Today’s post comes from Matthew Lyons of Homedaddys.com and he is sharing an awesome tutorial on how to build a DIY Industrial Pipe Bathroom Shelf. Mathew has a great writing style and his posts are always fun to read, so I hope you will hop on over to follow him, if you aren’t already. Enjoy!
HOW TO MAKE AN INDUSTRIAL PIPE BATHROOM SHELF
A couple of weeks ago, I made a lamp out of industrial pipes. It was a simple but arduous project. Fingers were cut. Light bulbs were damaged. An object might have been thrown in anger. However, at the end of the day I like to think I came out of it better off both emotionally and electrically. After all, I now own a lamp.
Trouble is, I also found myself the owner of a random assortment of leftover pipes that I couldn’t work into the project. To a sane and well-balanced person, this probably wouldn’t be that big of a problem. You’ve got pipes, you save them to use as plumbing. Done.
But I am not a sane and well-balanced person.I am a few seconds short of a full attention span and I’ve got a habitual need to tinker. To have all those perfectly good pipes just sitting there unused drove me crazy. That, in turn, drove my wife crazy. So we decided that something needed to be done.
So I reached out to Katie and, because she’s awesome, she offered to take on the project. She wanted something rustic and industrial, I needed more towel storage in my bathroom, I decided to meet her in the middle and build a shelf. A really, really cool shelf.
This thing has pretty much everything you could ask for in terms of bathroom convenience. You’ve got a towel rack. You’ve got a second towel rack/paper towel rod thing. You’ve got a place to hang wash cloths. You’ve got a shelf that can hold things not made of cloth. This is the kind of bathroom appliance that would cost you $150 on Etsy, only better. And cheaper. And a lot easier to make.
So put on your favorite pair of socks because they’re gonna get knocked off when you see how cool your bathroom looks after you finish building this spiffy new shelf. Let’s get started, shall we?
When gathering supplies for this shelf, I had the good fortune of being able to employ many parts left over from a previous project. You probably do not have any of these parts lying around. Never fear. You can probably salvage or purchase most of the pipes you need from a junkyard. You can also buy the floor flanges for cheap online. What you can’t salvage or steal can be purchased from a local hardware store.
As far the wood goes, my original hope was to use reclaimed wood to make a nifty raw shelf. However, that hope was dashed when I realized that I lived in Eastern Texas and usable reclaimed wood is pretty much impossible to come by here. So I decided to do the next best thing and fake it. I picked up this 1×6 plank from Home Depot on the cheap. Then I beat it up and stained it. It ended up coming out pretty cool, as you’ll see below.
Regardless of how you obtain your materials, you can be sure that making this shelf will cost you a lot less than buying something like it. Even if you purchased all the building supplies you need from a hardware store, your total would still be less than $100 – about $100 less than anything else in this size range. That said, here’s exactly what you need to complete this project:
I don’t need to know where you find your pipes. In fact, it’s probably best that you don’t tell me. Just remember when you’re getting them to keep the sizes uniform or else you’ll have to use reducing couplers to make everything work. I used 3/4″ because that’s what I had on hand, but you can use whatever you want.
1x 24” Long ¾” Black Metal Pipe
1x 10” Long ¾” Black Metal Pipes
1x 8” Long ¾” Black Metal Pipe
2x 5” Long ¾” Black Metal Pipes
4x 3” Long ¾” Black Metal Pipes
2x 2” Long ¾” Black Metal Pipes
2x ¾” Black Metal Pipe Close Connectors
4x ¾” Black Metal Pipe Elbows – 90°
4x ¾” Galvanized Metal Pipe Tees
2x ¾” Galvanized Metal Pipe Caps
4x ¾” Galvanized Metal Pipe Floor Flanges
Some of my pipes were not naturally black. I solved this by spray painting them black. You can do the same.
1x 1x6x6 Pine Plank
The Other Stuff
You’re going to need more than just plumbing and planks to build your shelf. If you don’t have everything on this list already, go pick it up before you begin.
1x Can Rustoleum Textured Black Spray Paint
All of the Paper Towels
Grease-Fighting Household Cleaner of Your Choice (I used Green Apple)
Dark Walnut Stain (I used Minwax)
Polyurethane Clear Coat (Again, Minwax)
Cheap Stain Brushes
A Nice Oil-Base Brush
#8 1/2″ Screws
Optional: A Pre-Stain Conditioner. Useful if you’re working with pine. I used Minwax, big surprise.
//////////////////// Instructions ////////////////////
Pipes are dirty. Like, really dirty. This will not make your decorative hand towels happy. Prevent a grease apocalypse in your bathroom by soaking the pipes in cleaner/water overnight. They might develop a few rust spots and they will definitely smell horrible in the morning, but the grease will also be gone. And after an hour in the sun the smell will be gone as well.
