Monday, March 28, 2016

Plumbing Pipe Pantry

When last we met, I had finished painting chalkboard paint on the wall of my new pantry.  Now it was time to make the shelves.  For years, I've been saving magazine articles that detail how to make things like a drafting table, shelves, or even a four poster bed, out of plumbing pipes.  I really liked the idea of plumbing pipe shelf brackets attached to the chalkboard wall.  For guidance, I used this tutorial, although I ended up constructing my shelves somewhat differently.

First, I had to figure out what pipe lengths that I needed and how to find them.  I didn't want to waste a lot of time blundering through the hardware store, so I searched for pipes online, to get an idea of cost and available lengths.  At first, I couldn't find any pipes that were remotely the appropriate size. Finally, I figured out that shorter lengths of threaded plumbing pipe (twelve inches or less) are known as "nipples."  Then I burned up google searching for "8 inch threaded nipple" and found what I needed.

I wanted my shelves to be eight inches deep, and I wanted the first two shelves to be ten inches high, and then eight inches between the second and third shelf.  A ten-inch shelf will accommodate large canisters, as you will see.  This was the shopping list:

8" threaded pipe, 1/2" diameter- ten
10" threaded pipe, 1/2 " diameter - four
1/2 " tee fittings - four
1/2 " elbow fittings - four
1/2 " flanges - eight

Each piece is inexpensive, but since you need so many pieces, plumbing pipe projects can be costly. The tutorial I read said to buy the black pipes, but the black pipes leave black residue all over your hands, so I am going to recommend that you buy the galvanized ones.  You can always spray paint them.  There would be a total of four shelves, one on each of the eight-inch horizontal supports.

Assembling the brackets turned out to be more difficult than I anticipated because in order to get the horizontal pipes to all face in the same way, it was necessary to either tighten the joints beyond the point at which I had the strength to tighten them, or leave them really loose.  It helps to have a plumbing wrench, although the wrench itself is so heavy I could hardly wield it.  All in all, an awkward business.

The width of my shelving is only about thirty-two inches, so I needed only two brackets.  A wider shelf would need a third bracket in the middle. Once both of my brackets were assembled, I spray-painted them black.  

The really hard part of this project was attaching the brackets to the wall.  The studs, at least, were located right where I wanted them, but it was incredibly difficult to drill the holes for some reason. Jon did the drilling, and there was some shouting and possibly a few tears.  Hanging the first bracket was so traumatic that we abandoned the project for a couple of weeks.  Anyway, I needed time to figure out how to hang the second bracket in such a way that the shelves were level.  (The tutorial was no help here.) The method I hit on was to balance one end of a board on the already attached bracket, while balancing the other end on the second bracket, with a spirit level balanced on top of the board.  Once the shelf was level, I marked the spot on the wall where each flange sat with green tape.  This seems awfully imprecise, but it worked.  Since markings don't show on the black wall, and a piece of chalk is too chunky to fit through the holes in the flanges, I couldn't mark where each screw should go. There was a bit less shouting when we installed the second bracket, although the drill bit broke off inside the wall.  Luckily, not until we were on the last hole. 

Precision, defined


  1. I can't wait to see the finished project! So far, it looks very cool.

    Home improvement projects are always a PIA. I get great ideas, but thankfully, I never have to figure them out very far because my engineering minded husband loves to get involved and take over the actual execution. Which is how he once ended up teaching Edie how to use power tools as a result of her attempting a Pinterest project that didn't quite go as planned.

  2. That looks really cool.

    I am fascinated that you have desired to make shelves out of plumbing pipes. For me, for the past five weeks, plumbing pipes have been the bane of my existence, as I have had to look at them through the numerous gaping holes in the walls of our house. None of the holes will be sealed up until the (seemingly endless) bathroom remodeling project is done. The old pipes that were about to burst are now replaced with garishly-colored red and blue plastic main water lines.

    Thanks for listening.

    So I am pleased to see that pipes can actually be artistic looking and that you didn't have to end up building your shelves out of ugly colored plastic pipes.

    1. I've lived in older houses, where the running water was added after the walls were put up, we we'd have pipes outside the walls, but they were always painted to match the wall and it looked fine. I definitely wouldn't want to look at PVC pipe or that hideous gray plastic stuff.

  3. 8" threaded nipples! Lol! Did you come up with any inappropriate links? :-)

    That's going to be a really interesting look --looking forward to the pictures of the finished project.

  4. Whew!
    Your foray into the world of plumbing sounds pretty risque. I'm glad you found the parts you needed. I wondered about the tightening. That seems like a pretty precise angle.

  5. It is due to the fact that the plumbing work in populated areas is regulated by government or quasi-government agencies due to the direct impact on the public's health, safety, and welfare.

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