about the price. That is, until someone from Home Depot explained to us that cutting the 10 ft pipes can actually be cheaper than buying the little 8″ or 10″ segments. This is big, guys! 10 ft pipes cost around $16 each (for the 3/4 size). They can cut and thread pipes starting at 8.5″. The guy (with a wink and a nod) told us that they couldn’t cut a pipe to a size they already sold, like 10″, but if we needed 10.5″, then he would have to cut that.  With that in mind, we went home and made a plan.


We decided to cut costs even further by using corner braces ( AKA L brackets) to support the back of the shelves and making the pipes one solid piece, rather than getting several segments that would need multiple fittings to connect all of them. We did pay a little extra for 3/4″ pipes, because they looked better than the 1/2″ ones.

Our supply list looked like this:
2- 72″ pipes threaded on both ends
1- 32″ pipe threaded on both ends
1 – 20″ pipe threaded on both ends
4 – 8 pipes threaded on both ends (one of them was leftover from cutting another 72″ pipe into 32″ and 20″)
4 – 3/4 sized elbows
6- 3/4 flanges
2 – 1X10X6 boards
3 – 1x10x4 boards
1 – can of Provincial 211 by Minwax
1 – 1 1/8 inch hole saw drill bit
3 packs – Corner Braces 3″ x 3/4″ for the back of the shelves (If you can find longer corner braces, I would recommend it.)
3 packs – #1 Conduit Hanger with Speed Thread (We used 12 of them for extra support on the front of the boards in lieu of the multiple pipe fittings.)

With materials in hand, I started marking the studs and hanging the brackets for the shelves. Not all of the brackets landed on studs. We tried to space them as evenly as possible, and used wall anchors of the places that didn’t have studs. The spacing for the brackets were at 2′ and 4′ starting from the left side of the 6′ board.

marking and planning

Of course, I had my apprentice working with me.

measuring wall with helper bee

I spaced them similarly to the inspiration photo, because we really liked the way those looked.

shelves spacing

The boards we bought were “paint graded”, so we had very little sanding to do. I sanded them lightly with 220 grit sand paper; mainly on any rough edges. We found the boards at Lowe’s. It was our experience that Lowe’s had a better wood selection than Home Depot. After I finished lightly sanding them, Blair started staining the boards. We were both really please with the stain color. (The poly that we used was leftover from painting our bathroom cabinets. It’s just a brush on and also from Minwax.)


Our ladder made for a great drying area. We could dry multiple boards at a time, and keep the boards out-of-the-way while we were working on other things.

ladder as shelf drying station

After few days of staining (3 coats), polying (2 coats), and letting everything cure, we used one of the small 8″ pipes and moved it around on one of the boards to determine where we wanted the pipes to go through the boards. We decided that 2″ in from the front of the boards and 2″ from the side of the board looked the best, which you can see in this photo:

hidden toy storage using book boxes

(We still need to color the screw heads to black. We’ll probably use a sharpie or a paint marker.)

Somewhere in this process we realized, our 8″ pipes (that would connect to the wall) were too long. Back to Home Depot we went to return three of the four 8″ pipes. One of them was a leftover so we couldn’t return it. They didn’t have 7″ pipes precut, and they couldn’t cut them that small, so we got four 6″ pipes. Luckily, those did the trick. We should have measured more carefully while we were at Home Depot the first time, but live and learn, right?

I used the 1 1/8″ hole saw to make the holes in the boards that the pipes would fit through. With the holes cut, we brought everything to the playroom. We hung the lower (4′) boards on their respective brackets, and then slid the 72″ pipes through the holes. Next, we slid the upper (6′) boards onto the pipes. We did have to remove the topmost brackets, since they prevented us from lowering the board and placing it on its brackets. (Our ceiling height prevented us from securing all the boards first, and then dropping the pipes.)

lower shelves 2 putting pipe through the boards

After getting the two top boards on and attaching them to their brackets, we added the 20 inch pipe to the far right of the shelves and secured it to the wall using the elbows, 6″ pipes, and flanges. We did the same thing at the top of the 72″ pipes (elbow > 6″ pipe > flange). We added flanges to the bottom of the 72″ pipes, as well. Those are just for show. We didn’t want to drill into our tile, so they are just resting on top of the floor.


We still needed to add more support to the front of the shelves. This is where the conduit hangers come in. After painting them black to match everything else, we placed the clamps around the pipes, right under the shelves. They were really simple to use and worked perfectly.


pipes at 2inches in on board

If you’re wondering what happened to the 32″ pipe… Well, I forgot about it. Yep. Just plain ole’ forgot about it, and didn’t drill holes for it, or even notice that I had forgotten it until we had already screwed the shelves to the brackets. There was no way I was going to be able to drop it into the boards or even drill the holes for it without taking everything down. So, we might have another post about some amazing idea we had for that 32 inch pipe.

There you have it. We now have industrial style shelves DIYed for under $200. The total cost actually came to $197.98; it would have been even less if we didn’t have the 8″ and 32″ pipes that we couldn’t use / forgot to use. I know this was really long, so in summary, my tips for keeping costs down are:

  • Get longer pipes cut to size. Adjust your measurements by 1/2″ if needed to pull this off.
  • Use brackets, and longer pipes to avoid the cost of all the extra fittings
  • Look at your plans so you don’t forget to use any parts!

pipe shelves on a budget2 pipe shelves on a budget via here-lately

You Might Also Like

No Comments

Leave a Reply