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DIY Industrial Pipe Shelving On a Reasonable Budget

Learn how to build this impressive industrial pipe shelving the easy way! We’ve sourced the cheapest supplies for a pipe bookshelf if you’re on a budget. These DIY pipe shelves are perfect for farmhouse, rustic, or industrial modern decor.

Skills Required: Advanced Beginner. You’ll need to be able to stain wood and screw pipe together, as well as operate a drill. Cutting wood can be done for you at Home Depot, or you can use your own table saw.

You’ll construct this industrial pipe shelving from bottom to top, assembling the pipe and adding shelves as you go. It’s only attached at the very top of the unit using screws.

Industrial Pipe Shelving

I’m not usually impressed by bookshelves, but when I went into my neighbor’s house and saw his DIY industrial pipe shelving in his living room, I couldn’t believe it.

First I figured that his pipe bookshelf must have taken weeks to put together, and secondly I was assuming this piece of home decor cost a fortune, but I was incorrect on both counts.

Pipe Bookshelf

The entire pipe bookshelf structure took about 12 – 13 hours for him to make, which is impressive given that it basically covers one entire wall.

It also cost under $$$$, which is also impressive given how many parts are involved and that these DIY pipe shelves basically cover one entire wall!

After instruction on how it all came together, I’m going to teach you how to make this industrial pipe shelving yourself, and how to adapt it to your home and needs.

One of the issues that people experience with DIY pipe shelves is COST. It can be expensive so I’m going to share with you the most inexpensive places to buy parts.

How to make a pipe bookshelf

DIY Pipe Shelves

There are essentially three separate structures that make up this industrial pipe shelving:

  1. a left shelving unit (with five shelves) that is 70″ long
  2. a middle, single shelf that is 53 5/8″ long
  3. a right shelving unit (with five shelves) that is 36″ long

All of these DIY pipe shelves are (approximately) 11″ deep. AND the only place the left and right shelving units are attached to the wall is at the very top, using the flanges! This is so he didn’t have to drill any holes in his floor. We’ll cover that more in depth in a moment.

DIY Pipe Bookshelf – Where to Begin

Industrial PIpe Shelf Plans

Before you start making your industrial pipe shelving, you should consider doing a drawing of your space and where you want the pipe shelves to go. If you’re just doing one shelf, this won’t necessarily be required.

But if you’re making a large industrial pipe shelving display like this one you should take a picture of your wall and print it out. That way you know where the windows are (if any) and how the the industrial pipe shelving is going to fit in the space.

Another reason you’re going to do this drawing is so you know how much pipe and wood you’re going to need. You’ll want to add the shelves into your drawing. This video shows you how to make a scale drawing (he uses a regular ruler at about 7 minutes in).

You don’t need to go crazy with it; however, a basic drawing is going to tell you if your industrial pipe shelving will fit your items, and also if the shelves fit it in the space both height and width-wise. I did mine in PowerPoint since it’s easy to make boxes in the program.

Once you’re done designing, you need to buy your industrial pipe shelf supplies. This includes both the pipe and the wood. Special note about pipe sizing: the labeled pipe size and actually pipe size are not the same thing!

Refer to this chart. As long as you get flanges, elbows, and nipples with the same labeled size, you should be okay!

Industrial Pipe Shelving

Basic Supply List for All DIY Pipe Shelves

  • Drill with 1 1/2″ spade bit
  • Table saw
  • Screws – 20 plaster or drywall, unless you are going into studs (then get wood screws)
  • Painter’s tape
  • Minwax wood finish – this project uses Ebony 2718 and Gray 271
  • Rag for applying stain

Left Shelving Unit, 70″ long

Middle Shelf, 53 5/8″ long

Right Shelving Unit, 36″ long

Where to Buy Inexpensive Pipe

You’re going to want to go online or to a local wholesale plumbing supply store. The prices we found online were considerably cheaper than what is available at the big box retailers.

My neighbor purchased his metal pipes from Supply House, with prices 50 – 75% less than at the big box home improvement stores OR other places online. I did my own research, and Supply House has the cheapest pipe parts I’ve seen as well!

I will say that purchasing your pipe online makes sense if you need a lot of it. If you’re just doing one simple shelf, purchasing from the Home Depot is fine.

The cost savings from ordering online for a smaller shelf aren’t necessarily worth paying shipping and handling, etc. And you can get everything you need in one trip. I’ll let you decide that based on the size of shelf you are making!