Once your pipes are clean, use 60-grit sandpaper to remove any weird coatings and laser-printed labels. After that, go ahead and do any of the spray painting you had planned. Make sure you seal the threads with painters tape before hand or else you might not be able to make them fit together properly. After you paint the parts, set them aside to dry. Now, it’s time to really sink your teeth into this thing.
Making the Shelf
Since the wood will take a while to dry once it’s been stained/coated, it’s best to deal with that first. Start by cutting off a 31″ section from your plank. If you’re going for a distressed and reclaimed look, proceed to beat the heck out of that newly cut section. Gouge it with a screwdriver, stomp gravel into it and generally release all of your repressed violence onto it’s unwitting corpse.
When your wood has been sufficiently abused, sand it smooth (with the grain, WITH the grain )using 160-Grit sandpaper. Then sand it again with 220-Grit.
If you bought pre-stain conditioner, apply it to the entire piece of wood with a foam brush. Let it dry for 15 minutes in the sun and then apply your stain. Use another foam brush and work in slow strokes with the grain of the wood. To get that dark and weathered look like mine, you’re going to want to let the stain soak into the wood for 15 minutes or so before you wipe it off. I found it easiest to stain the top and sides of the wood first and then let the shelf dry for a few hours before flipping it over and staining the other side.
Your shelf will need to dry for at least four hours before it’s ready to be coated with the poly finish. I let mine dry overnight. In the morning, I treated the top and sides of the wood and then returned in the afternoon to treat the bottom. Because I am stupid, drops of polyurethane formed on the bottom of my plank. If this happens to you, do not and try to peel them off when they are gooey. This will mess up your stain. Wait until the drops dry completely and then sand them off with 220-grit paper.
When your poly coating has dried completely, give it a light sanding to smooth everything out and then set your new shelf aside ’cause that thing is good to go.
Building the Structure
Okay, so it’s time to build the structure of your shelf. Start by laying out your materials as shown in the diagram above. Attach the top flanges, pipe tees and large towel bar to make a rigid U-shaped structure. It should look like this:
For the record, I’m just hand tightening all the parts here because the pipes are purely decorative. It is possible to rig a shelf like this (with a few modifications) to be heated by splicing it into your hot water line. In that case, you’re going to want to use a pipe sealant on all the threads to ensure that everything stays leak-proof after it’s assembled. Otherwise you should get by just fine with a little elbow grease and maybe a few drops of machine oil.
This is the structure you want to attach to your shelf. There are two reasons why we do it this way. First, attaching a prebuilt frame makes it much, much, easier to ensure that all of your components fit perfectly together. All you have to do is align the flanges so that they’re equidistant to the edges of the shelf and then screw them into place. Second, building the frame beforehand reduces stress on the pine. Wood is not invincible, and screwing in each component individually would create a lot of torque, which could in turn rip the screws out of their sockets and leave nasty gaping holes in your shelf. That would be pretty much the worst thing ever.
Since we want to minimize torque on the wood, it’s important to make sure all your pipe tees are properly aligned before you mount the shelf to the structure. Check that the wall tees are facing the wall and the rod tees are facing each other. You will thank me later.
You should have about 1″ of clearance all the way around the shelf flange when you attach it. Use a tape measure to confirm that the two flanges are centered on the shelf and then screw it in like so.
Finishing It Off
Okay, so now that you’ve got your basic structure assembled, it’s time to complete this bad boy. Screw on the wall flanges. Screw on the lamp rods and cap them. Then stand it up and marvel at your handy work, because you just built something awesome!
We’re in the process of redecorating our guest bathroom, so I haven’t installed the shelf just yet. When you install yours, though, make sure you screw it into studs or strap-toggle anchors like these. It may sound like overkill, but this thing is heavy enough to do some serious damage to your drywall if it isn’t properly secured. If your studs aren’t wide enough to accommodate all four screws in a flange then rotate the flange so that a “top” and “bottom” screw can be driven in through the stud’s center. That should be enough to keep this monster where it belongs.
So that about does it for this project. Hopefully the instructions weren’t too hard to follow and you ended up with a cool new industrial shelf for your bathroom. When everything is complete, feel free to decorate your new shelf with some cool vases and trinkets. Take some pictures and invite your friends over to the ole’ potty to admire your craftsmanship. Is that weird? Maybe, but you’ve earned it, you industrial dynamo.
Matthew Lyons is a self-proclaimed handyman and blogger for HomeDaddys.com. An Oregon native, he now lives in Eastern Texas with his wife and son. He isn’t afraid of wooden splinters but Splinter the Rat from Ninja Turtles kind of creeps him out.
Don’t forget to follow Mathew so you don’t miss a post, and you can check out his guest bathroom as soon as it’s updated!
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Thanks for stopping by!