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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. It’s a good woodworking project for beginners.

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!

Yield: 1 bookshelf

DIY Industrial Pipe Shelving

Industrial Pipe Shelving

Learn how to build this impressive industrial pipe bookshelf the easy way! We’ve sourced the cheapest supplies if you’re on a budget. This DIY pipe shelving is 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?

Please leave a rating or share a photo on Pinterest!


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

Joel

Thursday 20th of January 2022

Thanks for the amazing article! I was wondering, in the parts list you wrote down black for the color of the fittings but in the pictures they look more silver. I’m new to all of this, so is that just what black pipe fittings look like, or did you use stainless for yours?

Amy

Sunday 23rd of January 2022

That is just what the black fittings we ordered were like!

William Weis

Friday 7th of January 2022

Looks great but my concern is that each shelve only supports 15 pounds of weight. Any recommendations on this? I have some large and heavy books. Thanks

Noah

Friday 17th of September 2021

I have purchased the materials and am drawing out to figure out hole placement, but here is what I don't understand. Based on the quantities, it seems like a 6" pipe is used both for the elbow supports throughout *and* the flange mount to the wall. But - an elbow mount has more depth than a flange mount, so wouldn't the elbow supports for the shelf impact the ability to mount to the wall?

Austin

Saturday 25th of September 2021

@Noah, yes, from what I can see that is correct. I ordered the parts based on this post verbatim and the nipples that connect to the flange need to be longer. I ordered 7" and 8" nipple replacement just to be safe - though I'm fairly sure only 8" will be needed.

Bill

Tuesday 14th of September 2021

I'm currently working on this project now and in the end, I'd say the plans here are more for inspiration and not necessarily plans you can follow verbatim. Between the wrong size spade bit (3/4 Tee will just slip through) and the shelves in those pictures can't be 2x12s given the pipe lengths used to attach it to the wall above the top shelf - I don't recommend just following what is here. However, the construction (using the 6 inch pipe with the elbow and a tee is a great way to give the shelves support.

The most worrisome instruction here is "drill the holes in the same spot on all boards since you are going to stack them" and "at least 1.5 inch away from the edge of the board." While those are true statement, the location of those holes is based on where the flange+nipple+elbow+4inch pipe meet the board. That's where you drill your hole. If you drill it in some other place, the chances of getting a store bought pipe length to line up with the holes you drilled a very low.

Generally speaking, if someone doing this project reads the comment section, they probably will be alright in the end. As for me, I wound up buying the exact pipe listed for the "left shelf" and only had to swap out the three 6 inch nipple for three 8 inch nipple. As some others attested here, the 6 inch nipple+flange at the top is too short to reach the wall with the 6 inch nipple+elbow on the shelves below. And the change of the 8 inch nipple at the top dictates where the hole needs to be drilled.

And the best tip on this entire project - Supply House for pipe. I read this project and bought pipe for two projects through them as opposed to the local stores. It is far far cheaper there than at the brick and mortar stores.

Tom

Friday 3rd of September 2021

Neat project, but you really need to revise the plans for the wall anchor pipe lengths based on the linked supplier. 90deg elbow vs floor flange depth will differ between 1-1/4" to 1-1/2" depending on supplyhouse vs home depot vs lowes. I needed to replace the 6" nipple with a 5" nipple + 1 connector + 1'1/2" nipple to get the proper length.

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