Make pipe shelves

Where to Buy Wood and What to Use

You can get inexpensive pine from Home Depot. Pine will work well especially if you want your DIY pipe shelves to look like traditional industrial shelving – and be weathered and warped slightly when you apply the stain.

If you don’t want that look, go for pre-treated or a hard wood like poplar. However, your cost is going to go up over what pine will cost.

Cost of Project

  • Left shelving – $129 piping
  • Middle shelf – $21 piping
  • Right shelving – $90 piping
  • Wood – $100
  • Stain & rags – $12
  • Total cost = $352

This cost is pretty impressive based on the size of the project! Remember – this covers an entire wall!

How to Build a Bookshelf

Let’s get into the step by step. Doing a drawing of your space should give you an idea of how many shelves you want, and how long they should be.

Step One: Cut the shelves to size using a table saw. My neighbor cut:

  • Left shelving – five shelves at a 70″ length
  • Middle – one shelf at a 53 5/8″ length
  • Right shelving – five shelves at a 36″ length
Drilling with a spade bit

Step Two: Using your 1 1/2″ spade bit, you’re going to drill three holes through each 70″ board and two holes through each 36″ board. Refer to the diagram below for hole placement. Your holes need to be in the same place on every 70″ board and the same place on every 36″ board since you are stacking them. 😀

Industrial pipe shelving hole placement

There are no holes in the back of the shelves – the shelves are supported by elbows in the back.

Step Three: Stain your boards. My neighbor used Ebony stain, let that dry, and them used random Gray stain in various areas for a rustic look.

DIY wall shelves with pipe and wood

Step Four: Begin building your industrial pipe shelving. Each shelf has a long piece of pipe, tee, a second piece of pipe, and an elbow as shown above. Screwing those all together will save you time! On this shelf, an 18″ pipe went into each flange at the bottom, and then at the top a tee.

Step Five: Stack the shelves, sitting each board onto tees and then screwing pipes in above. Work your way to the top, attaching flanges and screwing those into the wall to finish.

Attaching to the Wall

You’re going to probably want someone to help hold your pipe bookshelf straight as you stack the pipes and boards. Everything can get heavy quickly and you don’t want it to dump over on you.

You’ll need a ladder to secure it to the wall. Have your friend (or two) hold it in places as you anchor it with the screws into the flanges at the top. Each flange needs four screws.

Will My Pipe Bookshelf Be Stable & Secure?

If you live in an area with earthquakes, you’re definitely going to want to secure your industrial pipe shelving to the floor as well as to the wall.

If you want extra secure-ness, you can put a set of flanges on the back (halfway up?) instead of the elbows, and screw those into the wall.

You might want to consider extra flanges if you have small children as well. My neighbor has a 9-year-old daughter and it’s never been an issue!

As long as no one is hanging on the shelves, they are fine secured at the top and not screwed into the floor.

iron pipe shelves

Could I Make This a Freestanding Pipe Bookshelf?

Absolutely! You can’t make your pipe bookshelf this high – maybe two or three wood shelves maximum (with less distance between them).

You’ll want to duplicate the holes you drill with the spade bit on both sides of the shelf. Then you’ll need to purchase the same pipe and flanges from the front side, as well as a pipe piece that will go across the top and attach elbows.

DIY pipe bookshelf

What do you think of this pipe bookshelf? Would you try some industrial shelving of your own? Let me know in the comments!

Now that you know how to build a bookshelf, you might be interested in trying the following projects:

Yield: 1 bookshelf

DIY Industrial Pipe Shelving

Industrial Pipe Shelving

Learn how to build this impressive industrial pipe shelving the easy way! We’ve sourced the cheapest supplies if you’re on a budget. These DIY pipe shelves are perfect for farmhouse, rustic, or industrial modern decor.

Prep Time 2 hours
Active Time 4 hours
Total Time 6 hours
Difficulty Easy
Estimated Cost $350

Materials

  • Pine boards - see the Notes section
  • Black pipe - see the Notes section
  • Screws – 20 plaster or drywall, unless you are going into studs (then get wood screws)
  • Painter’s tape
  • Minwax wood finish – we used Ebony 2718 and Gray 271
  • Rag for applying stain

Instructions

  1. Cut the shelves to size using a table saw. See the notes for cut lengths.
  2. Using your 1 1/2" spade bit, you're going to drill three holes through each 70" board and two holes through each 36" board. Your holes need to be in the same place on every 70" board and the same place on every 36" board since you are stacking them.
  3. Stain your boards. We used Ebony stain, let that dry, and them used random Gray stain in various areas for a rustic look.
  4. Begin building your industrial pipe shelving. Each shelf has a long piece of pipe, tee, a second piece of pipe, and an elbow as shown above. Screwing those all together will save you time! On this shelf, an 18" pipe went into each flange at the bottom, and then at the top a tee.
  5. Stack the shelves, sitting each board onto tees and then screwing pipes in above. Work your way to the top, attaching flanges and screwing those into the wall to finish.

Notes

The wood and pipe that you'll purchase depends on the shelf you choose to make - see the below for your guide.

Left Shelving Unit, 70″ long

  • Pine boards, 2 x 12, 6 feet long - 5
  • 3/4" black floor flange - 6
  • 3/4" black elbow - 18
  • 3/4" black tee - 15
  • 3/4" 4" black nipple - 3
  • 3/4" 6" black nipple - 18
  • 3/4" 12" black nipple - 6
  • 3/4" 18" black nipple - 9

Middle Shelf, 53 5/8″ long

  • Pine board, 2" x 12" x 6', cut to fit the space
  • 3/4" black floor flange - 4
  • 3/4" black elbow - 2
  • 3/4" 6" black nipple - 4

Right Shelving Unit, 36″ long

  • Pine boards, 2 x 12, 3 feet long - 5
  • 3/4" black floor flange - 4
  • 3/4" black elbow - 12
  • 3/4" black tee - 10
  • 3/4" 4" black nipple - 2
  • 3/4" 6" black nipple - 12
  • 3/4" 12" black nipple - 4
  • 3/4" 18" black nipple - 6

Did you make this project?

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Briar

Sunday 10th of May 2020

I noticed on the supply house website there’s quite a bit of difference in cost I between domestic vs imported pipe. Which did you use?

Amy

Sunday 10th of May 2020

I would choose the less expensive personally!

phil

Friday 8th of May 2020

another way the make the shelving is to drill the pipe holes more-or-less through the center of the boards, then use riser clamps on the pipe to support the shelves at whatever height you want. You get a different look, but you have adjustable shelves.

other advantages of the riser clamps is you can cock the arms a little if the wood is warped, and they are lots cheaper than using the fittings and nipples approach.

If you use structural pipe connectors instead of threaded ones, you get more flexibility also. Lowes sells the connectors reasonable cheaply in both galvanized and black.

Shmuly Brummel

Tuesday 28th of April 2020

Hi! Firstly, My wife and I love this bookshelf. You spelled it out so simply and even showed us where to buy the pipes and all! We have everything ready and will be starting today. We will be modifying this to make an 84" wide bookshelf. Question, You say to use a 1.5" wingtip bit. We made the hole and the lip of the T pipe goes right through making the shelf uneven. Did you mean to say a 1" tip? That's the size of the pipe itself. Excited to begin. We will post send pics when done. Thanks!!

Jamie M

Tuesday 30th of July 2019

I am also concerned with the grease on the pipe and the fact that buying black pipe is not actually black. Wash with Dawn to degrease then paint with Rustoleum to seal and make black? Thoughts?

phil

Friday 8th of May 2020

sure. I used rustoleum "soft iron" paint.

if you are using galvanized instead of black pipe, you need to paint with "universal primer" first.

Ryan Kowalski

Tuesday 25th of June 2019

I am in the midst of this project and found that the 6” nipple fits well across the width of the shelves when it is connected between the Tee and the Elbow in the shelf “supports”; however at the top of the structure, where it is connected between the Tee and the Flange, the same length of pipe will not work as the “depth” of the flange is not as great as the elbow. In other words, the flange is a relatively flat fitting while the elbow is not, so the distance from that fitting to the tee at the front edge is different. I’m going to need to order some additional nipples for the top that are slightly longer, probably 7-8”.

Also, the pipe from Supply House arrives heavily greased to protect it from rust. Unfortunately, that won’t do when you’re using it for a home furnishing. So one should plan on a day or so of degreasing (acetone worked best for me) and then rust-proofing (I used paste wax but a spray on Rust-Oleum product would work well too).

Dave

Wednesday 26th of June 2019

Curious what length nipple you ended up using for the top connection to the flange. I will also be using this length to connect a flange somewhere in the middle of the wall to add some additional support (little kids).

Appreciate your help on this.

Thanks,